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Transcript of Attachment
Attachment Theory had its birth in 1969 at the hands of Psychologist John Bowlby.
He believed that attachment during infancy would later dictate how a child would cultivate relationships later on in life.
More specifically, Bowlby saw that humans have a critical period during which our "attachment response" naturally emerges.
Basing this theory on an evolutionary perspective,
he believed that attachment was a biological
Bowlby did not believe a mother could love
her child too much.
In fact, in order to develope correctly, we need a
loving "Primary Attachment Figure."
Relating back to his evolutionary standpoint, he believed that anytime our need to survive is threatened, our "Proximity-seeking behavior" is activated.
In summary, Bowlby thought that the way parents
treat their children directly affects whether
the child will grow up to be loving and
successful, or emotionally scared,
and unable to connect with
In the years leading up to and following Bowlby's
Attachment Theory, a number of other professionals
sought out to better understand attachment
at its most basic levels.
A few of these researchers include, from left to right: Konrad Lorenz,
Mary Ainsworth, and Harry Harlow.
Lorenz and his Geese
Lorenz wrote a paper in 1935 concerning his
findings done with a study of goslings.
In studying attachment, he elected himself to
become the imprinted mother of baby geese. In doing so, Lorenz discovered a natural tendency of living creatures to become attached to what they view as a caring figure.
Lorenz's findings would later go on to influence Bowlby,
as he developed his own theories concerning infant
Harlow and his Monkeys
Harry Harlow, on the other hand, worked with baby monkeys to determine whether they fundamentally
desired comfort of sustinance.
In depriving said monekys from live mothers, Harlow offered them two surrogate mothers - one made of cloth, and the other with a bottle for feeding.
What Harlow found, surprisingly, was that the babies preferred the cloth mother over the feeding mother. In other words, the baby monkeys chose love (or "comfort") over sustenance.
These monkeys, although it was clear they had a fundamental desire for comfort, grew up to be very stressed, abusive adults.
This was believed to be due to the lack of love and emotional interaction that the surrogate mother was able to provide (being non-living).
This seems to be related to the cycle by which attachment and future relationships interact with one another, and will be discussed later on.
Ainsworth and her Strange Situation
Ainsworth in a sense, took Harlow's study on monkeys a step further, and identified the different types of attachment styles exhibited in children.
In her "Strange Situation" study from 1967, Ainsworth studied child behavior when in a room with their mother, later to be left by themselves.
She specifically looked at the child's ability
to cope while alone, and later,
how the child reacted when
his or her mother
Ainsworth's Styles of Attachment
Ainsworth found that these types of children, upon their parent's departure, would become overly distressed and nervous.
Upon the parent's return, the child would become very clingy, and then become angry with his or her parent, being inconsolable and distressed.
This ambivalent style of child behavior can be connected to a parent over-protecting their child. This occurs when a caregiver overemphasizes the child's needs over their own an unhealthy amount.
Children who act in a disorganized manner when their caregiver returned, would act very strangely.
In some cases, the child would freeze up, look very distressed, and (in extreme cases) run away from his or her caregiver.
This type of response is believed to be a response of child abuse.
This type of attachment is the only of the four that is considered "healthy", and is said to lead to future success in relationships.
Babies with a secure attachment to their caregiver will, instead of being avoidant, anxious, disinterested, or angry, will be distressed while the parent is away, but once the parent returns, the baby will become happy again.
The child, while in the presence of his or her caregiver, will feel free to explore his
or her environment.
Avoidant children, upon the return of their caregiver, show no major signs of emotion - almost as though they are indifferent about their caregiver returning.
It is believed that this type of behavior is related to a child feeling as through their needs will not be met by their caregiver, and thus, have given up on seeking comfort in them.
It is important to note that these child responses seem to be in response to a caregiver's outward attitude toward the child.
Children who are more securely attached to their caregiver tend to have more stable relationships going into adulthood.
However, one must remember that the child's environment is not the sole factor contributing to secure attachment - nature (or genetics) also plays a key role in whether a child is able to have a secure attachment with his or her caregiver.
Attachment through the Lifespan
Now that we have a basic understanding of attachment theory, it is possible to examine more in depth, the affects of infant attachment throughout the lifespan.
