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Theory of Attachment

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Attachment theory, developed by John Bowlby presents a set of organizing principles for understanding various facets of human psychological aspects. The theory offers a wide spectrum, which encompasses comprehensive theoretical paradigm for understanding diversities amongst relationships. Bowlby rejecting the old theories of attachment highlighted that attachment is not merely an internal drive to satisfy some need. This paper will focus on the seminal work and the principles on which the attachment theory is based. A spin-off theory derived from the original concept is also presented at the end.

Social work is illustrated is engaging in psychosocial evaluation and intervention through various means like therapies. This is performed to bring a change in the behavior, feelings, and attitudes of a person, group or community. It also means engaging in social planning, organization, and administration in a community (Janus, 1985). Various social work theories have been presented over a period of time. These theories have been discussed and researched at length. Most adapted and acceptable theories of all include ecological system theory, community development theory, strength-based approach theory and the theory of attachment (Dummer, Brodwolf & Erath, 2004/2005). Grohol (2005) correlates the theory of attachment with the psychological concept of attachment. He further elucidates the inclination of a person to seek closeness to another person for the purpose of security.

Foundations of the attachment theory are originally laid on observations based on experiments with animals. A series of experiments carried out with infant monkeys reflected that attachment is not simply because of some internal drives like hunger. In these experiments, few young monkeys separated from their mothers shortly after birth, were kept in a cage with two dolls. One of the dolls was made up of wire mesh and the other with foam rubber and cloth. A feeding bottle was also attached with the chest of the doll with mesh wire. Purpose of the experiment was to see which doll was preferred by the monkeys; the one with food or the one with soft touch. It turned out that the monkeys would cling to the soft-clothed doll despite the other doll fulfilling their requirement of food.

Although, the passive doll could not be an adequate alternative for a real mother but it opened new avenues to explore. These studies became basis of the Bowlby's experiments on human. Bowlby (1988) had rejected the old theory of dependency which propagated that the reason a child develops a close tie to his mother is that she feeds him. Drives are postulated of two kinds. Food is considered as the primary drive whereas the personal relationship also called 'dependency', as secondary. Bowlby states that this theory did not seem to me to fit the facts. Having discarded the theory, he needed to provide an alternative or replacement for this theory. As a result, he developed attachment theory which presented organizing principles for understanding many aspects of relationships. Because the theory is broad and comprehensive, it has served as a guiding framework for researchers across diverse areas of psychology.

According to attachment theory, attachment is not just an outcome of the need to satisfy various drives, like Sigmund Freud thought. For example, children are not just attached to their parents because they provide food; their attachment also involves behavior that is independent of their direct needs. Attachment theory assumes that humans are social beings; they do not just use other people to satisfy their drives. In this way, attachment theory is similar to object relations theory (Grohol, 2005).

Holmes (1993) expounding Bowlby's life and work states that there is a strong moral and social vision behind the theory of attachment. He highlights that the emotional deprivation of children is a social ill which eventually results in the distortion and corrosion of the social life fabric. It therefore becomes the responsibility of the society to take cognizance of the menace by correct social cure. At first it would entail recognition of the problem through the acceptance of the findings of psychological science and then providing necessary training of child-care to all members of the society.

The attachment theory has helped in initiation of large number of models for social development from childhood till adulthood. Pietromonaco & Feldman Barrett (2000) elaborate on the underlying components and organization of these working models and offer new perspectives that contribute in organizing and sustaining relationship knowledge. They also focus specifically on evaluating the concept of internal working models of attachment.

The topics with longitudinal attachment-based studies of families with depression, of families with maltreatment, and of clinical interventions in families with low social support and with behavior-problem children were the hard back to Bowlby's seminal ideas since 1930s. Value and authoritativeness of attachment theory is evident from the Bowlby's focus on parent-child relationship which captivated the attention of developmental psychologists, and his assertion that attachment processes operate across the life span paved the way for social and personality psychologists to study attachment in adult relationships. Furthermore, the assumption that attachment mechanisms are intrinsic has led to exploration of their neurobiological basis (Pietromonaco & Barrett, 2000).

Bowlby (1988) describing principles involved in the application of the attachment theory states that basic component of this theory is the intimate emotional bonds between particular individuals. (120) He further highlights that intimate emotional bonds are not dependent on food and sex or on external factors like the urgent desire for comfort and support. Major principle of effective personality functioning and mental health is the capacity to make intimate emotional bonds with other people in the care-seeking or care-giving role. (121) Principle on which the attachment theory is based upon is the role of a child's parents in determining how well the child develops. There is enough evidence available today which proves that the pattern of attachment that a person develops during the years of infancy, childhood, and adolescence is greatly influenced by the way his parents treat him. (123-124) Bowlby also states that prospective studies reflect each pattern of attachment, once developed, tends to persist. One reason for this is that the way a parent treats a child, whether for better or for worse, tends to continue unchanged. Another fact about this pattern is that it is self-perpetuating.



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