Child Development: The Attachment Theory

The process of child development starts with infant-mother interrelation being the background of human inner world formation. Parenting or mothering is considered to be the process of a mother’s interaction with her children. This style of interaction covers various outcomes such as mother-infant relationships, behavioral problems and the prosocial behavior of the child. It should be stressed that mothers being available and responsive for their children can build more harmonious relationships between the infant and mother. Besides, sensitive mothers make their children be compliant with others and have great chances to avoid major behavior problems development. Sensitive mothering is regarded to be an integral part of positive emotional base building.

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According to researchers’ investigations primary interactions of infants and caregivers are determined through the quality of attachment bonds, or mother-infant relationships. Sensitive mothering is aimed at the prediction of mother-infant attachment. (Spinrad, Mothering) Psychologists state that mothers being responsive and sensitive, that is taking into account the infant’s signals and responding appropriately to them, make their infants develop the adaptive attachment relationship. On the other hand, it is necessary to underline the fact that insensitive mothers being uninvolved, intrusive and rejecting are inclined to develop the insecure bond of their infants. Parenting is happened to be linked with the antisocial and prosocial behavior of the children. All attempts of parents to control the infants are connected with self-assertion, impulse control and compliance of their children. It should be stated that parental usage of reasoning and suggestions is associated with high compliance while power-assertive behavior and physical force on the part of parents are linked to children’s defiance and non-compliance. (Bee, 290-311)

Taking into consideration the fact that sensitive mothering is to predict the level of mother-infant attachment one should stress some factors of mother’s impact on child’s emotional development. Lack of sensitive caregiving is caused by such maternal characteristics as depression. There is a tendency to believe that the expression of depressed behavior results in negative influence on babies and less responsive actions as to the infants’ cures. Psychologists managed to find a link between parenting and infants’ behavior. It is necessary to note that the ability to express response is related to the characteristics of the infant. Thus, it is much easier to provide sensitive responses to the baby being easier managed. Sensitive mothering leads to the reduction of the infant’s crying. It is important to state that sensitive mothering is usually determined by a particular family context, for example, maternal employment or social support network. These factors influence the level of responsiveness expressed on the part of the mothers. (Spinrad, Mothering)

The concept devoted to sensitive caregiving is considered to be rather controversial. According to the statistical data provided by research centers the role of sensitive parenting cannot be recognized as an ideal one due to its unnatural character. Nevertheless it is an important mother’s style for the emotional formation of the child’s behavior. Emotional background influences the development of sensitive mothering being reflected in the formation of a positive emotional base of the infant. (Davenport, 111)

John Bowlby managed to develop the Attachment theory being based on interpersonal relationships between people considering psychological and ethological theoretical studies. Bowlby stated that emotional and social development could not occur without adult caregivers. He stressed the fact that attachment and infant behavior closely interact with each other and for the infant it is considered to be a process of seeking the attachment in some stressful situations to survive. According to the theory the infant uses attachment for a secure base. The parental role is to develop the attachment patterns to guide the feelings of the child and form expectations and thoughts. Bowlby stated that infants usually create attachments to the caregivers who are responsive and sensitive in the process of social interactions. According to the theory the fathers are not the principal figures of attachment. It should be stressed that the presence of caregivers improves the level of an infant’s exploration. The system of internal working model is a part of the theory. It is aimed at the development of memories, thoughts, emotions and beliefs with experience and time developing new forms of social interaction. So, the attachment theory developed by Bowlby disclosed the principal forms of caregivers’ behavior and ways of parents-infants interactions. (Bee, 375)

Mary Ainsworth contributed to the development of attachment theory as well. According to her study, the child can experience three principle attachment patterns connected with primary attachment figure; they are the following:

  • Secure;
  • Insecure (anxious-avoidant);
  • Anxious-ambivalent.

In the secure pattern the child tends to protest the departure of the parent and the caregiver provides appropriate responses to the infant. The avoidant form is observed when caregiver encourages independence of the child expressing little distress on departure. The infant tends to show sadness on departure of the caregiver who is inconsistent between neglectful and appropriate responses in the phase of ambivalent pattern. (Schaffer, 2007)

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Mary Ainsworth managed to stress that the concept of secure base is normal for the infant’s emotional formation. She stated that the security need is observed in all stages of personality development; the use of other people as means of secure base is quite normal phenomenon in the social interactions process.

The process of infant’s formation and caregiver’s influence on the child’s emotional development has been analyzed by many scientists and psychologists. Erik Erikson who is the author of Psychological development managed to highlight the major stages of human pass to adulthood. He concentrated on challenges faced by infant form the moment of birth followed by his emotional formation and social interaction. Erikson explained that emotional disorders faced by infants are transformed into serious problems in future. The first stage called Infancy is aimed at trust development which is the principle task of the ego. The maternal relationships balance the level of trust and mistrust in the infant’s development. The quality of ego is turned into will in the second Erikson’s stage of Toddler. It is the stage of psychological crisis when the child faces shame and doubt in difficult situations. Appropriate behavior of caregivers at this period may influence positive formation of the child’s future behavior. All the stages of Erikson show that early psychological obstacles are the principle emotional problems of an adult person. (Schaffer , 2007) The structural model of Erikson’s personal formation can be compared with that of Freud devoted to the psychic apparatus consisting of three parts such as Id, Ego and Super-Ego. Freud as well as Erikson stressed the peculiarities of instinctual trends being id, psyche realistic part ego and moralizing and critical function performed by super-ego. It was stressed that early development of these components is reflected in the formed adult personality in the future, or beginning from Young Adulthood stage (according to Erikson). (Snowden, 2006)

It is important to underline the fact that analysis of caregivers’ role in the process of infants’ development showed parental impact on the emotional formation of personality from the very childhood.


Bee, H. 2003. The Developing Child. International Edition. Pearson Education. 592p.

Davenport, G.C. 1994. An Introduction to Child Development. Collins Educational.

Erikson, E. 1950. Childhood and Society. New York: Norton.

Spinrad, T. and Stifter, C. Mothering. Human Development and Family Studies. The Pennsylvania State University. Web.

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Child Development: The Attachment Theory
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Schaffer, R. 2007. Introducing Child Psychology. Blackwell.

Snowden, R. 2006. Teach Yourself Freud. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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