Concept Attachment Theory. Secure, Insecure or Avoidant, Ambivalent Types of Attachment

parent relationships and individual differences in emotion regulation. Much has been said about the future development emotionally and psychologically with regards to levels of emotional bonding, as this theory relates in some way or another to a large number of specific and general theories in psychology. Attachment provides emotional and nurturing support to children, and while emotional support, love, and even simple presence through attention are generally thought to be major influential factors of developing children and adolescents, we can see the immediate importance in understanding attachment theory.

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Specifically, according to attachment theorists, a parent-child bond at an earlier age is extremely important for the child to develop secure attachment and emotion regulation, while this also plays a role in the future development of the individual (Goldberg at el, 2000). Attachment is innate and universal for every child. Developing a secure attachment relation or close bond with a parent or primary caregiver have long-lasting benefits for children, allowing them to be flexible in later adaptation as well as develop social and emotional regulation. There are three types of attachment classification which are secure, insecure or avoidant, and resistant or ambivalent (Goldberg et al, 2000).

A secure infant seeks proximity or contact or greet the parent at a distance with a smile or a wave. An avoidant infant avoids the parent. The resistant or ambivalent infant either passively or actively shows hostility toward the parent. In order for insecure adopted children to develop a secure attachment in the long run, it is crucial for adoptive parents to provide a healthy relationship, a consistent positive influence, and a stable and nurturing environment.

Also relevant to attachment theory is the influence of homosexual parents versus heterosexual parents, which has been found to be statistically similar. As homosexual parents cannot have their own children of course, they must adopt, while we can see not only the attachment impacts on adopted children but those raised by homosexuals at the same time.

Overall, attachment has been found to have a significant impact of the future of the child, however in terms strictly of love and support rather than the personal details or sexual identity of the parents. The most influential factors in attachment theory are due to factors such as adoption, environment, age, and levels of emotional and nurturing support, while the factor of sexuality of the caregiver or parent has not been found to be statistically significant.

Attachment theory concerns the relationships of emotions and socializing with feelings of safety and security. This is also commonly associated with instinctual feelings of dependency for young children, however attachment bonding has been measured and studied in adults as well. Bowlby (1969) performed a study on the bonds formed in young children which proved that even the earliest bonds have a serious impact on children throughout their entire lives.

Bowlby also concluded attachment may serve a double purpose while instinctively serving as a mechanism to instinctively keep a child within close proximity to the mother, while thus aiding in the general chances for surviving (Bowlby, 1969). Essentially, the core principle in attachment theory is that mothers which are wholly aware and respondent to the needs of the child thus create the requirement of a sense of security, while this sense of security serves as a foundation to the social and emotional developments of the child. When children cannot form these feelings and bonds, research implies that behavioral patterns are adversely effected due to an impaired ability to develop emotionally and socially. Feelings of general distrust may also develop (Wagner, 2009).

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Research indicates that attachment even occurs in animals at some level, those these manners have been employed in studies with humans as well so as to not base theory off animals alone. Dogs and monkeys have been studied (Crnic et al., 1982).

Most relevant to human behavior is the animal studies in Harlow’s experiments. In this experiment fake monkeys were made, and while they were clearly fake to the human eye and were motionless as well, the monkeys would still take preference to them. Further variables were created such that wire monkeys were presented alongside cloth ones, and when presented with a choice the monkeys would choose the cloth monkeys even when the wire monkeys were created to provide milk. This experiment further revealed deprived young monkeys acted differently than peers who were raised normally (Novak and Harlow, 1975).

Whether animals or humans are separated from their parents, the child experiences various stages of psychological reactions. The first stage is protest, where the child will cry and not be eased by the comforting efforts of others. The second stage, despair, causes the child to be submissive and depressed. The final stage is known as detachment, and here the child will actively ignore the parent even upon return (Hazan and Shaver, 1987).

A primary notion in attachment theory in especially young children is that intimate gestures by the parents with regards to the needs of the child cause the child to form senses of safety and security, trust, and overall bonding ability. This caters to social development as well as emotional development. A lack of such gestures, however, will result in a lack of such attachments being made (Lamb et al, 1984). Many forms of insecure attachments have been theorized.

The main two, as proposed by Ainsworth, are the avoidant and ambivalent types (Ainsworth et al, 1978). Ainsworth work categorized these types into a few varieties. ‘Secure’ children will be drawn closely to their parents and will show positive reactions to experiencing the presence of their parents at a distance, while ‘avoidant’ children will simply avoid the parents, and ‘ambivalent’ child will either clearly or underhandedly show negative emotions towards the parents (Ainsworth et al, 1978).

Although attachment is important in forming a child’s later behavior the environment also plays a huge role in impacting children’s lives and adolescents’ behavior. Environmental factors in conjunction with the levels of attachment effect the impact of the attachment. The environment plays a role in explaining individual differences and especially in quality of the infant-parent attachment relationship, however this is also evident to certain degrees with older children (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978; Main, 1990).

