Attachment Theory

Published: 2021-07-27 10:20:05
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Category: Anxiety, Attachment Theory, Emotions

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Can early insecure attachment doom the child to psychopathology in later life? Shaffer, (1993) defines attachment as a “close emotional relationship between two people two persons, characterised by mutual affection and desire to maintain proximity”. According to Browby, (1969) attachment behaviours are formed in infancy and help shape the attachment relationships people have as adults. Psychopathology’ refers to study of mental illness or mental health distress or the manifestation of behaviours and experiences that may be indicative of mental illness or psychological impairment (Allen, 1999).
This essay will analyse how early insecure attachment doom the child to psychopathology in later life. The evaluation will show how attachment insecurity is a major contributor to mental disorders, and an amelioration of psychopathology. The critics of attachment will be analysed followed by a concise conclusion According to Bowlby, (1969) attachment begins in infancy and lasts throughout a lifetime. A newborn baby immediately needs someone to take care of and Takahashi, (1999) both believed that this primary caregiver usually the mother, is the one that will most shape the child's personality and character within minutes of giving birth.
It is important for the new parents and baby to be alone together right after the birth to establish an attachment bond. Elliot, (2003) assets that if there are too many individuals in the room right after birth, the natural process of attachment can be disrupted and this can have long-term effects on the relationship between the child and parents. Fathers, according Fraley, (2003) are expected also to establish a bond after the child is born. Researches reveal that fathers who have early contact with their child have a stronger bond with them in the months following the birth.

Takahashi, (1999) commends that strong attachment between father and child is shown through physical contact. Fathers have a more physical relationship with the child while the mother's relationship is more verbal Takahashi, (1999). When the mother-infant interactions are observed, the mother is seen as nurturing and affectionate towards the infant, whereas father-infant interactions deal more with affiliation and play (Geiger, 1996). It has been shown that the fathers play interactions are more exciting and pleasurable to children than lay interactions with the mother (Geiger, 1996). Research reveals that parent-child bonds are most important in forming the child's personality (Allen, 1999). Insecure attachment doom the child to psychopathology in later life Bowlby, (1969) assets that human beings are born with an innate psychobiological system that motivates them to seek proximity to significant others in times of need. Bowlby, (1969) asserts that interactions with attachment figures promote a stable sense of attachment security and build positive mental representations of self and others.
When a person’s attachment figures is not reliably available and supportive, proximity seeking fails to relieve distress, felt security is undermined, negative models of self and others are formed, and the likelihood of later emotional problems and maladjustment increases (Harris, 1998).. Problems in emotional regulation, like relationship disturbances, are pervasive markers of psychopathology and such problems underlie most disorders of children and adults (Cole, 1994). Indeed, "emotional disturbance" often is used as a synonym for psychopathology.
Emotional regulation is the defining feature of all close relationships and the central goal of early primary relationships (Sroufe, 1997). Anxious attachments do not cause later disorders; rather they initiate pathways for psychopathology. Psychopathology always is the result of the combination of risk and protective factors impacting on the individual's life over time (Schofield, 1999). Individual disturbance, in this view, begins as relationships are hypothesized to be the forerunners of many major childhood disorders and adult personality disorders as well.
Relationship disturbances often precede the manifestation of individual pathology (Klaus, 1995). Moreover, relationship change has been shown to precede change and to influence the effect of other variables on psychopathology (Geiger, 1996) and this directly lead to a pathological outcome in a linear manner, yet it is certain that relationship experiences often are a crucial and waning of pathology. Research have established two basic dimensions of parenting as risk factors for psychopathology: (1) harsh treatment (hostility, criticality, ejection); and (2) lack of clear, firm discipline or supervision (Weiss, 1982). These factors together, and in interaction with other variables, are often especially predictive and at times capable of differentiating various pathological outcomes. Countless studies supported the view that child rejection, lack of support, and hostility are consistently related to depression (Klaus, 1995). Klaus, (1995) found that parental rejection and power assertive discipline predicted delinquent behaviour.
Field, (1996) reported that aggressive treatment of children and low parental warmth predicted childhood depression (Elliot, 2003). Child maltreatment according to (Lynch, 1995) confirms that parental hostility and harshness is associated with conduct problems, disruptive behaviours disorders, attention problems, anxiety disorders (including PTSD and mood disorders. A study found that found that 9096 of children with an observed history of childhood maltreatment showed at least one diagnosable disorder at age 17'% years, compared to 3096 of the poverty control subjects who were not maltreated.
Divorce, parental disharmony, and family violence all have been consistently associated with child behavioural and emotional problems (Brendgen, 2001). Such conditions are overlapping and numerous studies have shown children of divorce to have more problems than those in intact families (Harris, 1998). It is the case that behaviour problems often precede the divorce (Fraley, 2003) and that parental conflict is consistently found to be a stronger predictor of child maladjustment than marital status.
