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Attachment Theory Essay

4759 words - 20 pages

Attachment, in dictionary terms, means affection, fondness, or sympathy for someone or something. In psychotherapy, attachment theory refers to how those attachments impact human interpersonal relations. Attachment theory was first conceptualised by John Bowlby, a psychoanalyst who dedicated his time to studying the affectional bonds which form between a child and his primary caregiver. In Segal and Jaffe (2013), the affectional bond is simply but realistically defined as one's first love relationship.

Bowlby referred to attachment as a lasting psychological connectedness between human beings. This bond is initially formed by the first attachment figure a person comes across in life. ...view middle of the document...

Humans are born with an innate need for safety. In the helpless state of a new born the only source of that safety is the primary caregiver, who is the initial point of contact. The nature of the interaction between the child and caregiver forms the basis of the attachment pattern. Responsiveness of the caregivers affects future interpersonal relationships. If the child is responded to, he will form a secure attachment. If ignored, he will be insecurely attached. These early relationships determine life long future relationships like parent-child and romantic relationships. Research suggests that in a secure attachment, both mother and child can sense the other's emotions and feelings. A well aligned caregiver-child relationship fosters a secure attachment. Segal and Jaffe (2013) observe that when this interaction is absent, the attachment becomes insecure.

There are some factors which influence our attachment style. First, an opportunity for attachment has to be present. Where there is no primary caregiver, like in orphanage settings, it presents difficulty in attachment formation. The quality of care giving, whether a caregiver responds quickly and consistently also contribute.

A child learns to identify and recognise a figure to be trusted and recognised as a secure base, one they can return to, feel safe and be all right. Once that particular individual has been identified, the next step is the building of a mutually rewarding relationship (Bowlby,1969).

Attachment building has four characteristics: we seek to maintain proximity with the attachment figure, to see the attachment figure as a secure base from which to explore the environment. We also need them to be a safe haven to which we can return for comfort and safety in the face of fear or threat. When the child perceives fear, they want to check with the caregiver to confirm their fear and provide comfort and assurance of safety through eye contact, facial expressions, gestures and voice. The fourth factor that facilitates attachment is separation distress. A child shows signs of anxiety and distress upon separation from the caregiver. Available and responsive caregivers give a sense of security.

The bond formed in childhood is, according to Bowlby, hard-wired. We are preprogrammed to bond with one significant person. However, negative life events can lead to discontinuity of secure attachment (Bowlby,1969). Cherry (2013) , states that an attachment style can change depending on how responsive and emotionally available a caregiver is. A secure the attachment can change if the child is not receiving the desired response from the attachment figure. The child can resort to withdrawing from the caregiver if the caregiver is unavailable emotionally, physically or responds negatively hence, maladaptive attachment styles. If a caregiver is unavailable, frequently changing, proximity seeking is not encouraged. Since the needs are not met within fearful or strange...

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