Erik Erikson's theory of psychological development compliments attachment theory well, mapping out the different stages of life based on "Primary Tasks" by which every person is challenged with.
The attachment styles as described by Ainsworth, should then be evident in Erikson's stages,
as the children reflect similar attitudes
later on in life.
Erik Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development
Erik Erikson saw psychological development as a process that took place in stages over the lifetime.
He believed that each stage was interconnected with the other stages and were present from birth.
Thus, if a person were never to properly fulfill one stage in his or her life, it would affect the stages to follow.
Erikson believed that one could only obtain "proper" development if they had successfully resolved the preceding stages.
Erikson's 8 Stages:
1.) Trust v. Mistrust
Infancy -1 year
2.) Autonomy v. Shame & Doubt
3.) Initiative v. Guilt
4.) Industry v. Inferiority
6 years - Puberty
5.) Identity v. Role Confusion
Teens - Twenties
6.) Intimacy v. Isolation
Twenties - Early Forties
7.) Generativity v. Stagnation
Forties - Sixties
8.) Integrity v. Dispair
Late Sixties and Beyond
How then, if a person goes through these stages
in life, are they all connected, and what is their
In 1971, Diana Baumrind developed a theory by which she identified four different parenting styles: Authoritative, Authoritarian, Permissive, and Rejecting-neglecting.
It is believed that, depending on the style of parenting a person adopts, it will have a direct affect on how the child will come to develop later on in life - especially in terms of the ability the child will have in connecting with others.
Baumrind's Parenting Styles
These type of parents are relatively inflexible. Children are often under very strict rules, which are not allowed to be broken. Parents, while quite restrictive, are not nurturing. As a result, the child may end up maturing with a very negative sense of relationships, and have problems connecting in a positive way to others. This, as seen earlier in Ainsworth's attachment styles, can lead a child to having an avoidant insecure attachment with his or her caregiver.
This style of parenting is most often considered the most positive of parenting styles. Parents, while they do set strict guidelines for their children to follow, are very nurturing and loving as well. They are able to set rules, but also break their own rules when it comes to the child's overall well-being. This type of parenting is believed to lead to healthy relationships for the child in the future. Not only does the child understand what love and caring means, but they are able to develop a trusting relationship with their primary attachment figure from very early on in life. This allows them to trust others in the future, and can be connected with attachment.
The photo here explains permissive parenting fairly well. With this style of parenting, the parent provides a large amount of freedom to their child, and loves them unconditionally. It can be seen as the exact opposite of authoritarian parenting. These types of parents set very few limits on their children, and expect very little of their children - love is most important.
This style of parenting can be connected with an anxious-ambivalent form of attachment, and is translated similarly in future relationships. Because the child is so used to their parent loving them with no expectations, they can often become inconsolable when presented with a difficult, "strange situation."
This style of parent really does not set any strict limitations on their child, or do they provide love and care for their child. Instead, the parent's main goal is to minimize contact and involvement with the child, focusing primarily on themselves. This can be related to a child's disorganized, insecure attachment. Because the parent has proven not to provide proper nurturing and support, the child will lose trust in the parent, and cease to seek comfort in that parent. This can lead to commitment issues in future relationships, and in future stages in life.
Trust vs. Mistrust
During this first stage of development, an infant is learning the basic concept of trust from his or her caregiver.
They are determining whether or not their caregiver is someone who they can count on to be there when they need care and comfort.
If a caregiver does not properly nurture his or her child, then "mistrust" begins to be instilled in the child.
We see this in Ainsworth's study, where some children were insecurely attached to their caregiver. These are children who do not trust their caregiver in one way or another.
Shame and Doubt
During this phase (~2 years), children begin to have self-conscious emotions. They are becoming aware that they are a distinct person. With this, children also begin to become socialized into our world.
It is here that parents teach their child what they can and cannot do - that a stove is hot, how to follow instructions, etc.
If then at this stage - as children are becoming socialized into our world - the child does not have a basic understanding of trust, they will be affected as socialization begins to occur.
During this stage in a child's life, they begin to explore the possibilities of their world. They either conquer the basics, taking initiative in doing so, or are repressed and feel shame, doubting their abilities.
Take for example an authoritarian parent, who was very strict in socializing their child. It is more likely that this type of parent will repress the child's capabilities, leading the child to question his/herself.
