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An overview of the psychological disorders in children by john bowlby

  • Hazan and Shaver 1987 developed a simple questionnaire to measure these individual differences;
  • According to her research, at least three types of children exist:

The objective of this essay is to provide a brief overview of the history of adult attachment research, the key theoretical ideas, and a sampling of some of the research findings. This essay has been written for people who are interested in learning more about research on adult attachment.

Bowlby's Theory of Attachment The theory of attachment was originally developed by John Bowlby 1907 - 1990a British psychoanalyst who was attempting to understand the intense distress experienced by infants who had been separated from their parents. Bowlby observed that separated infants would go to extraordinary lengths e. At the time of Bowlby's initial writings, psychoanalytic writers held that these expressions were manifestations of immature defense mechanisms that were operating to repress emotional pain, but Bowlby noted that such expressions are common to a wide variety of mammalian species, and speculated that these behaviors may serve an evolutionary function.

Drawing on ethological theory, Bowlby postulated that these attachment behaviors, such as crying and searching, were adaptive responses to separation from a primary attachment figure--someone who provides support, protection, and care.

Because human infants, like other mammalian infants, cannot feed or protect themselves, they are dependent upon the care and protection of "older and wiser" adults. Bowlby argued that, over the course of evolutionary history, infants who were able to maintain proximity to an attachment figure via attachment behaviors would be more likely to survive to a reproductive age.

  • One study that highlights insecure attachment findings involves twin babies who experienced a stress induced early environment;
  • In other words, the same kinds of factors that facilitate exploration in children i;
  • Ainsworth and her students developed a technique called the strange situation--a laboratory paradigm for studying infant-parent attachment;
  • There are at least two issues involved in considering the question of stability;
  • There are at least three critical implications of this idea.

According to Bowlby, a motivational system, what he called the attachment behavioral system, was gradually "designed" by natural selection to regulate an overview of the psychological disorders in children by john bowlby to an attachment figure. The attachment behavior system is an important concept in attachment theory because it provides the conceptual linkage between ethological models of human development and modern theories on emotion regulation and personality.

According to Bowlby, the attachment system essentially "asks" the following fundamental question: Is the attachment figure nearby, accessible, and attentive? If the child perceives the answer to this question to be "yes," he or she feels loved, secure, and confident, and, behaviorally, is likely to explore his or her environment, play with others, and be sociable.

If, however, the child perceives the answer to this question to be "no," the child experiences anxiety and, behaviorally, is likely to exhibit attachment behaviors ranging from simple visual searching on the low extreme to active following and vocal signaling on the other see Figure 1. These behaviors continue until either the child is able to reestablish a desirable level of physical or psychological proximity to the attachment figure, or until the child "wears down," as may happen in the context of a prolonged separation or loss.

In such cases, Bowlby believed that young children experienced profound despair and depression. Individual Differences in Infant Attachment Patterns Although Bowlby believed that the basic dynamics described above captured the normative dynamics of the attachment behavioral system, he recognized that there are individual differences in the way children appraise the accessibility of the attachment figure and how they regulate their attachment behavior in response to threats.

However, it wasn't until his colleague, Mary Ainsworth 1913 — 1999began to systematically study infant-parent separations that a formal understanding of these individual differences was articulated. Ainsworth and her students developed a technique called the strange situation--a laboratory paradigm for studying infant-parent attachment.

In the strange situation, 12-month-old infants and their parents are brought to the laboratory and, systematically, separated from and reunited with one another. In the strange situation, most children i. They become upset when the parent leaves the room, but, when he or she returns, they actively seek the parent and are easily comforted by him or her.

Children who exhibit this pattern of behavior are often called secure. Importantly, when reunited with their parents, these children have a difficult time being soothed, and often exhibit conflicting behaviors that suggest they want to be comforted, but that they also want to "punish" the parent for leaving.

These children are often called anxious-resistant.

  • In the strange situation, 12-month-old infants and their parents are brought to the laboratory and, systematically, separated from and reunited with one another;
  • Resistant babies, by contrast, cling to their caregiver and then show resistance by fighting against closeness; pushing away from the caregiver;
  • The earliest research on adult attachment involved studying the association between individual differences in adult attachment and the way people think about their relationships and their memories for what their relationships with their parents are like;
  • In light of this finding, the existence of long-term stability of individual differences should be considered an empirical question rather than an assumption of the theory;
  • Three Implications of Adult Attachment Theory The idea that romantic relationships may be attachment relationships has had a profound influence on modern research on close relationships.

The third pattern of attachment that Ainsworth and her colleagues documented is called avoidant. Ainsworth's work was important for at least three reasons. First, she provided one of the first empirical demonstrations of how attachment behavior is patterned in both safe and frightening contexts. Second, she provided the first empirical taxonomy of individual an overview of the psychological disorders in children by john bowlby in infant attachment patterns. According to her research, at least three types of children exist: Finally, she demonstrated that these individual differences were correlated with infant-parent interactions in the home during the first year of life.

Children who appear secure in the strange situation, for example, tend to have parents who are responsive to their needs. Children who appear insecure in the strange situation i. In the years that have followed, a number of researchers have demonstrated links between early parental sensitivity and responsiveness and attachment security.

Adult Romantic Relationships Although Bowlby was primarily focused on understanding the nature of the infant-caregiver relationship, he believed that attachment characterized human experience from "the cradle to the grave. Hazan and Shaver 1987 were two of the first researchers to explore Bowlby's ideas in the context of romantic relationships. According to Hazan and Shaver, the emotional bond that develops between adult romantic partners is partly a function of the same motivational system--the attachment behavioral system--that gives rise to the emotional bond between infants and their caregivers.

