Child's first attachments

What factors will influence whether a child's first attachments are secure or insecure?

This is an essay which will critically evaluate the factors that affect the development of an attachment between a caregiver and an infant. The works of Bowlby, Ainsworth and Harlow were a foundation to all leading attachment theories so consideration to those and more recent studies will be examined. With particular attention given to the secure and insecure attachment categories.

In 1978 Mary Ainsworth developed her renowned experiment; the strange situation, in which she hypothesised that children use caregivers as a base from which to explore their environment. From the results different levels of attachment were observed and later categorised into two brackets; secure and unsecure. Children with a secure attachment were able to use their caregivers as a secure base and leave their side to explore the environment with confidence. When the caregiver left the room the infant would cry but would be quickly comforted by their return. A similar result occurred in the stranger condition. The second category; insecure was split into three subsections, the first being avoidant; the children in this bracket appeared to be unresponsive by both care giver and strangers entrance and departures. The second insecure category was resistant in which the infants were angry with caregivers upon their return and the final and sometime worst attachment is disorganised/disorientated. This category is characterised with continuous avoidance of eyes contact with caregiver, particularly when being held and when looking at caregiver the infant produces a sad or depressed look on their face. This experiment proved invaluable to developmental research for infants under 1 years of age but was not effective in older children as their reactions change as they grew up.

To determine attachment security for children 1 to 5 years a set of descriptive statements were

For an attachment to develop the opportunity must be presented; Rene Spitz 1946 observed institutionalised infants who were given up between the ages of 2-12 months. These infants shared a caregiver with a ratio of sometimes 10:1. It was observed and noted that these children became withdrawn, depressed and lost weight. Rutter 1968 suggested that the children were prevented from forming attachments with one or more adults which was why they began experiencing difficulties. This was further supported by Tizard and Rees 1975 but their study looked at better child to caregiver ratio and a rich selection of books and toys but the turnover was high and the infants were again prevented from forming an attachment with one person or more and some children did not make any bonds till they were 5-6 years of age. It was inferred some time after the studies that these children were likely to have had emotional and social interaction deficits with few social ties, (Hodges and Tinzard 1989) Another important contribution in developing an attachment is the quality and sensitivity of the care giving; it determines the strength of the bond. When a care giver can respond promptly and accurately to the infants need it is often referred to as interaction synchrony. This is being sensitively in tuned to the infants needs, (Atkinson et al 2009). The infant's reaction too should be mutually rewarding if the caregiver is fluent and rhythmic (Isabella & Belsky 1991). Infant characteristics influence how easily a relationship builds between two partners which in turn develops an attachment, these are things that can affect the initial bond such as premature birth or complications, trauma and long term health conditions. However a vast number of reports show that special needs children can develop a secure attachment if the caregiver is patient, caring and has a positive outlook on the infant's condition, (Pederson & Moran 1995). Other developmental researchers such as Kagan 1998 believe that ill-natured or irritable babies may suffer from separation anxiety regardless of care-giving sensitivity. In accordance with this seifel et al 1996 confers that emotionally reactive infants are at a greater risk of developing insecure attachments, ( citedM?a). However many opposed this notion and claimed that temperament was only a small factor because if was a main indicator then similar types of adults would have the same types of attachments and a clear pattern would emerge.

Family circumstances play an important factor in attachment development. Thompson 1998 proposed that a baby's sense of security could be affected by exposure to violent or aggressive adults and unfavourable childcare arrangements. This was supported by Owen & Cox in 1997 when they showed examples of infants who had a new sibling join the family. The less stressful environments had secure attachments, this was due to good social support between the caregivers (usually mother and father), (cited jehsefhs;).Parents internal working models is the final contribution that has been brought to light. An adults perspective of their own child can affect the way attachments are formed. This is seen when mothers show objectivity and balance when reminiscing about their childhood then they tend to develop secure attachments, they neither feel angry or idealise their past so they focus on their child's needs, (Benoit & Parker 1994)

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