Attachment Theory

Junior (College 3rd year) ・Psychology ・APA ・10 Sources

Attachment refers to the long-lasting and profound bonds formed between a caregiver and a kid throughout the first years of his or her existence. This notion governs all aspects of human life, including values and relationships, emotions, and the body. It should be mentioned that attachment theory is something that parents and children develop together in a continuing reciprocal relationship, rather than something that parents do for their children. The hypothesis is also said to depict the link that exists between children and their carers. These caregivers may be the child’s uncle, aunt, grandparents, mother or father or any other person the child might develop a bond with (Berk, 2000).Some scholars argue that because of trusting environment, caring, interactions and facilitation of nurturing or caregivers’ responsiveness, children tend to develop a strong bond. This is true more especially when there are positive interactions and sensitivity to child’s needs, eye contact, smiling, and touching by the caregiver.

Berk (2000) goes ahead to argue that the later relationships happen when the infant’s emotions are tied to those of his or her mother and these are termed as theoretical origins. During the process of a child to caregiver bonding, feeding was seen as an integral factor and this is well explained in the psychoanalytic theory. However, John Bowlby’s theory of attachment is considered as one of the most important theory. John's concept was rooted in an assumption that bonding to a given caregiver is paramount for the survival of young children. According to Berk, (2000), John’s work mainly depended on the experiments carried out by Harlow on rhesus monkeys and Tinbergen and Lorenz on goslings. Moreover, he went ahead to assert that humans like animals had features that would force caregivers close, protect and respond to the needs of their children which is the same practice in animal imprinting. Moreover, at a critical point of children's lives between six and twelve months, they are genetically predisposed to form bonds with their caregivers. It has been noted that these infants use behaviors like crying and smiling for purposes of attracting the care giver’s attention (Alston, 2000). John postulated four stages that were crucial during the period of bonding in the first three years of the infant.

He started with a phase of six to eight weeks after birth, which was termed as pre-attachment. It is believed that at this stage, the infant can smell and recognize his or her mother’s voice, although he has not yet attached to the caregiver. Moreover, Berk, (2000), goes on to assert that infant also exhibits a different set of behaviors like grasping, crying, and smiling all of which attract the attention of the adult. The second phase is for periods from six to eight weeks and six to eight months and this is referred as an attachment in making. In this phase, the child starts to respond differently and preferentially to a given adult and his actions include conceptualizing more easily from the adult's action and laughing or smiling at the caregiver. The third stage ranges between six to eight months and eighteen months to three years and this is known as the clear-cut attachment phase. In this phase, the child is specific about the bond with the adult.It at a stage that a child reacts to a given adult, it also characterizes separation anxiety that is in form of crying, and distress, which will be evidenced after an infant, is separated from the adult (Goldberg, 2000). Hence, the child can only be consoled after the adult has returned. The last postulated by Bowl by starts from eighteen months to two and three years and above. This phase is known as the formation of reciprocal relationship whereby it’s characterized with disassociation of the child with people who not their caregiver and they go ahead to appreciate the role were played by their adults. Moreover, as the child predicates and understands the adult's arrival and departure in his daily life, separation anxiety in this child tend to reduce.

Another theory of attachment put forward was by David Howe a professor at the University of East Anglia Britain specializing in social work talks about family support and child maltreatment. In his theory, Howe argues that negotiation of social relationships, guiding behavior, and regulating of emotions after young minds have internalized the relationships they hold with their caregivers ((David, 2005). According to David, (2005), there is the formation of positive expectations about other people by children who experience emotionally and sensitively and are said to regard themselves as lovable.However, for those children who are abused, the adult is a source of pain and threat instead of being a source of protection and comfort. Moreover, this type of children is said to be experiencing physical deficits, cognitive and emotional effects. In David's theory, psychological and physical neglect, abuse takes the form of sexual abuse, domestic violence, depression, and drugs among others. These practices have negative impacts like the development of one's emotions about others and him or her (David, 2005).

