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Attachment Theory

In An Ethological Approach to Personality Development, John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth (1991) argue that attachment theory is “personality development based on the interaction of the child and the caregiver during infancy and early childhood” (333). Bowlby’s attachment theory integrates evolution, ethology, emotion regulation, and social cognition. The attachment theory system is posited as one of a variety of behavioral system that promote survival and reproductive success. According to Broberg (2000), “The purpose of the system is to enhance the likelihood of protection, by maintaining proximity to the caregiver in response to real or perceived stress or danger” (37). In other words, attachment is a biological and evolutionary system that forms close bonds between the child and caregiver (typically the mother), particularly during times of stress or threat, that helps increase the odds of survival by ensuring parental caregiving and protection.

All infants form enduring emotional bonds or attachments with their caregivers. These emotional bonds go beyond the need for basic survival needs like physical nourishment. The biological purpose of attachment protects infants from predators and maintains physical safety. So, too, attachment enables the infant to feel secure when exploring his or her environment. Within the attachment behavioral system, Bowlby theorized that there are four phases of development that typically unfold during the infant’s first year of existence. These phases are listed below:

Phase One: (Birth to 3 months) – Largely the caregiver’s responsibility to maintain proximity to and protect the infant.

Phase Two: (3 to 6 months) – Infant increasingly becomes a more active participant in the attachment behavior system.

Phase Three: (6 to 9 months) – Infant directs attachment behaviors toward a single caregiver of selected primary caregivers.

Phase Four: (approx. 4 years-of-age) ...

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Attachment Theory. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 06:13, February 25, 2017, from