Attachment theory

Essay by woodzepooCollege, UndergraduateA-, July 2006

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Attachment theory is a theory (or group of theories) about the psychological tendency to seek closeness to another person, to feel secure when that person is present, and to feel anxious when that person is absent.Attachment theory has its origins in the observation of and experiments with animals. A famous series of experiments on infant monkeys by Harlow and Harlow demonstrated that attachment is not a simple reaction to internal drives such as hunger. In these experiments, young monkeys were separated from their mother shortly after birth. They were offered two dolls to serve as surrogates to the mother. The first doll had a body of wire mesh. The second doll had a body of terry cloth and foam rubber. Both dolls could provide food by attaching a milk bottle to their chests. The experiment was designed to see if the monkeys would cling to the doll providing the soft contact of cloth or to the doll providing the source of food.

It turned out that the monkeys would cling to the soft-clothed doll, irrespective of whether it provided food. The monkeys also explored more when the soft-cloth doll was near. Apparently, the doll provided them with a sense of security. However, the passive doll was not an adequate alternative for a real mother. Infant monkeys which were raised without contact with other monkeys showed abnormal behavior in social situations. They were either very fearful of other monkeys or responded with unprovoked aggression when they encountered other monkeys. They also showed abnormal sexual responses. Female monkeys who were raised in isolation often neglected or abused their infants. This abnormal behaviour is thought to demonstrate that a bond with the mother is necessary for further social development. People with a secure attachment style like themselves and others, seek closeness, and...