Outline What Might Disrupt Attachment in Children

Attachment and Child Maltreatment

Maltreatment and attachment have received attention from different scholars in the process of trying to establish their impact on children. It was discovered that the style of bonding is affected by maltreatment and it is in form of different type of abuses or harm that has not been delineated. In addition, researchers found out that insecure bonding between caregivers children accounted for two-thirds of the overall population (Goldberg, 2000). The comparison was made with children who were not maltreated and these accounted for two-thirds of toddlers and infants that experienced bonding that was secure. Moreover, it was further discovered that there were higher chances of developing some form of psychiatric illness by caregivers who were not close with their children after an evaluation was carried out on thirty-four clinical samples according to (Goldberg, 2000). Caring environments that are disorganized and chaotic tend to bread disoriented and insecure bonding styles which lead to maltreatment of children. Hence, the child does not feel important, affirmed, an interest that is elicited from experiences of the shared effect of her mother does not learn the joy, and does not discover how special he or she is because of maltreatment ((Bolen, 2000). The child eventually devises means to make sure that his ego is satisfied through doing things like finding ways to get what he needs on his own, manipulation of others to do his things, screaming among others (Bolen, 2000).

Another factor that might disrupt attachment theory is the focus on pyscho dynamics of toddlers who witness domestic violence. On this point, the researchers found out that a toddler can get conflicting caring messages more especially when one parent is perceived as a source of anxiety, terror, and fear to an another important adult (Alston, 2000). In relation to the above, attachment principles have also been comprised by sexual abuse according to the recent studies. The researchers wanted to find out whether child sexual abuse had a correlation between coping strategies and attachment styles. They went ahead to select eighty adolescents, twenty-six of who had experienced sexual abuse and these girls were between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. Furthermore, adult Alston, (2000) established that the psychological functioning, relationships, coping strategies and examination of abuse history and it was discovered that psychological distress and effects of abuse were easily eliminated by attachment or bonding. Moreover, there was also evidence of less psychological distress in cases of sexual abuse where a person who was affected reported secure attachment to the caregiver or adult (Alston, 2000).


Under this part, issues like child and adult maladaptation, intergenerational transmission and neurobiological impacts are going to be examined thoroughly.

Neurobiological Effects or Impacts

According to Muller and Lemieux, (2000), insecure attachment and trauma affect the child biologically because it's believed to cause or trigger reactions like freeze, flight and fight amongst other facts. It was also discovered that the central nervous system and the neurobiology of the brain can be altered because of prolonged alarm reactions caused by traumatic experiences in childhood and infancy. Moreover, as the majority of the structural organizations occur in infancy stages, the brain develops sequentially. In addition to the above, the nervous system can be altered because of lack of exposure and critical nurturing to traumatic abuse and stress, which makes the child vulnerable to violence, overreaction, and impulsiveness (Muller and Lemieux, 2000). Lemieux and Muller also argue that adult and children exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder like hyper villigience, anxiety, dreams or nightmares and flashbacks because they were traumatized during their childhood(adults) or are being traumatized for the case of children ((Muller and Lemieux, 2000). In relation to the above assertion, because of outcomes that are associated with caregivers and attachment experiences, children tend to create a particular course of action of regulating or minimizing emotions particularly anxiety. This practice tends to grow as these infants grow or pass through development stages of life.

Intergenerational Transmission

Earlier discussion talked about how children create quality interaction, sensitivity, quality of caregiving, and responsiveness in relation to the development of internal working models of others and themselves (Glaser, 2000). Moreover, as the child grows as a provider of care or recipient, his or her relationship can be affected by the working model that he or she developed at a tender stage. Researcher's stress that infants are more likely to develop an insecure attachment with their own children because there was no exemplary model they can apply since their parents also did not have a chance to benefit from secure attachment when they were young (Glaser, 2000). The rationale is they will not be able to provide care for another because ingredients like nurture caring that is appropriate, sensitive and responsive are missing in their crucial stages of development. Furthermore, the attachment is seen as an integral factor in occurrence although intergenerational transmission is a multifaceted issue and complex in nature. For purposes of supporting the above statement, the attachment is a risk factor when it comes to intergenerational transmission of child maltreatment according to available research (Muller and Lemieux, 2000).

