Attachment Theory – Department of Psychology

Attachment theory describes the impact of our earliest relationships i.e. birth to 5 years with the adults on whom we depend for life, namely mother or primary caregiver. Children with secure attachment relationships are less likely to be injured by adverse events, and are more resilient to such events.

Attachment refers to the young person/childs feelings and emotions in the relationship and does not have to be reciprocated by the caregiver. There are a couple Attachment theorists such as John Bowlby and Psychologist Mary Ainsworth who carried out research and summarised the four different attachment classifications identified.A childs development can be positively impacted by forming these attachment. A secure / positive attachment can enable a child to:• Reach their full intellectual potential• Think logically• Develop social emotions and adapt to different social occasions• Trust others• Cope better with stress and frustration• Increase feelings of self worthAsocial – 0-6 weeksVery young infants are asocial in that many kinds of stimuli, both social and non-social, produce a favourable reaction, such as a smileIndiscriminate attachments 6 weeks to 7 monthsInfants indiscriminately enjoy human company and most babies respond equally to any caregiver. They get upset when an individual ceases to interact with them. This is particularly evident when the caregiver is “still face”.From 3 months infants smile more at familiar faces and can be easily comforted by a regular caregiver.

Specific attachment 7 – 9 monthsSpecial preference for a single attachment figure. The baby looks to particular people for security, comfort and protection. The child shows fear of strangers and gets upset when separated from a special person (separation anxiety).Some babies show stranger fear and separation anxiety much more frequently and intensely than others, but nevertheless they are seen as evidence that the baby has formed an attachment. This has usually developed by one year of age.Multiple attachments – 10 months and onwardsThe baby becomes increasingly independent and forms several attachments to a wider group of caregivers. By 18 months the majority of infants are able to form multiple attachments?

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