attachment theory in early childhood education
In 1958, psychologist John Bowlby pioneered “attachment theory,” the idea that the early bond between parent and child is critical to a child’s emotional development. Since then, scientists have.
What is attachment? Children are considered to be attached if they tend to seek proximity to and contact with a specific caregiver in times of distress, illness and tiredness. 1 Attachment to a protective caregiver helps infants to regulate their negative emotions in times of stress and distress and to explore the environment, even if it contains somewhat frightening stimuli. Attachment, a major developmental milestone in the child’s life, remains an important issue throughout the lifespan. In adulthood, attachment representations shape the way adults feel about the strains and stresses of intimate relationships, in particular parent-child relationships, and the way in which the self is perceived.
Implications for Social Policy
These behaviors make up what Bowlby termed an “attachment behavioral system,” the system that guides us in our patterns and habits of forming and maintaining relationships (Fraley, 2010).
- Remember that attachment theory applies throughout the entire range of life, and many behaviors and processes are shaped by early attachment, including staying safe, seeking comfort, regulating proximity to the attachment figure, and seeking predictability;
- Keep in mind that attachment patterns are not based on a few key moments, but on thousands of moments throughout early life, and how an attachment figure responds (or does not respond) sets a template for the child’s attachment style in the future. This template affects how the child recognizes and responds to their own emotions and how they interact with attachment figures;
- This early template becomes deeply embedded in the brain and therefore has a significant impact on our ability to regulate our emotions and connect and relate to others in adulthood. This can lead an adult who was abused in childhood to fail to recognize that they are being abused in their intimate relationship, or even cause them to find comfort and stability in the predictability of their situation;
- Remember that attachment behaviors are adaptive to the context in which they were formed. Habits and behaviors that are adaptive in childhood, in an evolutionary sense at least, may become maladaptive and harmful in adulthood;
- Finally, social workers should never think that they are “treating” a set of behaviors and must recognize that the individual’s strategies were formed for a reason and likely helped him or her survive a difficult situation in childhood. The role of a social worker is to help clients avoid overapplying those strategies and to guide them in adding effective, new strategies to their toolboxes (Hardy, 2016).
Bartholomew (1990) asserts that secure individuals will have a positive self- model and a positive model of others: they have a high self-esteem and they will be at ease with intimate relationships. Preoccupied adults have a negative self model but a positive model of others. This leads them to fretfully seek the approval of others in a belief that if other people respond positively towards them, then they will be safe and secure. Cassidy and Kobak (1988) term these intense attempts ‘hyperactivating strategies’ due to the vigilant attitude, as well as ongoing and insistent efforts that are made by the individual until such time as an attachment figure becomes available and security is achieved. Mikulincer, Gillath and Shaver (2002) found that even in non-threatening contexts individuals with a preoccupied attachment disposition showed a heightened degree of accessibility to mental representations of attachment figures. Individuals with a fearful-avoidant attachment style are characterized by negative models of self and other. Similar to the preoccupied individuals, they are highly dependent on the approval of others, yet they stay away from close relationships to avoid the pain of rejection. Lastly, a dismissive attachment style (another type of avoidant style) is identified by the individual’s positive model of self and negative model of others. According to Simpson and Rholes (1998) these adults maintain their high self-esteem through defensively rejecting the worth of close relationships (which they avoid because of negative expectations). Cassidy and Kobak (1988) term the strategies involved with these styles ‘deactivating strategies’, and presumably deactivating the attachment system would minimize the distress caused by an unavailable attachment figure. Mikulincer et al. (2002) found that avoidantly-attached individuals’ accessibility to mental representations of attachment figures were inhibited in a threat-related context.
Bowlby (1988) sees attachment behaviour as an individual’s attempt at attaining or maintaining proximity to some other individual who is perceived as more capable in dealing with the world, in particular when feeling threatened or unwell. An important theoretical anchor for attachment theory is the concept of the secure base. Bowlby (1988) sees the secure base as a key element in the concept of caregiving and refers to the provision of a secure base by caregivers from which the child can venture out into the world and to which the child can return. This is predicated by knowing with certainty that he/she will be, “nourished physically and emotionally, comforted if distressed, reassured if frightened” (p. 11). Apart from providing a secure base, an attachment figure should also function as a safe haven in times of need (Ainsworth, 1991; Hazan & Shaver, 1994; Hazan & Zeifman, 1994).
Attachment disorder does not come up again and again, it is very rare.
QUOTE: Naturally, attachment theory is a broad idea with many expressions, and the best understanding of it can be had by looking at several of those expressions in turn: UNQUOTE