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Evolutionary theory of attachment (e.g. Bowlby, Harlow, Lorenz) suggests that children
come into the world biologically preprogrammed to form attachments with others, because
this will help them to survive. The infant produces innate `social releaser' behaviours such
as crying and smiling that stimulate innate caregiving responses from adults. The
determinant of attachment is not food but care and responsiveness.
Lorenz (1935) demonstrated an example of imprinting (biological attachment)
using baby goslings. He suggested that imprinting is a phenomenon exhibited by
several species when young, mainly birds, such as ducklings and chicks. Upon
coming out of their eggs, they will follow and become attached (socially bonded)
to the first moving object they encounter (which usually, but not necessarily, is the
mother duck or hen). He carried out an experiment to show that young goslings
could form an attachment bond with him, as they had an innate desire to do so.
John Bowlby was a psychoanalyst (like Freud) and believed
that mental health and behavioural problems could be
attributed to early childhood. Bowlby's evolutionary theory
of attachment suggests that children come into the world
biologically preprogrammed to form attachments with
others, because this will help them to survive.
Bowlby was very much influenced by ethological theory in
general, but especially by Lorenz's (1935) study of
imprinting. Lornez showed that attachment was innate (in
young ducklings) and therefore has a survival value.
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Bowlby believed that attachment behaviours are instinctive and will be activated by
any conditions that seem to threaten the achievement of proximity, such as separation,
insecurity and fear.
Bowlby (1969, 1988) also postulated that the fear of strangers represents an important
survival mechanism, built in by nature. Babies are born with the tendency to display
certain innate behaviours (called social releasers) which help ensure proximity and
contact with the mother or mother figure (e.g. crying, smiling, crawling, etc.) these
are speciesspecific behaviours.…read more
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Harlow concluded that for a monkey to develop normally s/he must have some
interaction with an object to which they can cling during the first months of life
(critical period). Clinging is a natural response - in times of stress the monkey
runs to the object to which it normally clings as if the clinging decreases the
Harlow found therefore that it was social deprivation rather than maternal
deprivation that the young monkeys were suffering from.…read more