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The Four Stages of Attachment in John Bowlby

With his identification of the four stages of attachment, John Bowlby (1969) was instrumental in illuminating the changes in the development of attachment between mother and child. During the first phase of indiscriminate sociability, infants interact with most people with their cries, coos and smiles from birth to two months in order to receive attention. Between two and seven months, the infants begin to develop a preference for the responses of familiar caregivers such as the mother. With the third phase of attachment (seven to 24 months), the infants possess a strong attachment to their caregivers and suffer from separation and stranger anxiety. Their strong relationships with their caregivers are formed in tandem with the development of their motor ability to move towards their caregivers for safety and verbal skills that enable them to socialize with their caregivers on a more complex level than before. During the final phase that starts typically from age two, the young children have acquired representational and memory skills that allow them to relate to their environment in an active way. Thus, they do not require the constant attention of their parents. They also begin to adjust their perspectives of various situations and understand the points of view of their parents. At the same time, they are able to cope with short periods of separation from their parents.

Although Bowlby's model demonstrates the significance of attachment in the early years, it has a few limitations. According to Field (1996), Bowlby's theory focuses primarily on the mother as an attachment object. However, in reality, infants and children as they grow older, are able to form multiple attachments at the same time with their father, siblings, and peers. Therefore, this model is largely restricted to the attachment process of individuals in their early years. Bowlby's theory thus does not account for the strong friendships forged between young adol...

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