Edexcel A2 Psychology - Child Psychology: Bowlby's Theory of Attachment

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  • Created by: Maria
  • Created on: 27-01-10 12:10

Bowlby’s Theory:

· Bowlby stated that attachment was a survival mechanism. Attachment itself is defined as an innate, continuous two way relationship, based on mutual love and affection which will result in child and carer attaining and retaining proximity to each other. A child will form an attachment with one person only – this is known as montoropy. Typically, attachment occurs between a mother and baby, although Bowlby did state that it may occur with a ‘main carer’.

· There is a critical and sensitive period for attachment to be formed. The sensitive period is a time when it is easiest for the child to form an attachment with his or her main carer – this is typically up to the first six months of age. The critical period is a time beyond which it is impossible for attachments to be formed - typically up to two years of age.

· Once the attachment is formed, it may easily be broken. If this occurs within the critical period it is known as maternal deprivation and may have long term problems for the child. Such problems include delinquency, stunted growth, psychopathic tendencies and low IQ.

· Separation occurs each time the child is separated from their main carer. It can be short term (such as when a child enters daycare) or long term (such as when a child’s carer dies).

· Detachment occurs when an attachment is broken, again either short or long term. It can coincide with separation or occur alone.

· When a child is separated from his or her main carer, both mother and child will experience separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is, however, usually more pronounced in the child. Initially, the child will protest. This stage involves crying and shouting in order to attract the attention of the main carer. If the child is not reunited with their carer, then despair occurs. The protest behaviours continue, only they take on a new dimension and become more urgent. If the child is still not reunited with their carer, then detachment occurs. All protest and despair behaviours cease and the child will continue with their normal activities, although they will do so as if they were


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