Male Speaker: The following is a Concept Media presentation.
(Music ~ Singing ~ Mary had a Little Lamb)
Male Speaker: Attachment as defined by psychologists Mary Ainsworth is an affectional tie that one person forms to another specific person. Which binds them together and endures over time.
Of course, infants are not born with attachments already formed. Rather they develop gradually. And since the development of attachment in infancy may have profound effects on later psychology health and development it is important to study the condition surrounding its optimum development.
From birth an infant displays attachment behaviors. Behaviors that encourage proximity and interaction with others and which are precursors to attachment itself. It is through these behaviors that attachment develops.
These attachment behaviors include rooting and sucking. Which help the infant to find and remain in contact with his mother or other caregiver.
Postural adjustments which allow the infant to relax and mold his body to the adults so that they can be cuddly. Looking, eye contact and visual pursuit which help infant and caregiver to establish a relationship and communicate.
Listening, smiling and response to a voice and becoming calm at the sound of a voice. Smiling, indiscriminately at first and then more broadly and more often at particular, familiar people.
Vocalizing, cooing, babbling, in response to the smiles at voices and actions of others.
Crying, as a signal that will usually bring a caregiver. And grasping and clinging which obviously are behaviors used in the service of maintaining contact.
Originally it was believed that these are other discrete behaviors in themselves constituted attachment. It has then been discovered that these specific behaviors are not stable over time. Nor do they generalize from one situation to the next.
For example, a baby may not necessarily use crying to attract her caregiver, but rather from about the age of 6 months she becomes capable of organizing her behavior in clusters, in terms of the goals that she wants to achieve. She has become capable of true intention.
Also, by about this age, she acquires object permanence. She now has some inner representation of the mother figure and can think about her when she's gone.
If the ultimate criterion for determining that attachment has been formed is that the attachment figure is non interchangeable with other people.
As demonstrated by the child's distressed behavior and unwillingness to accept care from others when the attachment figure is absent. Then it is clear that an infant cannot be said to be able to form attachment until she has reached the level of cognitive development that includes object permanence.
From this point onward, what is important is not the separate attachment behaviors but the way in which they together with other behaviors become organized toward the attachment figure.
Three patterns of attachment have been distinguished by Ainsworth and her colleagues based on laboratory research of infant behavior in what is called, the strained situation and on the behavior of these same infants at home.
It’s interesting to note that the behaviors which make up these patterns are not exclusively attachment behaviors. In other words, they are not all behaviors that promote proximity and contact with the attachment figure.
The most common pattern of behaviors was found in the group of babies defined as securely attached. When a securely attached infant was alone with his mother in a strange situation he displayed very few attachment behaviors. Rather, he actively explored and played with the toys.
The entrance of a strange did not disturb him particularly and he would continue playing with only a glance at his mother. But, when his mother left, he stopped exploring, became visibly disturbed and generally cried. This was especially apparent when the sequence was repeated a second time.
It was during the reunion episodes that the behaviors that distinguished one pattern from another became most noticeable.
A securely attached baby wanted to be close to his mother when she returned to the room. Typically he would move toward her and try to clamber up. She might cooperate by picking him up at which point the crying would stop and the baby would be easily soothed.
He would protest if mother tried to put him down too soon. But if he were held long enough, generally within 3 minutes he would be interested in the toys again.
Another pattern of attachment behavior described as anxiously attached with resistant or ambivalent behavior was found in a smaller group of infants. These babies appeared to be anxious in the strained situation even before being separated from their mothers. And they were somewhat more wary of the stranger than the securely attached babies were.
They were also more upset during the separation periods. And during the reunion periods the behavior that most strikingly differentiated them from the securely attached infants was that they clearly wanted to be close to mother but they were less likely to actively approach her and more likely to cry and try to attract her to come to them.
When they were in contact with mother they tended to be ambilivant about her, pushing away, wanting to be put down and then wanting to be picked up again. They were hard to soothe and tended to be fussy and continued crying during the reunion episodes.
If mother tried to get them interested in the toys, they would show anger, batting the toy away, or taking it and throwing it down, resisting mothers overtures.
The third pattern of attachment behavior is anxiously attached with avoidant behavior. Even though the infants in this group tended to follow mother to the door at separation, their behavior during the separation and reunion episodes was most unexpected.