Hazan and Shaver noted that the relationship between infants and caregivers and the relationship between adult romantic partners share the following features: Three Implications of Adult Attachment Theory The idea that romantic relationships may be attachment relationships has had a profound influence on modern research on close relationships.

There are at least three critical implications of this idea. First, if adult romantic relationships are attachment relationships, then we should observe the same kinds of individual differences in adult relationships that Ainsworth observed in infant-caregiver relationships. We may expect some adults, for example, to be secure in their relationships--to feel confident that their partners will be there for them when needed, and open to depending on others and having others depend on them.

We should expect other adults, in contrast, to be insecure in their relationships. For example, some insecure adults may be anxious-resistant: Others may be avoidant: Second, if adult romantic relationships are attachment relationships, then the way adult relationships "work" should be similar to the way infant-caregiver relationships work. In other words, the same kinds of factors that facilitate exploration in children i.

The kinds of things that make an attachment figure "desirable" for infants i. In short, individual differences in attachment should influence an overview of the psychological disorders in children by john bowlby and personal functioning in adulthood in the same way they do in childhood. Third, whether an adult is secure or insecure in his or her adult relationships may be a partial reflection of his or her experiences with his or her primary caregivers.

Bowlby believed that the mental representations or working models i. For example, a secure child tends to believe that others will be there for him or her because previous experiences have led him or her to this conclusion. Once a child has developed such expectations, he or she will tend to seek out relational experiences that are consistent with those expectations and perceive others in a way that is colored by those beliefs. According to Bowlby, this kind of process should promote continuity in attachment patterns over the life course, although it is possible that a person's attachment pattern will change if his or her relational experiences are inconsistent with his or her expectations.

In short, if we assume that adult relationships are attachment relationships, it is possible that children who are secure as children will grow up to be secure in their romantic relationships. Or, relatedly, that people who are secure as adults in their relationships with their parents will be more likely to forge secure relationships with new partners.

In the sections below I briefly address these three implications in light of early and contemporary research on adult attachment. The earliest research on adult attachment involved studying the association between individual differences in adult attachment and the way people think about their relationships and their memories for what their relationships with their parents are like.

Hazan and Shaver 1987 developed a simple questionnaire to measure these individual differences. These individual differences are often referred to as attachment styles, attachment patterns, attachment orientations, or differences in the organization of the attachment system.

In short, Hazan and Shaver asked research subjects to read the three paragraphs listed below, and indicate which paragraph best characterized the way they think, feel, and behave in close relationships: I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others; I find it difficult to trust them completely, difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when anyone gets too close, and often, others want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being.

I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don't worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me. I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like.

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I often worry that my partner doesn't really love me or won't want to stay with me. I want to get very close to my partner, and this sometimes scares people away. Based on this three-category measureHazan and Shaver found that the distribution of categories was similar to that observed in infancy.

Although this measure served as a useful way to study the association between attachment styles and relationship functioning, it didn't allow a full test of the hypothesis that the same kinds of individual differences observed in infants might be manifest among adults. In many ways, the Hazan and Shaver measure assumed this to be true. Subsequent research has explored this hypothesis in a variety of ways. For example, Kelly Brennan and her colleagues collected a number of statements e.

John Bowlby

Brennan's findings suggested that there are two fundamental dimensions with respect to adult attachment patterns see Figure 2. One critical variable has been labeled attachment-related anxiety. People who score high on this variable tend to worry whether their partner is available, responsive, attentive, etc. People who score on the low end of this variable an overview of the psychological disorders in children by john bowlby more secure in the perceived responsiveness of their partners.

The other critical variable is called attachment-related avoidance. People on the high end of this dimension prefer not to rely on others or open up to others.

People on the low end of this dimension are more comfortable being intimate with others and are more secure depending upon and having others depend upon them. A prototypical secure adult is low on both of these dimensions. Brennan's findings are critical because recent analyses of the statistical patterning of behavior among infants in the strange situation reveal two functionally similar dimensions: Functionally, these dimensions are similar to the two-dimensions uncovered among adults, suggesting that similar patterns of attachment exist at different points in the life span.

In light of Brennan's findings, as well as taxometric research published by Fraley and Waller 1998most researchers currently conceptualize and measure individual differences in attachment dimensionally rather than categorically. That is, it is assumed that attachment styles are things that vary in degree rather than kind.

There is now an increasing amount of research that suggests that adult romantic relationships function in ways that are similar to infant-caregiver relationships, with some noteworthy exceptions, of course. For example, while separating couples generally showed more attachment behavior than nonseparating couples, highly avoidant adults showed much less attachment behavior than less avoidant adults.

In the sections below I discuss some of the parallels that have been discovered between the way that infant-caregiver relationships and adult romantic relationships function. For obvious reasons there is no similar study asking infants if they would prefer a security-inducing attachment figure. Despite the attractiveness of secure qualities, however, not all adults are paired with secure partners. Some evidence suggests that people end up in relationships with partners who confirm their existing beliefs about attachment relationships Frazier et al.

Secure base and safe haven behavior In infancy, secure infants tend to be the most well adjusted, in the sense that they are relatively resilient, they get along with their peers, and are well liked. Similar kinds of patterns have emerged in research on adult attachment.

Overall, secure adults tend to be more satisfied in their relationships than insecure adults. Their relationships are characterized by greater longevity, trust, commitment, and interdependence e. A large proportion of research on adult attachment has been devoted to uncovering the behavioral and psychological mechanisms that promote security and secure base behavior in adults. There have been two major discoveries thus far.

Effects of Attachment Disorder on Psychosocial Development

First and in accordance with attachment theory, secure adults are more likely than insecure adults to seek support from their partners when distressed. Furthermore, they are more likely to provide support to their distressed partners e.