Importance of attachment
When babies enter the world, they are surrounded with their family who normally learn how to relate with them right from birth. The infants begin to develop some form of familiarity with the caregivers who spend time with them. In most cases, the first caregiver a baby encounters is the mother. With time, the infant develops a bond with the caregiver, and they can tell whether or not the caregiver is present. This emotional bond is referred to as attachment. The attachment theory explains the development of emotional bonds and associations between the child and the parents, and how this attachment influences how the child relates with others and the environment in future.
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John Bowlby is widely known to be the founder of the attachment theory. He proposes that a unique bond develops between caregivers and infants when the caregivers respond to the infants’ distress or discomfort (Bowlby, 2008). Attachment is not about exaggerating the physical presence of a caregiver but rather, it is about the promptness to respond to the needs of a baby in a nurturing manner. According to Bowlby, the characteristics of healthy attachment includes: proximity maintenance, safe haven and secure base. Proximity maintenance focuses on the desire to be close to the people we have established a strong emotional bond with. Safe haven expounds on the concept of going back to the caregiver for comfort and approval whenever an infant is faced with challenging situations. Secure base refers to the tendency of infants to associate secure environment with the presence of the caregiver.
According to Bowlby, the best kind of attachment is referred to as secure attachment. Secure attachment is of great importance because it serves a vital role in child development and later influences behavior in adulthood (Bowlby, 2008). Secure attachment generally helps an infant to develop good perception of what decent relationships should entail. This is attributed to the fact that the infant feels safe and cared for when they need someone to respond to them. Secure attachment also gives an individual the confidence of exploring his environment, it nurtures healthy cognitive, emotional and language development, it also teaches an individual to regulate emotions in times of distress (Berk, 2013). Secure attachment builds self-esteem and promotes independence of a child.
Many parents relate secure attachment to sleeping with the baby on their bed, exclusive breastfeeding of the baby for a long time and staying at home with the baby until they are mature to start schooling. However, this may not be the prerequisite for secure attachment. Any children will develop secure attachment when the caregiver is responsive to them even though they sleep in their own cot. In addition, caregivers should not let the baby cry for long without being attended to. Even though one may not understand the cause of discomfort, they should engage in active communication with the baby to show that they care about what the baby is experiencing. Acknowledging that the baby is undergoing distress is a good sign that the caregiver genuinely cares for the baby (Berk 2013).
Harry Harlow experiments with the rhesus monkey have also contributed to the attachment theory (Berk, 2013). In one, experiment, Harry used a rhesus monkey and two dolls; one doll covered in cloth and another made of bare wire but with the ability of dispensing milk. Harry observed that the monkey spent more time with the doll covered with cloth. Thus, out of his experiments, Harry proposed that there is a species-specific instinctual attachment deposited in human beings that are independent of nutritional rewards (Berk, 2013). Thus Harry’s studies proved that the need for affection and care surpasses the need for physical need like food.
Mary Ainsworth has also contributed to the attachment theory through the strange situation observation. Mary examined how a child, a caregiver and a stranger interact in a room (Mooney, 2009). The caregiver and the stranger periodically exited and returned to the room at different times. Through her observations, she concluded that securely attached infants explore their environment freely and respond to strangers when the caregiver is present. However, when the caregiver leaves the room, the child becomes upset but calms down when the caregiver returns to the room. Avoidant attached infants ignore the caregiver and show little or no emotions when caregiver exits or returns to the room. They are disinterested in the presence of the caregiver. The infant also avoids exploring his environment. For ambivalent attachment, infants show distress even when the caregiver is around. They tend to cling to the caregiver. When the caregiver exits the room, and later returns, the infant tends to show resentment for the absence of the caregiver. For disorganized attachment, infants may exhibit mixed behavior (Mooney, 2009). They may appear confused, distressed and resist the caregiver. The inconsistent behavior shows that there is no clear attachment pattern.
Laura Berk, who is a present day reputable researcher, has studied the available work on attachment and has made influential contribution to the field too. Laura proposes that development is a lifelong process and is influenced by various interacting forces. Warm parenting fosters continuous development from infancy to childhood stage to adolescence and lastly to adulthood. In her view, there is a relationship between emotions and cognition, social behavior and health. The emotion -cognition relationship imparts nervousness on performance. When a baby is frequently shouted at when they perform tasks, the baby will always remember that and thus they will be reluctant to explore their environment in confidence. This results into a widely reserved personality trait (Berk, 2013). The emotion-social behavior relationship touches on visible body language exhibited by the baby in their environment. A baby may smile, laugh and clap when they are happy. However, when a baby is constant crying and seeking attention, this could be an implication that the child will be an attention seeker in general social life. The emotion- health relationship explains the physical wellbeing of infants who experience secure attachment (Berk, 2013). When a child is moody, easily irritable and depressed, there are effects on the health of the baby too. These are signs of stress which is a major cause of ulcers and constipation.
In conclusion, attachment influences how an individual relates with others and the environment too. Thus, it is important to develop secure attachment patterns between infants and caregivers as this result in confidence in interaction and proper development patterns. Secure attachment is fostered by prompt response to the baby and does not have to involve complicated play. Whenever, the baby is around the care giver, there should be a connection that is not easily experienced when the baby is with a stranger. Thus, it is proven that infants respond to love and they incorporate the love they experience in infancy into how they will relate with others in school, at home, at the workplace and in all their surrounding of operation as adults.
Berk, L. E. (2013). Exploring lifespan development. S.l.: Pearson.
Bowlby, J. (2008). Attachment: Second Edition. New York: Basic Books.
Mooney, C. G. (2009). Theories of attachment: An introduction to Bowlby, Ainsworth, Gerber, Brazelton, Kennell, and Klause. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.
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