Research indicates that adopted children are at risk of insecure attachment relationships because of their background. Several adopted children who are placed in institutional care have experienced neglect and abuse. For that reason they did not have the experience of being exposed to a sensitive care giving, and as such the levels of attachment are quite different (Goldberg, 2000).

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Recent development in attachment theory and research emphasizes the importance of the parent-child relationship. One argument Bowlby has made is that affectional ties between children and their caregivers had a biological basis, which is most easily understood in an evolutionary context (Goldberg, 1991). According to the theory, children depend on attachment for survival. The defenseless child sees his caregiver as a link between them and the environment, and thus sees the parent as sort of an extension in this manner rather than a wholly separate entity, until later in life.

Child-parent or caregivers’ attachment is important for a child’s social and emotional development, with specific regards to level of comfort, trust, ability to bond, and socializing. Several research efforts have been conducted to further explain the complexity of attachment and its overall influence on children’s social and emotional development. Research on attachment combines clinical and experimental techniques to better understand the concept.

Psychologists use several methods for reliability and validity purpose because it is important for other researchers or developmental psychologists to be able to replicate the process in the future. The research performed in these areas shows direct conceptual relationships in the theorized principles by the majority of statistics, thus furthering the theory while more precise conditions can be properly observed and measured (Goldberg, 2000).

Some unique factors and variable can further be applied to attachment theory in ways that it, as well as other areas of psychology, can be better understood. Homosexuality with regards to the traditionally conceived influences on children in both a masculine and feminine, versus the nurturing efforts and emotional development of a child who receives the same level of love and support from two masculine or two feminine figures (acting as a couple creating further variables as opposed to being raised by two aunts, uncles, etc) is one which can be considered for further analysis. While the emotional elements are the same, the levels of attachment and development are also comparable.

There is a misconception that gay and lesbian parents are not as skilled at parenting as heterosexual parents and may affect children’s development; therefore, they are denied the right to adopt children. A study conducted by Erich, Kanenberg, Case, Allen, and Bogdanos (2008), examined adopted adolescents’ attachment to their homosexual or heterosexual parents as well as peers and factors that may influence adolescent attachment. The research supports the actions in the recent decade to allow homosexuals to adopt children as the parental abilities of homosexuals versus heterosexuals are statistically insignificant (Erich et al, 2008).

As mentioned, in the past decade the misconception has been partially disregarded while research indicates that an increasing number of gay and lesbian couples are taking on a parental role, and about 40% of all adoption agencies in the U.S. have placed children with gay adoptive parents (Brodzinsky, 2003). The participants for this study were one adoptive parent and their adopted adolescents between the ages of eleven and nineteen who were still living with their adoptive parents.

Participants were recruited from Child Welfare information Gateway’s directory of registered parent support groups, Yahoo parent groups, and internet searches. Roughly 259 people responded and the results of three different surveys were used to gather information, about which factors played a huge role in adolescent attachment. The finding for this study also indicates that there was not a significant group different by parent sexual orientation in terms of adolescent attachment to parents and peers, suggesting development is based solely on general love and support for the child rather than the love and support coming from someone who may have some societal stigma for being different, or the general difference of the sexuality in itself.

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While the child will know firsthand that their parent is not a stereotype in any negative or possibly and classic regards whatsoever, there is also no reason for them to form a different form of attachment as levels of support are no different. According to research, life satisfaction was a significant indicator of adolescents’ well-being rather than parent sexual orientation. In fact, the two were not correlated at all. This finding indicates that the environment is more influential on children’s attachment, though not specific to sexuality or even gender in terms of any measurable emotional or social development.

While there is room left for an improvement in the adoption process still, these findings have eased the minds of law- makers who may be changing their old views about gay and lesbian adoption and adapting to a new idea. Attachment theory of course is critical in this realization and for a complete lack of discrimination it will need to be used to persuade those who would discriminate in the adoption process.

Because of adoption, now people can see the situation from different perspective and not worry so much about homosexual adoption because now there is evidence that they could be as good a parent as anyone else and their sexual orientation has nothing to do with adolescent’s attachment. The important thing is to be able to provide a safe and stable environment for the children so the children could have a better life experience. Simply speaking, love and support are apparently unconditional in the sense the child can thrive on it without clear discrimination of its origin.

Dries, Juffer, Ijzendoorn, and Bakermans-Kranenburg (2008), published an interesting finding in their research, Fostering Security? “A meta-analysis of attachment in adopted children.” The purpose of the research was to find evidence whether or not adopted children are less often securely attached to their adoptive parents than non-adoptive children. The factors affecting attachment for adoptive children include maltreatment or neglect of caregivers from an earlier age.