Family violence has also been found to be associated with child pathology and numerous studies have documented a relation between a history of peer rejection and later maladjustment, both externalizing and internalizing problems (Pickover, 2002). Research has confirmed that infants with histories of secure attachment with their primary caregivers later are characterized by more effective self-regulation (Sroufe, 1997). Moreover, those with different kinds of anxious attachment histories behave in distinctive ways are unable to sustain interactions with peers, are disconnected from other children and/or how antipathy for them (Trowell, 1982). Those with anxious attachment histories have problems of one kind or another. Anxiety disorders are associated with histories of anxious attachment (Seiffge-Krenke, 1993) Aggression, and conduct disturbances have been found to be related to anxious/avoidant attachment Both resistant and avoidant attachment appear to be related to depression various aspects of emotional and cognitive experience (Klaus, 1995).
When dealing with parental loss, one logical connection with psychoanalytic theory is disruption of parent-child bonds or dysfunctional relationships would lead to future impairments in the individual's capacity to develop relationships (Takahashi, 1999). Insecure attachment systems have been linked to psychiatric disorders, to which a child is especially susceptible after the loss of an attachment figure (Fraley, 2003).
Children with insecure attachment patterns develop the inability to form secure attachments and react in a hostile, rejecting manner with their environment (Field, 1996). Severe attachment disorders cause the child to get close to an attachment figure, and then pull away before they can be rejected or they deem themselves unworthy in the eyes of the attachment figure (Field, 1996). Children with secure attachment patterns are capable of forming new attachment relationships while maintaining their current relationship with their parents (Weiss, 1982).
Insecure children focus all of the attention on achieving a better relationship with their parents, therefore making it difficult to form new attachment relationships (Weiss, 1982). According to attachment theory, interactions with inconsistent, unreliable, or insensitive attachment figures interfere with the development of a secure, stable mental foundation; reduce resilience in coping with stressful life events; and predispose a person to break down psychologically in times of crisis (Geiger, 1996).
Attachment insecurity can therefore be viewed as a general vulnerability to mental disorders, with the particular symptomatology depending on genetic, developmental, and environmental factors (Elliot, 2003). Brendgen, (2001) reviewed hundreds of cross-sectional, longitudinal, and prospective studies of both clinical and non-clinical samples and found that attachment insecurity was common among people with a wide variety of mental disorders, ranging from mild distress to severe personality disorders and even schizophrenia.
Consistently results reveal that attachment insecurities of both the anxious and avoidant varieties are associated with depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Brendgen, 2001). Attachment insecurity is also a key feature of many personality disorders; however the specific kind of attachment insecurity differs across disorders (Trowell, 1982). Anxious attachment is associated with dependent, histrionic, and borderline disorders, whereas avoidant attachment is associated with schizoid and avoidant disorders (Trowell, 1982).
Seiffge-Krenke, (1993) found that attachment anxiety is associated with “emotional dysregulation a component of personality disorders, which includes identity confusion, anxiety, emotional liability, cognitive distortions, submissiveness, oppositionality, self-harm, narcissism, and suspiciousness. Seiffge-Krenke, (1993) also found that avoidant attachment is associated with “inhibitedness” component of personality problems, including restricted expression of emotions, problems with intimacy, and social avoidance.
Another related issue concerning the associations between attachment insecurities and psychopathology is the extent to which attachment insecurities are a sufficient cause of mental disorders, such separation anxiety and pathological grief, in which attachment injuries are the main causes and themes, attachment insecurities are unlikely to be sufficient causes of mental disorders. Other factors e. g. genetically determined temperament; intelligence; life history and abuse converge to amplify the effects of attachment experiences on the way to psychopathology (Field, 1996).
Many studies of large community samples have found no association between avoidant attachment and self-report measures of global distress, however, studies that focus on highly stressful events, such as exposure to missile attacks, living in a dangerous neighborhood, or giving birth to a handicapped infant, have indicated that avoidance is related to greater distress and poorer long-term adjustment (Allen, 1999). It has been noted that the association between attachment insecurity and depression is higher among adults with a childhood history of physical, psychological, or sexual abuse.
People exposed to stressful life events; poverty, physical health problems, and involvement in turbulent romantic relationships during adolescence also strengthen the link between attachment insecurity and psychopathology (Harris, 1998). Attachment insecurities seem to contribute nonspecifically too many kinds of psychopathology (Trowell, 1982) however; particular forms of attachment insecurity seem to predispose a person to particular configurations of mental disorders.
The attachment-psychopathology link is moderated by a large array of biological, psychological, and socio-cultural factors, and mental disorders and may erode a person’s sense of attachment security. If attachment insecurities are risk factors for psychopathology, then the creation, maintenance, or restoration of a sense of attachment security should increase resilience and improve mental health. According to attachment theory, interactions with available and supportive attachment figures impart a sense of safety, trigger positive emotions and provide psychological resources for dealing with problems and adversities (Trowell, 1982).
Takahashi, (1999) believed that parents should not be totally held responsible for the way their child develops. They should be held responsible to a point, because after all, they did give them their genes and they do have some influence. Children rely more on their social group in the shaping of their personality and development of psychopathology Also, Field (1996) argue that the mother is not always the primary attachment figure, so it cannot be assumed that she always will be.