Of course, it is important to note, that this perspective of attachment is fairly "nurture-driven". That is, it is more focused on the idea that our environment manipulates how we become.
A child may also have problems in this stage as a result of natural shyness. A child can often grow out of this and become more outgoing as they grow older.
Industry vs. Inferioriy
Skipping forward to Erikson's fourth stage, children are in the age range between 6 years old and puberty. Children during this stage in life are beginning to have a very sensitive self-esteem.
Children at this stage are now going to school and are beginning to compare themselves to other children around them - in appearance, ability, and personality.
It is also during this stage in life that children begin to develop a sense of sympathy and empathy.
More specifically put, sympathy is the state of feeling sorry for someone who is struggling.
Empathy, on the other hand, is feeling the exact emotion that another person is feeling.
Both of these, specifically Sympathy is necessary in developing "Prosocial Behavior", which is performing helping and caring actions for another person.
According to Erikson, however - if a person is not able to properly fulfill his or her first few stages, they will also have problems fulfilling this stage properly as well.
A child who was shown little sympathy or empathy growing up, is less likely to demonstrate sympathy and empathy in their own social situations.
Although a sense of inferiority is an essential complimentor of industry, too much can be harmful.
Inferiority tends to drive industry. We need it to push us to become better versions of ourselves.
Empathy and Symphathy
Shame and Guilt
This idea relates fairly well to parenting styles and socialization techniques. While shame sprouts from humiliation and causes a child to withdraw for people, guilt is associated with feeling sorry about what one had done.
Shame leads to aggression, whereas guilt is more genuine. Therefore, if parents are socializing their children by shaming them rather than showing them their fault with correction, the child is more likely to act out in aggression and feel shamed in other situations where they are shown a fault.
This can lead to further problems down the road as children make more personal connections with others - shame diminishes people, whereas guilt causes up to emotionally develop.
Significance of Attachment in Developing Friendships
Friendships, unlike parent-child relationships, only occur when two children have something in common or enjoy each other. For a child to be able to make friends, means that he or she is able to socialize at a level, which promotes others to enjoy his or her company.Parents are forced to be with their child (they love their children unconditionally.
Friendships protect friends - they offer as safe zones, and allow each other to manage emotions, and in a sense, it can allow children to understand empathy and sympathy.
If then, a child is unable to make friends, he or she is severely missing out on major developmental
Identity vs. Role Confusion
During this stage of development, Erikson argued that adolescents begin to develop a sense of their adult self, or their identity.
Adolescents, during this stage use their knowledge of themselves as a child to inform how they want to become in the future.
So, according to Erikson, an adolescent's ability to fulfill his or her future stages of development, will therefore inform how they come to reach their
Intimacy vs. Isolation
The previous stages - although they are very significant in their interconnectedness - the stage that reflects most apparently childhood attachment is this stage.
It is believed that a child's caregiver connectedness translates over to a person's ability to create and maintain relationships as an adult - specifically romantic relationships.
However, even if a child grew up with a poor parent relationship, does not mean that the child will be alone as an adult. It simply suggests that the person's character traits are affected by upbringing, and therefore, they must find someone compatible with their traits.
It is during this stage, between a person's twenties and early forties, that a person decides whether or not to pursue intimacy, or live in isolation from other people.
Love and Attachment
People choose their partner for differing reasons.
Proximity is a fairly common contributing factor - the closer you are to someone (the more time you spend with a person), the more likely you will be to have an attraction toward that person.
Similarity is naturally another factor - having similar interests, faith/perspective, political beliefs, etc.
Adults use their romantic partners as a secure base to which they can return for a place of comfort and security. In a sense, then, romantic partners take on the role that a caregiver is to their children.
Three types related to childhood attachment:
2.) Avoidant (Insecure): This type of partner will be aloof and withholding. They may appear to be very distant and independent.
1.) Ambivalent (Insecure): People with this type of romantic attachment will tend to be clingy, needy, mistrust their partner, and worry.
3.) Securely Attached: This type of partner is comfortable with his or her significant other. They are trusting, and are able to give their significant other personal space. This type of a person is willing able able to connect on a deep level, trusting their significant other with their emotions. These types of marriages are more likely to be successful in the long run.
