Attachment Theory Research

Attachment Theory Research

The British psychoanalyst, John Bowlby, developed attachment theory to explain the way infants cling to their parents and find it hard to be separated from them. He observed the intense distress of separated infants who go as far as throwing a fit of crying, searching, and clinging to prevent separation or reestablish nearness to a parent. Bowlby's assertion on the human personality was not that well accepted as it is today. It was because within psychoanalysts' circles at that time, it was believed that these childish manifestations were merely signs of immature defense mechanisms that were there to repress emotional pain. However, Bowlby argued that these reactions were common among mammalian species, further stating that these behaviors served an evolutionary function.

Bowlby further states that these attachment behaviors like searching, crying, etc., are the adaptive ways of a child to cope with separation from an important attachment figure. An attachment figure is someone who seen by the child as a provider of care, support, and protection. In attachment theory research, it is pointed out that because mammalian infants are not capable yet of feeding and protecting themselves, they are dependent on the help and nurturing of an older or wiser parent. Attachment theory goes on to say that infants who were able to maintain nearness to an attachment figure are likely to survive through life.

In attachment theory research, Bowlby posits a kind of attachment behavioral system or a motivational-control system that informs proximity to an attachment figure. According to attachment theory, the concept of an attachment behavioral system connects the modern attachment theories of emotion and personality with the ethological models of human development. In Bowlby's researches, he said that infants faced by the reality of separation are also confronted to answer several questions. "Are my parents (attachment figure) nearby and attentive?" If this is a "yes", then the child feels that he is loved; he feels confident and secure, too. Because of this emotional security, a child feels free to interact with other children and explore the environment.

"Are my parents (attachment figure) close to me?" Now, what if a child answers a "no" to this question? The theory and research of attachment John Bowlby is spearheading shows that the child, behaviorally speaking, manifests anxiety and even, attachment behaviors such as vocal signaling and active following. These behaviors, Bowlby avers, would continue until he bumps into two conditions: either the child has become exhausted of searching because of prolonged separation or if he is able to reestablish a certain psychological and physical proximity to the parent or attachment figure. What, then, if the child does not run to either of these conditions? Now this is where the study becomes interesting: Bowlby believes that the child experiences depression and despair.

Attachment theory research has made tremendous contributions in the field of not only psychoanalysis but in child and adult psychology, theory of emotions, developmental psychology, and even educational psychology. Although it has been widely accepted at first, today, many psychologists, psychotherapists, and psychoanalysts cull some of its important postulates. Attachment theory and research, however, is a field of knowledge that is continuously being explored in many research centers, institutes, and universities around the world. This is a sign that there is still, indeed, more to discover about the human mind than we already know.

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