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Essay on John Bowlby Emotional Attachment Theory

John Bowlby first introduced the theory of emotional attachment in the 1960’s when he conducted research on toddlers who were hospitalized for long periods of time due to chronic illnesses (Shaffer, 2009). In his observations he noticed how children slowly began to show signs of apathy and unresponsiveness to toys as well as other people and eventually showed indifference towards the presence and absence of their mothers (Shaffer, 2009).

However the most concerning result of all this was the toddlers permanent withdrawal from human relationships, in which they would become uninterested in human contact, they were still able to communicate of their own accord but were more egocentric as well as shifting their attention to inanimate objects over humans (Shaffer, 2009). Furthermore, not only did they experience social deficiencies but also as teenagers and adults with no secure attachment they were more likely to develop a variety of psychological problems as well as having emotional deficiencies (Shaffer, 2009).

Even more interesting, the effects of their attachment, determined how they would attach to their own children in the future, and how they would respond to their infants cries of distress (Shaffer, 2009). However, there are also intervention group’s available high-risk families in order to assist them in preserving the family as well as promoting the child’s well being (Shaffer, 2009). There is evidence suggesting that infants actually reinforce attachment to its mother by altering her neurobiological basis of mothering.

A study conducted by Atzil, Hendler, and Feldman (2011) sought to extend knowledge on the neurobiological basis of human parenting on infants. They were mainly looking at maternal synchrony, or any affectionate interaction between the mother and infant whether it was high pitched vocalizations, gazing at an infants face, as well as affectionate touch vs. intrusive styles and how these behaviors adapted to moments of an infants responsiveness (Atzil et al. , 2011).

Furthermore, each of these responses generate a specific bio-behavioral profile in the mother and child, for example, a pattern of maternal care can initiate unique gene expression or organize the Oxytocinergic system, which helps mammals form bonds as well as determine the infants future capacity to handle stress (Atzil et al. , 2011). In their study there were 28 mothers (between the ages of 22-37, 12-21 years of education), and their infants were between the ages of 4-6 months old (Atzil et al. , 2011). Mothers were first screened using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (Atzil et al. 2011). Five mothers were excluded from the study since they showed high levels of depressive symptoms (Atzil et al. , 2011).

The two consisted of two sessions, in the first the families were visited at home and several sessions of mother-infant interaction and infant independent play were videotaped, which were later used to fMRI stimuli and behavioral analysis (Atzil et al. , 2011). During they fMRI study they showed mothers an image of their infant playing alone and one of the mother-infant interaction and for control purposes they also showed one of an unfamiliar infant and unfamiliar mother-infant interaction (Atzil et al. 2011).

Maternal intrusiveness was defined as mothers providing stimulatory or proprioceptive touch or presenting objects when the infant showed gaze aversion and need for rest (Atzil et al. , 2011). Overall, they discovered three main functional neural networks that are activated in response to the infant’s stimuli, all of which had a specific effect on the mother (Atzil et al. , 2011). The first was on the motivational level and showed that mothers are neurologically shown to associate mothering with more rewards than with stress, whenever they saw a picture of their infant.

Secondly, at the connectivity level, giving he mothers the ability to better understand their infants intentions and desires and the synchronized conduct that was expected. Lastly, in the hormonal analysis, plasma Oxytocin levels were correlated with the parenting-related motivational limbic areas, which suggested that parenting for the mothers, was closely related to motivational mechanisms to attend to her infant (Atzil et al. , 2011). Intrusive mothers on the other hand showed more action oriented motivation and less empathy, which contributed to smothering and not reading what the infant really needed at that moment (Atzil et al. 2011).

The conclusion to this study was that infants can affect a mothers neurobiological basis in order to have its needs met, however, sometimes the mother is not good are interpreting the infants stimuli and instead end up smothering the child or not attending to their needs at all. It shows that infants are active in process of forming attachments and even reinforce it in mothers. The next study demonstrates the long-term effects of a disorganized attachment system in chimpanzees, which are expected to be the same results as in human studies.

In this study by Clay, Bard, Bloomsmith, Maple, and Marr (2015) investigated the extent of long-term consequences or early attachment groups in chimpanzees, and if they were any similar to humans, then they expected to see poorer results in chimpanzees with disorganized attachments (DA) than those with secure attachments (OA). Their sample consisted of 20 chimpanzees (between the ages of 17-25 years of age), 10 (3 females, 7 males) of which were classified as disorganized attachment and 10 (6 females, 4 males) which were classified as organized attachment (Clay et al. 2015).

They conducted behavioral observations in 1-hr time blocks between the hours of 8 a. m. and 3 p. m. and totaled 6-10 hours per chimpanzee. They observed for seven categories of events; abnormal behavior, stress-related behavior, affiliative behavior, aggressive behavior, submissive behavior, sexual behavior, and environmental events (loud noise, approach od human within 5 feet, display of loud vocal chimpanzee) (Clay et al. , 2015).

Their results yielded that disorganized attachment in the infancy of the chimpanzees had a stronger and negative impact on the long-term development in humans, monkeys, and chimpanzees. In their study they found that adult chimpanzees with DA in infancy had significantly increased stereotypic rocking, more health problems, and only average well being compared to those with OA attachments (Clay et al. , 2015). The results supported the idea that attachment is an important growing feature when it comes to developing primates (Clay et al. , 2015).

Overall they stated that it would be easy to differentiate behavior and health in primates, as well as humans, between those with disorganized attachment vs. organized attachment. The next articles addresses the mothers emotional and cognitive responses to infant distress. The study conducted by Leerkes and Crockenberg (2006) examined all the variables that determine whether the mother would be able to respond to her child’s signals of distress and need, taking into account the mothers history of emotional attachment as well as their coping skills along with the infants temperament.

Their sample consisted of 67 first time mothers, who were on average 31 years old, had 15 years of education and had been married or living with a partner for 5 years (Leerkes & Crockenberg, 2006). Thirty-eight of the toddlers in the study were male. The mothers were first contacted at childbirth education classes and then completed a demographic questionnaire through the phone as well as their childhood history, coping strategies and their partner relationship by mail during months 7 to 8 prepartum (Leerkes & Crockenberg, 2006).

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