12. PP Attachment Theories

Attachment Theories
HPD 4C Working with School age Children and Adolescents –
Mrs. Filinov
What happens to children who are deprived
of affection and do not have the
opportunity to bond with a caregiver at
Theorists have studied this effect and their
research has show that human infants
MUST form a strong connection with at
least one caregiver to ensure normal
The people who contributed to the
development of attachment theory were
Harry Harlow, John Bowlby and Mary
Dr. Harlow began studying the reaction of
rhesus monkeys to separation from their
mothers as a side effect of other research.
He discovered that monkeys separated
from their mothers, even when fed and
cared for, developed abnormal behaviours
and could not relate to other monkeys.
Harry Harlow’s Monkey Research
When they were provided with clothcovered mother substitutes, some of these
abnormal behaviours were avoided.
Harlow’s studies showed the importance of
touch and contact for survival and normal
John Bowlby studied actual children, during
the 1060’s and 1970’s and identified that
infants have a role in attachment by
exhibiting “attachment behaviours”. These
behaviours encourage adults to maintain
John Bowlby
Some of these behaviours include
-proximity seeking
These encourage adults to touch, hold and
practice soothing responses.
If children must be separated from their
parents because of illness, for example,
they go through three phases of
separation behaviour:
Protest: crying protesting, searching
2. Despair: the child becomes very quiet
3. Detachment: the child withdraws
Children who have had a secure bond with
parents are able to move beyond the
detachment stage.
Less secure children do not adjust. When
children go home they may regress,
which means they act in an immature way
in an attempt to re-establish their
Mary Ainsworth is a graduate from the
University of Toronto. She is known for
studying mother-infant attachment in
Uganda and Canada. She also worked with
John Bowlby
She showed that infants need a “secure
base” from which to begin their exploration.
Mary Ainsworth
She discovered that infants will signal their
caregiver with a cry, a wail, a glance or
some other behaviour.
The caregiver with a strong attachment to
their children were better able to recognize
these signals and take appropriate
This research supported the idea that the
best way to encourage attachment with
infants is to respond consistently to their
Infants communicate mostly by crying.
Erik Erikson was another researcher that
identified the need to respond to an
infant’s cry. When a caregiver responds to
an infants’ cry, they learn that the world is
a secure place and develop a sense of
trust. This sense of trust is their basis for
lifelong social and emotional
What did Harry Harlow’s experiment with
baby monkeys show?
Discussion Questions:
Describe parental behaviours that would
promote mistrust instead of trust in an
Suggest ways parents can reconnect with
their children when they pick them up from
childcare, nursery school or even a
weekend visiting grandparents.
What are some reconnection behaviours we
exhibit with older children?

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