Attachment Theory

.. and work, Even an infant’s brain is affected by attachment disorder. The brain is greatly affected by the infant’s experiences. It has been found that an infants brain growth is directly related to how much his mother or primary caretaker speaks to him. Although my focus is on the infancy stage of development, some studies have shown that attachment begins even before birth.

The expectant mother’s attitude about her pregnancy has a great affect on the unborn child. Whether or not she abuses substances during her pregnancy also affects the development of the child. The babies will feel all that the mother goes through. The baby will already begin the attachment if the mother is happy and excited about the birth. If, however, the mother does not want the child, those feelings are also projected onto the fetus. As early as 1944, Bowlby researched the lack of a mother figure in troubled children.

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He found thieves had no bonding caregiver. Bowlby was first inspired by Lorenze’s studies. He believed that babies, like young animal species, are equipped with built in behaviors that help to keep the parent near by. Contact with the parent also insured the baby would be fed, although he pointed out that feeding was not the main basis for attachment. Bowlby stated that as time passes, and a bond forms, the parent-child bond becomes an important part of the personality. According to Freud, a human being’s first encounter with intimate behavior is with his mother during breast-feeding.

Attachment during infancy is when the child obtains pleasure and nourishment from the mother’s breast. This reduces the stress and tension associated with hunger. This tension reducing activity in the early stage serves as a model for relationships that develop later in life. Attachment theory makes good sense. Children’s social behavior, emotions, cooperation, and play resemble those of our primitive ancestors. Babies are biologically prepared to contribute to the establishing of the bond with their caregivers. Proposed varieties of attachment include secure attached infants who seek close contact and will greet the parent with a smile. Avoidant infants avoid the parent.

Resistant or ambivalent infants will actively or passively show hostility toward the parent. They show no emotion when the parent leaves, nor are they affected when the parent returns. Later, secure adults find it easy to get close to others and are comfortable depending on others. They have had a secure childhood and were well taken care of by their mothers. Avoidants are people who have been constantly denied the physical contact by their mothers and tent to express behavior problems. Anxious or ambivalent people whose parents were inconsistent responding to their baby’s cries are very distrustful of others.

They are uncomfortable being close to others. They often later feel that their partner doesn’t really love them or want to stay with them. Bobby is an example of an unattachment child. Bobby acted out by being cruel to animals. He could show ‘charming’ behavior but was also aggressive with others and lied.

He indicated his need to maintain distance between himself and others and his need to control the environment. Bobby was placed in the first of five foster homes at the age of six months during his infancy stage because of physical abuse at the hands of his biological father. This was a child who trusted no one. New foster caretakers were unable to get through to him regardless of what they did. He was already showing signs of attachment disorder.

These behaviors are defenses that the child engages in. Every relationship that this child has had has been disappointing, frightening and confusing. Imagine Bobby’s feeling at only five years old. He now suffers from attachment disorder caused by the early abuse and neglect. He has become so enraged that he is compelled to destroy everything.

Attachment ensures the child’s physical and emotional survival in life stemming from infancy. Another child, Ann was not bonded during the infant stage and began showing signs in her behavior. She could not become part of society or form a conscious or empathy. Ann grew up being depressed. She began running away from home as a teenager.

Ann was often suicidal. Attachment theory explains why Ann threatened suicide and ran away from home. Studies have found that 60 – 80 percent of felons have been neglected. Many symptoms of attachment issues are similar to ADHD and are often misdiagnosed. To determine if a child is suffering from attachment problems, an assessment must be made by a qualified professional.

Bowlby writes articles giving guidelines for the treatment of attachment disorder. Assessment, diagnosis and treatment can help the child work through his past. There is hope for their future. The focus should be on prevention. These children can learn to trust and accept love.

They can develop a sense of self and feel good about themselves. The goal of treatment is to prepare the child to function as a contributing member of a family and the community. Babies need love and interaction with their caregivers to develop properly. This is how they learn to love and other human qualities. Like a butterfly, an infant has to go through various stages of development, each with its own characteristics and each is vital to the next stage. References: Ainsworth, M.D.S., Blehar, (1978).

Patterns of Attachment. Hillsdale, NJ. : Erlbaum. Bruess, Clint. (1985).

Decisions for Health. Dubuque, Iowa: Brown & Benchmark. Green, Roberta, R. (1999). Human Behavior Theory and Social Work Practice.

New York: Aldine De Gruyte. Herms, William J. (1993). The Encyclopedia of Health: Substance Abuse. New York: Chelsea House Publishers. Hope For the Future.

(2000). (Online). Available: *wysiyg://29/*. (2 Nov. 2000). Payne, Malcolm. (1997).

Modern Social Work Theory. Chicago Il: Lyceum Books Inc. Pentry, Patricia. (2000). Building on the Foundations of Attachment Theory.

{Online}. Available: (2 Nov. 2000). History of Attachment Theory. (2000).

[Online]. Available: (2, Nov. 2000). Sattler, David. (2000). Lifespan Development in Context. Boston, New York: Haughton Mufflin Co.

Zimbardo, Philip G. & Webber, Ann L. (1994). Psychology. New York: Harper Psychology.


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