The causal links between attachment and psychopathology are also complicated and research findings show that psychological problems can increase attachment insecurity (Pickover, 2002). There is also preliminary evidence that a sense of security provided by a psychotherapist improves a client’s mental health. Pickover, (2002) found that a client’s positive appraisals of his or her therapist’s sensitivity and supportiveness predicted relief from depression and maintenance of therapeutic benefits.
According to attachment theory and research, lack of parental sensitivity and responsiveness contributes to disorders of the self, characterized by lack of self-cohesion, doubts about one’s internal coherence and continuity over time, unstable self-esteem, and over-dependence on other people’s approval (Allen, 1999). Insecure people are likely to be overly self-critical, plagued by self-doubts, or prone to using defenses, such as destructive perfectionism, to counter feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness (Allen, 1999). According to attachment heory, recurrent failures to obtain support from attachment figure interfere with acquisition of social skills and create serious problems in interpersonal relations (Field, 1996). Fraley, (2003) using an assessment device “Inventory of Interpersonal Problems found that attachment anxiety was associated with more interpersonal problems in general and avoidant people generally had problems with nurturance and anxious people had problems with emotionality. According to Harris (1998) parents do not shape their child's personality or character.
A child's peers have more influence on them than their parents e. g take children whose parents were immigrants, a child can continue to speak their parent's native language at home, but can also learn their new language and speak it without an accent, while the parent’s accent remains. Children learn these things from their peers because they want to fit in (Harris, 1998). If a child is brought up in a crime-ridden area, they will be predisposed to committing these same kinds of crimes (Klaus, 1995) because of the high rate of peer pressure and because they want to fit in to the group.
Even if the parents try to bring up their children the best way possible, chances are that if they associate with delinquents, they will become ones, but if you take a child headed down the wrong path and move him to new environment, chances are he will get himself on the right track, because he is trying to fit in with a new peer group (Harris, 1998). Children will not use everything that they learned from their parents. In some social settings, these lessons may not be correct or embarrassing to use.
Children learn how to behave, for the most part, from other people in their social group. Adults do the same; they act more like people in their social groups rather than their parents. Children from the same parents reared in the same home are no more alike than if they were raised in separate homes. Even if parents try to raise two children the same way, they will still behave differently from each other (Harris, 1998). The model attachment is based on behaviors that occur during momentary separations (stressful situations) rather than during no stressful situations (Elliot, 2003).
A broader understanding of attachment requires observation of how the mother and infant interact and what they provide for each other during natural, no stressful situations" (Field, 1996). How children and mothers interact together and not stressed shows more of how the attachment model works than how the child acts when the mother leaves and then returns. Behaviours’ directed towards the attachment figure during departing and reunion times cannot be the only factor used when defining attachment (Elliot, 2003).
Another problem with the attachment model is that the list of attachment behaviours are constricted to those that occur with the primary attachment figure, other attachments are not necessarily characterized by those same behaviours" (Field, 1996). Children have attachments to other people other than their mothers, but they do not show this attachment the same way (Geiger, 1996). The mother is viewed as the primary attachment figure, when in fact; a father or sibling can have the same type of attachment with the infant at the same time.
This relates to adults having more than one principal attachment, such as to their spouse and child (Trowell, 1982). Attachment insecurities are associated with a wide variety of mental disorders, ranging from mild negative affectivity to severe, disorganizing, and paralyzing personality disorders. Evidence suggests that insecure attachment orientations are fairly general pathogenic states. Although many of the research findings supporting these ideas are co-relational, several studies show a prospective connection between attachments References Allen, J. (1999). Attachment in adolescence. In J. Cassidy & P.
Shaver (Eds. ), Handbook of attachment (pp. 319-335). New York: Guilford. Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss: Attachment (Vol. 1). New York: Basic. Brendgen, M. (2001). The quality of adolescents' friendships: Associations with mothers' interpersonal relationships, attachments to parents and friends, and prosocial behaviors. Journal of Adolescence, 24, 429-445. Elliot, A. J. (2003). Attachment and exploration in adulthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 317-331. Field, T. (1996). Attachment and separation in young children. Annual Review of Psychology, 47, 541-562. Fraley, R. C. (2003).
Are infant attachment patterns continuously or categorically distributed? A taxometric analysis of strange situation behavior. Developmental Psychology, 39, 387-404. Geiger, B. (1996) Fathers as primary caregivers. Westport, CT: Greenwood. Harris, J. R. (1998). The nurture assumption: Why children turn out the way they do. New York: Free Press. Klaus, P. H. (1995). Bonding. Boston: Addison-Wesley. Pickover, S. (2002). Breaking the cycle: A clinical example of disrupting an insecure attachment system. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 24, 358-367. Seiffge-Krenke, I. (1993). Close friendship and imaginary companions in adolescence.
Close friendships in adolescence (pp. 73-87). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Schofield, G. (1999). Attachment theory, child maltreatment and family support. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Takahashi, K. (1999). Parental loss in childhood and social support in adulthood among psychiatric patients. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 33, 165-169. Trowell, J. (1982). Effects of obstetric management on the mother-child relationship. The place of attachment in human behavior (pp. 79-94). New York: Basic. Weiss, R. S. (1982). Attachment in adult life. The place of attachment in human behavior (pp. 171-184). New York: Basic.

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