The children were placed in an orphanage at an early age and because of early uneventful life experiences such as loss of a family and social support or neglect most lack the secure attachment base. This study was conducted as such to analyze the theory that the children are more likely to develop disorganized attachment, while it should indicate the most insecure type. This meta-analysis research was conducted using three different methods to gather the data needed to make a clear conclusion.

Adopted children were analyzed based on their attachment classification, specifically, whether they were securely attached or disorganized based on observational assessments. In this research the adopted children were compared with both the non- adopted children and foster-care children. It was concluded that children adopted after 12 months of age showed less attachment security than non-adoptive children in a homogeneous set of five studies, while children adopted before one year of age the security issues associated with levels of attachment were comparable to non-adopted children.

Overall, this study reveals that due to early negative life experiences, many adopted children showed fewer secure attachments and more disorganized attachments, compared to those who were not adopted and shared lives with their biological parents from birth. However, as the meta-analysis revealed that children adopted before 12 months of age were as securely attached as the non-adoptive children, it would seem that the knowledge of having biological parents alone it not required for bonding and levels of emotional and social development.

Here the issue is raised as to what exactly is the determining factor, since it is not the knowledge of having a biological parent, while levels of love and support are comparable for young cases, the differentiating factors could be from a number of other issues. As is it commonly known that many children do not form permanent memories until two of three years of age, there must be some physiological factor remaining to be discovered for one year old developing children that would cause them to bond differently, without memory, compared to children younger than them and children not adopted.

As the study revealed that children adopted after their first birthday showed significantly less attachment security than non-adoptive children to the largest extent, there must be developmental processes occurring at this time that are both not fully realized by the child nor understood by scientific research. It can be assumed, however, that early environment adaptation is an important factor which contributes to secure attachment classification in children based on the general findings of all these studies. According to Jaffari-Bimmel, Juffer, Ijzendoorn, Bakermans-Kranenburg, and Mooijaart (2006), life experiences play a huge role in shaping attachment.

Another longitudinal study was conducted to observe social development from infancy to adolescence. The researchers followed 169 internationally adopted children from infancy to adolescence (age 14) to assess the influence of previous and concurrent factors on the children’s social development. The study clearly confirmed that attachment issues and developmental levels for adaptation and other areas can be directly correlated to levels of love, support, and bonding.

Modern attachment theory has developed and categorized and given rise to what is known as “attachment parenting.” Attachment parenting is the methodology to which mothers can employ the finding of psychology to ensure the strongest attachment bonds are formed and thus creating a strong, secure foundation within a child, so that they can maximize their development socially and emotionally. Even infants of parents using this method will potentially be less fussy and generally happier.

There are many steps a parent is recommended in taking to do this, including natural and peaceful childbirth, breast feeding, answering cries quickly, carrying the baby either in arms in on attached carriers as much as possible, avoiding the routine use of baby sitters, sleeping with the baby, and avoiding material items such as pacifiers and swings to sooth the baby (BYG Publishing, 2009). This advice is becoming more widespread as analysts make the most of the findings in attachment theory and apply them to general practices.

In conclusion, study after study has proved that levels of emotional and social development can be directly related to the upbringing of the individuals as children through levels of bonding, love, and support. Adoption is a critical issue in this area, as it is commonly associated with a lack of bonding relationships and comparable levels of nurturing of children who have lived with their biological parents from birth. Interestingly, while children adopted at less than one year of age have shown similar levels in ability develop emotionally and socially, children over one year of age show difficulty in developing the same way.

Furthermore, contrary to previous assumptions, the sexuality of parents do not bear weight on the ability to care for and thus foster the ability for children to develop socially or emotionally. All studies performed to date have indicated children thrive nearly equally based on the overall levels of love received from a stable environment and care givers.

With the employment of the findings in attachment theory, we can best understand the factors that create nurtured and emotionally healthy children while striving to employ them. Further research in this area may assist this further as there are still some areas of uncertainty that may shed more light on ways to improve bonding and its positive results, and this complete understanding is critical for providing the best possible solutions to the needs of adopted children.

References

Ainsworth, M. et al. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum.

BYG Publishing (2009). Attachment Parenting. Web.

Crnic, L. et al (1982). Animal models of human behavior: Their application to the study of attachment. The development of attachment and affiliative systems, pp. 31-42.

Goldberg et al. (2000). Attachment Theory: Social, Developmental, and Clinical Perspectives. Routledge.

Lamb, M. (1984). Security of infantile attachment as assessed in the “strange situation”: Its study and biological interpretation. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 7, 127-171.

Novak, M. A., and Harlow, H. F. (1975). Social recovery of monkeys isolated for the first years of life. Developmental Psychology, 11, 453-465.

Wagner, K. (2009). An Overview of Attachment Theory. Web.

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