Child and Adult Impacts or maladaptation

The impact of adult and child maladaptation is reflected in form of low self-esteem, poor school performance, delayed cognitive developments, difficult toddler, and irritable baby and these are exhibited if there is no secure attachment. In addition, the child is also labeled to be having ADHD, associated him, or self in bullying cases, becoming troublemaker at school and development of bad peer relations with his fellow children (Goldberg, 2000). Such cases are believed to develop at a tender age and victims start experimenting things like alcohol, drugs and sex. Furthermore, these victims are also associated with child neglect or abuse because they got babies at a very tender age; they are prone to suicide cases and are likely to develop depression at an early stage. Hence, throughout development in life, secure attachment is the glue that holds people together. Although insecure attachment is responsible for increased vulnerability among toddlers, ramifications for social and health competence is not as a result of a given type of disorder or psychopathology (Goldberg, 2000).

Implications for professional Practice

In the child protection work, assessment of attachment is important because of the healthy physical and psychological functioning. However, this does not necessarily call for attachment assessment that is detailed but it recognizes the relevance of appropriated forums that might be required and recognized by the theory. According to Hamarman, and Bernet,( 2000), appropriate forums include courts, case notes and SCAN team meetings that are used for collection of the required data with authorized methods. Moreover, the authorized methods are; narrative story stem technique, sentence completion, and drawings, reports or case records, interviews, and observations among others. In addition, attachment assessment should be completed with help of provided guidelines and regulations on the category of data that should be collected. The researchers concluded that there should be parental involvement in later years of children because of the following reasons; description of parent's or caregiver's perspective on the behavior of their toddler to others or the parents themselves (Hamarman, and Bernet, 2000).

This is followed by the caregiver’s perception and relationship in the family which may be illustrated by the parent’s ability to deal with the development problems that may associate with a child. Another issue is the history of a child’s development that is in form of physical, behavior, emotions, intellect, and social. The attachment history of the child is also paramount in focusing on the availability of the caregivers, and placement changes in the first three initial years of the life events of this toddler (Glaser, 2000). Furthermore, the caregiver’s internal working model can also be established by looking at the relationship with significant caregivers and recollections or parents ‘perceptions and their own childhood experiences. This is also followed by parents’ level of support and their current relationships.

Another implication would be that during attachment assessing, a number of areas can be explored in trying to access useful data (Glaser, 2000). Moreover, data collection is recommended for the use of various means, which characterize attending to emotional tone and nonverbal behavior between the toddler and other children, the parent among others, and attending to the verbal reaction of toddlers; how they are saying it and what they are saying. These scenarios are also combined with an exploration of the best channels to air out issues that are concerning these children, for example, pyschodramatic reenactment that may be useful, drawings, sentence completion, and developmental level and depending on the age of the child.

Moreover, according to Hamarman, and Bernet, (2000), different cultures and reactions to specific modes of caregiving should be put into consideration during any assessment of attachment. The rationale is to establish whether different strategies of bonding can be applied in cultures that are not the same. The importance of attachment may be because of culture specific and yet the behavior strategies being applied are not universal or right. Despite the fact that attachment theory is applied in the context of cultural idiosyncrasies, the concept is crucial in the broader sense of establishing the development of emotions, attachments, and relationships between children and caregivers. &This concept is also universal when it comes to its application across different states; although child protection practice is executed by specific cultural assessment attachment (Hamarman, and Bernet, 2000).


