As you learned in a previous lesson, a psychologist named Harry Harlow embarked on a series of somewhat controversial experiments in the 1960s that showed the importance of forming attachments of love and affection towards a parental figure.
He postulated that the baby monkeys needed a certain contact comfort, which is a pleasant, reassuring feeling from touching or clinging to something soft and warm. This contact comfort would normally come from the mother, but in this case, it was from the surrogate mother covered in terry cloth.
When fear stimuli were introduced, meaning something frightening was put into the cage, Harlow found that the baby monkeys would cling to the mothers and wouldn't explore the room or move away from the mothers even when there wasn't anything frightening around. The fact that the baby monkeys tended to stay close to the surrogate mothers expanded on the idea that attachment played an important role in early development.
As you can probably tell from this context, attachment is a close emotional bond that an infant forms with either a parent or caregiver of some sort.
There is a sensitive period during that first year of life when children need to form certain attachments. They begin to prefer their mother over other people very early on in life, but they establish those close emotional bonds with both parents initially.
Essentially, the mother or the father, or any caregiver, acts as a sort of home base--a place where children feel safe and secure, and from which they can go out and explore the rest of the world.
A normal sign that attachment has occurred is separation anxiety, or a certain distress that a child displays when his or her caregiver is taken away. When children are separated from their parents or their caregiver, they may exhibit separation anxiety by crying, flailing, or showing signs of fear. Separation anxiety is a normal behavior in children, and it shows that attachment is occurring in the correct way.
Around 1967, the psychologist Mary Ainsworth published an article discussing the different qualities of attachment that children can develop. One of these styles of attachment is a successful one, whereas the other two are unsuccessful ones. Let's take a look at each of these categories in a little more detail.
This means that the child will use the parent as a sort of home base, or a place from which the child can go to explore the rest of the environment around him or her.
The child also shows separation anxiety when the parent or the caregiver leaves the room, as well as showing relief and desire to reunite with the parent or caregiver when that person returns to the room.
Forming a secure attachment requires the parent to show an appropriate, as well as a consistent, sensitivity and responsiveness to the needs of the child. In other words, when the child cries out because he or she wants something, the parent doesn't ignore those cries. The parent responds, but in a way that's appropriate for the specific situation.
This style is marked by the tendency for the child to ignore the parent when he or she returns from being away. This means that the child doesn't necessarily show any of separation anxiety when the parent or the caregiver leaves the room, as well as no desire to reunite with that person.
The child also doesn't show any affection when playing with or being held by the parent; he or she tends to treat the parent as a stranger. There are no signs of distress when the caregiver leaves the room.
Insecure-avoidant attachment is caused by little or no responsiveness from the parent to the child's needs. If the child is calling out or crying because he or she needs something, the parent generally ignores the child. This style of attachment is often caused by parents who are trying to encourage independence in their children. The parents are trying to let the children develop on their own, and as a result, the children develop a negative attachment.
In other words, this style of attachment is a bit hot and cold in terms of the child's responses to the parent or caregiver. The child might be constantly preoccupied with the caretaker's availability, and try to seek contact with that person. However, the child can also show that he or she is a bit uncaring towards the parent as well. It can take time for the child to warm back up to the parent when he or she returns.
Insecure-ambivalent attachment is caused by inconsistent responses from the parent, so you can see how the hot and cold responses from the child relate to those of the parent. The parent might sometimes respond to the child when the child is in distress, and sometimes not. In other words, it's difficult for the child to figure out the parent in this attachment style.
Source: THIS WORK IS ADAPTED FROM SOPHIA AUTHOR ERICK TAGGART.