They seemed to be undisturbed by separation. And most important they avoided contact, proximity or even interaction with the mother in the reunion episodes. Some steadfastly ignored the mother, refusing to approach or even look when she coaxed them to come. Others mingled attachment behavior with avoidance.
The same babies who took part in the strained situation research at age 1 year were observed at home every three weeks. From age 3 weeks to age 54 weeks. All of them clearly showed attachment behaviors at home.
In fact, those who are anxiously attached in the strained situation showed more consistent separation distress in little every day separations at home than the securely attached group did.
So the pattern of attachment demonstrated by a particular baby seems to be related to where he stands along the continuum of the security anxiety dimension. And it is also related to his behavior relevant to close bodily contact.
For example, those babies who demonstrated anxious attachment with avoidance in the strained situation were less likely to relax and mold to their mothers bodies when held at home.
The sensitivity of a caregivers behavior toward a particular infant has a clear relationship to the pattern of attachment that infant develops during the first year of life.
Caregiver sensitivity may be defined as an adult’s tendency to provide appropriate and consistent responses to an infant’s signals or needs. In general the more accurately, promptly and appropriately a caregiver responded to an infants signals and communication, the more securely attached the infant would be.
For example, mothers who responded more promptly to infant crying in the early months, tended to have babies who cried less by the end of the first less. Than mothers who responded less promptly.
It seems that when a baby learns in the first few months of life that his needs will be taken care of quickly and reliably he is likely to develop positive expectations and secure attachment and is less likely to display anxious or fussy behavior.
Caregiver sensitivity was also studied in the feeding situation during the first three months of life.
Here sensitivity had to do with the extent to which the baby was an active partner in contrast to which the mother was dominant in terms of the timing of the feedings. The determination of the amount of food ingested, the mothers handling of the babies’ preferences in regards to kind of food and the pacing of the rate of the babies intake. Again, sensitive handling of early feeding was positively correlated with the development of a pattern of secure attachment.
Maternal sensitivity during face to face interaction during the first 4 months is also related to patterns of attachment. It seems to be the mother’s behavior that determines the infant’s response regardless of the infant’s temperament.
Maternal behaviors associated with positive infant responses such as smiling, vocalizing and movement were playfulness and contingent pacing of interaction.
When mothers paced their intervention slowly and gently, modifying them and keeping with infant cues, pausing if needed to allow the baby time to mobilize a response. And when they sensitively encouraged more interaction then the interaction was prolonged beyond the initial stimulus response sequence.
Babies who experience this kind of face to face interaction with their mothers in the first few months tended to be securely attached at age 1 year. On the other hand, infants who were anxiously attached at age 1 tended to have mothers who were impassive and matter of fact in their face to face encounters with their infants. And were less likely to evoke a positive response from the babies. They generally did not response to their babies’ attempts to initiate interaction. Their behaviors were often abrupt and consequently their interactions tended to be brief, by the baby, by the mother or by mutual consent.
Caregiver sensitivity was also studied in relation to close bodily contact.
Ainsworth and her colleagues found that the mothers of all the infants in their study who showed the anxious avoidant pattern of attachment, and only those mothers, betrayed a strong aversion towards close bodily contact with the infant. Some of them would acknowledge that they never knew how to hold their babies and attributed this to the fact that they were not mothered themselves.
Others would simply draw away when their infants would reach out to touch them.
When attachment behavior is activated at a high level of intensity, because of some stressful situation or event, bodily contact is required to terminate it. When an infant is rebuffed, her anxiety is heightened.
Ainsworth theorizes that the baby solves the problem by a defensive operation which is to selectively misproceed the cues in the situation that might activate her attachment behavior. And at the same time to resort to some diversionary activity such as exploration and to avoid the mother.
Contrary to what might be expected it was found that when a crying baby was held until he was completely soothed and relaxed he tended not to protest when he was finally put down. Rather he would generally go off cheerfully to play independently.
It was those babies who episodes of being held were less gratifying, less soothing and too abruptly ended who when put down, cried to be picked up again. Were fussy and did not go off in independent exploration.
In summary then, securely attached infants have sensitive mothers whose timely and appropriate responses to the babies’ signals and expressions of need have allowed the babies to assume that their mothers are accessible and responsive.