*Important note: Not all relationships reflect childhood attachment
This type of love deals with emotional and physical attraction and is primarily focused around the beginning of a relationship.
This type of love, opposite passionate love, deals with feelings of deep affection, friendship, and emotional intimacy. This develops more as a relationship matures.
Overlooking your partners faults
Undervaluing the attractivness of other people
Letting your partner influence you
Creating shared meaning
Parenting: Coming full Circle
During this phase of life, adults have the ability to have children. May different factors go into this choice, and of course, it may not always be planned.
It is also during this stage, that adults are given the ability to raise a child with any style of parenting they choose. (Remember Baumrind)
Whether they take on the same style parenting their own parents did or not, there are many factors that contribute to the way they raise their child.
Parenting Style Factors:
The Child's Personality
General Life Conditions
Considering all of these factors, it is important to remember that parenting is not cut-and-dry. Not every parent is able to be "Authoritative", and must adapt their discipline style according the environment they are living in. Some children simply need more structure than others - we cannot condemn
one parenting style based on generalized facts.
Every situation is different.
Although parenting styles do differ from situation to situation, overall marital satisfaction is linked with good parenting.
The more intimacy and communication a couple has, typically have more affectionate relationships with their children
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the less marital satisfaction a person has, the more likely a child will be to be punished.
For some couples who aren't able to maintain marital satisfaction, divorce is an option.
A number of things can contribute to divorce, including: stress, lack of communication, not being faithful, abuse, economic issues, and many more.
Below is a graphic representation of divorce rates as a function of years married. The time frame is relatively out of date, but the general tend is still very apparent. Rates spike around 5-9 years of marriage (after having children), and steadily decline from there on. Also, notice a less steep slope of decrease around 20-30 years - this is believed to be the result of children leaving the home and parents separating then.
Although divorce is considered a difficult thing to go through, and even frowned upon, it can often be a relief for many people. Of course, there are emotional taxations involved in divorce, but people who feel miserable inside of a marriage do report relief after separation.
Children and Divorce
Children who are part of a divorced family have been shown to do have social, academic, physical, and also mental difficulties.
This translates over to the difficulties involved with being raised in a single parent household, as well as the emotional stresses of living with two disagreeing/fighting parents.
Resiliency - the ability for a child to rebound from trauma and difficult situations - plays a key role in a child's ability to cope with divorce.
Erikson's Eighth Stage:
Integrity vs. Despair
Moving past his 7th stage, we come upon Eikson's final stage of development.
The idea behind Integrity and Despair is a person's ability to look back at their past and be satisfied with what they had accomplished, or fallen short of. This stage of life is considered to be contemplative, and coming to peace with the past is key.
Generativity vs. Stagnation
This stage of life, between a person's forties and sixties, seems to be essential in rounding out a person's perceived happiness in life. It focuses on the idea of nurturing and helping the next generation of people - this can often come through parenting.
It can also be essential in rounding out a person's attachment style. In fact, it has been found that people who are discribed as overly clingly in their twenties are, during this stage, considered securely attached in their significant relationships.
Even people who are seen to be very disagreeable during their earlier stages of life have now leveled-out emotions, and are less distressed later on in life.
This may be due to the fact that people, depending on the partner they have, are slowly balanced out by them, becoming more secure, and more agreeable - attachment and personality types can mix and compliment one another
With this in mind, it is important to remember that all of these stages are interconnected, and affect one another to a certain extent. It makes sense - a person's past affect who they are in the future.
Remember who this is?
Death is something everyone must face at some point - this final stage of life is very often that time for people.
Especially for those in long-term relationships, death means losing a significant attachment figure - a spouse.
It is not uncommon, in fact, that after a spouse dies during this stage, that the remaining partner will soon thereafter die as well.
: Done in groups. This often involves
some form of gathering by which people
act together in support of one another.
This, however, is done in private. It
is the personal struggle that a person goes
through following a tragic event. This involves
coming to terms with the event and loss itself.
Attachment Come Full Circle
As you have seen, attachment is very multidimensional, and its significance can be seen in all stages of life. We are created as social beings, and because of this, others affect the way we develop. Whether it is our parents, our friends, or our significant others, our interaction with them plays a role in who we become.
