About Human Growth and Development

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Attachment is a deep emotional link formed between humans that connects them over location and time (Ainsworth, 709; Bowlby 35). Attachment does not have to be mutual, and one individual may be more attached to someone who does not reciprocate. Attachment in children is characterized by particular actions, such as craving physical proximity to a person when disturbed (Bowlby 34). Failure to build attachment relationships throughout childhood can lead to emotional and social problems later in life. To explain attachments in newborns, different theories have been developed, with this study focusing on Harlow, Bowlby, and Ainsworth. Psychoanalyst Bowlby, and psychologist Ainsworth developed the attachment theory while Harlow developed it through his research with the rhesus monkeys. The primary idea of the theory is that early life interactions and relationships with caregivers play a vital role in child development and continue to influence the outcome of an individual; even in adulthood. While working alongside James Robertson, Bowlby observed that children were more distressed when separated from their female parent even when their caregivers were present. Bowlby (45) further suggested that attachment can be explained through evolutionary framework in that the mother provides food to an infant. This is acquired through several stages; pre-attachment, attachment in making, clear cut attachment, and reciprocal relationships formation. In contrast, Harlow later observed that attachment develops when a mother provides tactile comfort, thus suggesting that children possess an internal need to cling or touch something or someone for poignant comfort.

Mary Ainsworth together with Bowlby conducted 'The Strange Situation' exploration where a child is randomly left with a stranger as his mother leaves and comes back. According to the study, children who develop secure attachments by the age of 12 months have by age 2 developed problem and curiosity solving, social confidence at age 3, at age 5 have empathy and social confidence while finally do not have behavior problems, especially boys at age 6 (Ainsworth 710). Ainsworth came up with three forms of attachments that a child could form; secure, ambivalent or avoidant.

Harry Harlow also advanced the attachment theory work through his works on the rhesus monkeys, though highly criticized on the basis of ethics. This was based on Bowlby conclusion that attachment to mothers is necessary for proper social and emotional development. Harlow separated the monkeys from their mothers and offered them a choice between a wire and terry mother (Van Der Horst, Frank, Helen, & Rene 67). Though conditions in both environments were similar, the monkeys preferred the terry mother more. Eventually, it was concluded that baby monkeys raised in isolation had difficulties integrating with the rest.

One major similarity in the conclusions of the three theorists is that young children and infants require developing attachments and securing bonds to their mothers or parents prior to being taken or introduced to unfamiliar environment.

In my personal views, it is vital that mothers spend considerable time with their young ones to ensure they develop secure relationships. In situations where the mothers are working, it is also important they get maternal leaves to be with their children as this stage can influence their latter lives. Another means by which the bond can be created is through intervention of relatives and pets that can provide the physical attachment close to that of a parent.

Works Cited

Ainsworth, Mary S. "Attachments beyond infancy." American psychologist 44.4 (1989): 709.

Bowlby, John. A secure base: Clinical applications of attachment theory. Vol. 393. Taylor & Francis, 2005.

Van Der Horst, Frank CP, Helen A. LeRoy, and Rene Van der Veer. ""When strangers meet": John Bowlby and Harry Harlow on attachment behavior." Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science 42.4 (2008): 370-388.

April 19, 2023

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