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Attachment Theory & Child Development & Learning

The failure to forge meaningful attachment or connection with others during infancy and early childhood leads to developmental issues that can last into adulthood. Systems theorists moved away from the classical Freudian model of development and maintained that ôPeople are motivated by more than the desire to satisfy instinctual impulses, like hunger and sex; they also have a primary need to be meaningfully connected to othersö (Karen, 1998, p. 38). John BowlbyÆs attachment theory furthered this line of thinking, a theory that maintains ôpersonality development is based on the interaction of the child and the caregiver during infancy and early childhoodö (Ainsworth, & Bowlby, 1991, p. 333). When this interaction is lacking or flawed, psychopathology is likely to develop.

All infants form enduring emotional bonds or attachments with their caregivers. The biological purpose of attachment protects infants from predators and enables the infant to feel secure when exploring his or her environment. Bowlby theorized there are four phases of attachment development, three of which occur in the first year of life:

Phase One (Birth-3 mos.): Largely the caregiverÆs responsibility to maintain proximity to and protect the infant.

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

Phase Three (6-9 mos.): Infant directs attachment behaviors toward a single caregiver or selected caregivers.

Phase Four (Approx. Age 4): Child and attachment figure enter into a partnership maintaining a relationship that is based on shared and different goals, plans, and feelings.

The attachment formed during childhood plays a significant role in regulating the childÆs emotional experience and behavior throughout the lifecycle. In BowlbyÆs theory, different types of attachment patterns develop dependent on the type of care provided. There are four attachment patterns: secure, anx...

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