Because they are confident of the mother’s accessibility and responsiveness, they rarely show separation anxiety under ordinary circumstances or in familiar surroundings and they tend to cry less. Furthermore, the securely attached infant seems to expect that his interactions with his mother would be pleasant and enjoyable.
It is from this secure base that the securely attached infant sets forth to explore the world.
In a strained situation when the securely attached babies attachment behavior is heightened because of the unfamiliar environment, the presence of a stranger and the departure of his mother, it subsides quickly and easily when mother returns and responds sensitively to his need for contact and reassurance.
A baby whose attachment can be described as anxious and resistant generally has a mother who is not sensitive to his signals and needs. And therefore he cannot feel confident that his mother will come when he wants or needs her. And cannot feel sure that she will be responsive even when she is close at hand. His mental representation of his mother is of a relatively inaccessible and unresponsive person. And therein lies his anxiety.
When her attachment behavior is heighten because of some threat from the environment, the infants fear is compounded by the fact that she cannot trust her mothers accessibility and responsiveness. Her mother may or may not respond to her signals for bodily contact and she may or may not maintain contact long enough to sooth her completely. Her frustration in anticipation of unresponsiveness leads to her ambivalence and causes her to mix angry resistance with her attachment behavior.
A babies whose attachment can be described as anxious and avoidant, has a mother who not only is insensitive to the babies signals and needs but who tends to resent his interference in her life. Her insensitivity leads to the baby's anxiety and her aversion to close bodily contact leads to his defensively avoidant behavior in situations that would ordinarily heighten attachment behaviors.
Patterns of attachment as determined by assessing a child's behavior in the strained situation at age 12-18 months seem to have predictive value for a wide range of subsequent social and cognitive behaviors.
For example, children’s who's attachment patterns who had been assessed at age 18 months were seen again at age 24 months. They were now given a 10 minute free play period. Those children who were securely attached engaged in a significantly greater amount of imaginative symbolic play than did those who were insecurely attached.
During a 6 minute clean up period which interrupted their free play, the children tended not to be compliant regardless of their attachment pattern. Which is not surprising given what is believed about the terrible 2's.
In fact, the securely attached infant showed more oppositional though less angry behavior during the clean up period than the insecurely attached babies did.
But in the 12 minute period of problem solving, involving the use of tools, the securely attached infants were enthusiastic, effectively positive and persistent. They exhibited less non-task behavior, less ignoring of mother and less non-compliance.
Another study showed that infants who were securely attached at age 15 months were more socially competent with their peers in a preschool classroom situation at age 3 1/2 than were the children who had been assessed as anxiously attached. They also demonstrated more ego strength and effectiveness; they tended to be self directed, self confident, curious and involved.
Finally attachment pattern at age 18 months has been shown to relate to ego relsiency and curiosity at age 4 or 5. 4 or 5 year olds who were securely attached infants tend to respond flexibly, persistently and resourcefully in problem situations. And tend to express or contain their feelings, impulses or desires in an appropriate manner.
It seems then that the competence with which a child adapts to the important tasks at various stages of her development remains stable over time. At age 12 to 18 months, the competent infant is one who has formed an attachment relationship which effectively supports active exploration and mastery of the inanimate and social environment. She would be assessed as securely attached in this strained situation.
The competent 2 year old still has a positive relationship with her caregiver. She is enthauastic and persistent in problem solving and enjoys mastering new skills. She can be independent and is also willing to ask for and receive help from her caregiver when necessary.
The competent preschooler is enthusiastically involved with school tasks and peers. He is able to express his emotions in ways that are appropriate to the situation. And he is organized, persistent and flexible when encountering problems and stress.
It has been found that in stable family situations without stress that with infants between the ages of 12 and 18 months, attachment patterns remain stable. But attachment relationships can change. Infants who were neglected, abused and anxiously attached at age 12 months were assessed again at age 18 months. Half of them were now found to be securely attached. It is believed that these changes were related to changing life events, support from family and out of home care.
Since security of attachment in infancy seems to be predictive of later competence in social and cognitive development and since attachment patterns can be changed in the second year of life, perhaps it would behoove us to identify caregiver infant pairs who seem to be at risk. And to teach the caregivers how to interact with their infants in ways that would promote secure attachment patterns.