Consider the Extent to which Psychological Theories have been Successful in Explaining Attatchments - Bowlby's Theory of Attachment

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The theory of attachment was originally developed by John Bowlby (1907 - 1990). Bowlby was a British psychoanalyst who was attempting to understand the intense distress experienced by infants who had been separated from their parents. Bowlby's first formal statement of the attachment theory, building on concepts from ethology and developmental psychology, was presented to the British Psychoanalytic Society in London in three now classic papers: "The Nature of the Child's Tie to His Mother" (1958), "Separation Anxiety" (1959), and "Grief and Mourning in Infancy and Early Childhood" (1960).

According to Bowlby infants have an innate tendency to become attached to one particular individual. This was referred to as monotropy. During his research Bowlby observed how infants who became separated from their primary caregiver, such as it's mother, would go to extraordinary lengths to either prevent separation from or to restore contact with that caregiver. Behaviours such as crying, clinging and frantic searching were expressed by the infants and observed by Bowlby.

At the time, psychoanalytic writers believed that these expressions were immature defence mechanisms, used to repress emotional pain. However, Bowlby noted that such expressions are common to a wide variety of mammals, and speculated that these behaviours may serve an evolutionary function.

Influenced by the ethological studies, Bowlby proposed that these behaviours, also known as social releasers, were adaptive responses to separation from a primary attachment figure - a person who provides support, protection, and care. Human infants, like other mammal infants, are unable to feed or protect themselves. They are therefore dependent upon the care and protection of "older and wiser" adults. The central belief to an infant's healthy development is the need for a committed care giving relationship with one or a few adult figures. However, Bowlby continuously emphasized the role of the female parent...