From a child safety officer perspective, the main objective is to concentrate on the wellbeing and safety of the toddler. The safety of children is crucial and focus should be put on implementation assessment of the risk of harm of approaches that control the harm that is likely to happen in future. Since maltreatment is correlated with attachment, interventions at the initial stages will be required to concentrate on issues like; improving the child’s development or restructuring, and reduction of events that are developmentally dangerous. These methods can be system centered, parental or child interventions that are geared towards all the three interconnected places. Hence, more focus in needed on parent and infant relationships because attachment disturbance is not viewed as a mistake of any of the parties.

Intervention that isChild centered

A child with attachment disturbance can be helped by child safety officer with interventions that are toddler centered. These interventions should help the child in improving his or her ability and capacity to handle difficulties and stress, improving self-worth or self-esteem, strengthening of child’s resilience, gaining of greater emotional awareness, and expression of feelings (Pickle, 2000). They must be able to reduce circumstances or events that hinder intellectual, emotional and social development and challenging of the existing internal approaches of care. However, this kind of recommendation depends on the development level and age of the toddler (Pickle, 2000).

Naming and Recognizing feelings

This approach helps children to discuss and be aware of their emotions, which lead to the viewing of events more constructively by the infants (Lynch, 2000). Hence, there will be the development of relationships, emotions, and attachment of these infants who engage in useful discussions.

Therapy of Cognitive behavior

It has been noted that toddlers tend to possess potential new relationships and representational models that are current and negative. Hence, the child safety officer can use this concept in the evaluation of models that are being used in child attachment (Lynch, 2000). The rationale of using this approach is not to establish a perspective that is based on preconceived and potentially invalid assessments of the environment but a view that is just facilitating the reality of things happening in the world.


Supporters of this concept argue that children will display normal interactions after replaying therapeutic interactions.For example, a toddler who exhibited the likelihood of rejection by others in an interchange therapeutic after there were frequently experienced rejections. However, the outcome was contested with rejections and sensitivity as there was positive counseling of the practitioner (Lynch, 2000). In addition, a child’s parent may be associated with dissociation, displacement, and defense mechanisms such as projection which aid in identification and ventilation of cognitions that stop the continuation of the idealized images (Lynch, 2000).


In conclusion therefore, Attachment theory is paramount in the development of children' relationships, attachments and emotions with their caregivers as it is explained above; However, this concept may be disputed by different factors, pose various impacts on the development of children, and generate numerous implications. The above impacts or effects can be eliminated with the suggested recommendations which are based on the perspective of child safety officer.


Alston, j.F (2000). Correlation between childhood Bipolar I disorder and Reactive Attachment disorder, disinhibited type. In T M Levy (Ed), Handbook of attachment interventions (pp. 193- 243). San Diego: Academic Press

Berk, L. (2000). Child development. Fifth edition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Bolen, R.M. (2000). Validity of attachment theory. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 1(2}, 128 - 1 53.

David Howe. (2005), Child Abuse and Neglect: Attachment, Development, and Intervention. New York, Palgrave, 2005.

Glaser, D. (2000). Child abuse and neglect and the brainA review. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 41(1}, 97-116

Goldberg, S. (2000). Attachment and development. London: Arnold.

Hamarman, S. & Bernet, W. (2000}. Evaluating and reporting emotional abuse in children: Parent based, action based focus aids in clinical decision making. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 39(7}, 928- 930.

Lynch, M. (2000). The role of the body as the medium in child psychotherapy: Snapshots of therapy with an 11-year-old, severely abused, multiply placed girl. Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 26(2), 159-181.

Muller, R. T & Lemieux, K.E. (2000). Social support, attachment, and psychopathology in high risk formerly maltreated adults. Child Abuse and Neglect, 24(7), 883 - 900.

Pickle, P (2000). Community f focused attachment services. In T M. Levy(Ed), Handbook of attachment interventions (pp. 261-278). San Diego: Academic Press.

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