Because development is not a linear, concrete, staged process, it is important to observe the development of attachment in relation to other theories as well.
Jean Piaget's Stages of Development
Lawrence Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development
Identified four primary stages of childhood cognitive development:
1.) Sensorimotor (0-2 years): During this stage, children focus on the features of our physical reality. They work from learning basic movements and concepts about the world, to manipulating things around them to make sense of it all. This includes everything from the concept of object permanence, as well as means-end behavior (the idea that whatever they do will elicit a specific reaction from others.
2.) Preoperations (2-7 years): During this stage, they begin to formulate ideas of the world around them - whatever they see is real. This is why children are said to have such large imaginations - they are able to attribute living qualities to non-living things. They are, however, unable to take on the perspective of others around them - this is called egocentrism.
3.) Concrete Operations (8-12 years): During this stage, children are beginning to think more like adults. They now conceptually understand the properties of concrete objects, but are unable to think abstractly.
4.) Formal Operations (12+ years): Children are now able to think on the same level as adults. They understand abstract concepts, and are able to
formulate their own opinions about significant issues.
Identified three stages of moral development. These stages, he believed, did not necessarily develop at specific ages, but instead, developed as a result of a moral code that each person adopts.
1.) Preconventional Stage: People act in certain ways in order to avoid punishment. They want to serve their own interests. These people have a punishment-reward mentality.
2.) Conventional Stage: These types of people try to obey societies rules. They try to be a good person according to what society has prescribed as "normal".
3.) Postconventional Stage: People in this stage recognize develop their own moral code that goes past societies "rules". These types of people are able to think abstractly about moral, societal issues, and decide their own opinion based on their own schema.
Think Piaget and his first stage of cognitive development.
Children in this stage are trying to develop a sense of reality. They believe what is in front of them to be reality. Based on their caregiver's parenting style, they will take that to be reality.
Think of Kohlberg's first stage of moral development.
Infants are more likely operating on the basis of avoiding punishment and seeking reward from their attachment figure.
Again, remember Piaget's first stage of cognitive development.
Children are learning about what they can and cannot do - the realities of the world.
Remember Kohlberg's preconventional stage.
Children are exploring their world, responding to positive interaction from their parents - what they should and should not do - and avoiding negative feedback (punishment for doing something wrong.
Piaget's second through final stage fall under this psychosocial stage. is taking place here.
Children are beginning to think more abstractly, take on the view of other children, and are beginning to compare themselves to others.
This comparison and understanding of other people is essential for attachment and socialization with others.
Because Kohlberg does not define a specific age range for his moral development theory, it is impossible to say where children fit during this stage of psychosocial development.
More than likely not Postconventional, but it is still a possibility (toward puberty), considering children are beginning to think abstractly about their world.
This is a time in a person's life where developing a sense of a moral code may take place, considering an adolescent is trying to determine their adult identity.
This "leveling out" that is seen in adult at this stage in life could be related to Kohlberg's postcoventional stage of moral development.
People in this stage of psychosocial development may have a firm grasp of their own moral code, and are therefore are more rounded out as a result.
1.) "Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process"
This article explores the idea that romantic love developed in adulthood is the result of childhood attachment to a parent figure. Through the use of a questionnaire, this article compares and contrasts the differences between romantic attachment and childhood attachment. The research found that there are distinct commonalities between childhood attachment and adult attachment.
2.) "Family systems theory, attachment theory, and culture"
This article looks at the differences between Family systems theory, and attachment theory, basing off specific cultural contexts. Although the cultural context portion of the article wasn't particularly helpful, is gave a lot of useful information pertaining to attachment theory, and how it relates to the type of people we often find ourselves pairing with. It did a good job of explaining the idea that attachment happens in a cycle as children are exposed to certain parenting styles as a child and then develop a certain way because of that.
3.) "Origins of attachment theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth"
This article provided much useful information regarding the origins of attachment theory. It explained many of the intertwining theories and figures involved in the development of attachment theory, specifically between Ainsworth and Bowlby. It also summarized and made connections between other psychologists who's work influenced one another (such as Harlow and Lorenz).
Belsky, J. (2010).
Experiencing the lifespan
(5th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.
Yonker, J. (2013-2014).
. Lecture conducted from Calvin College, Grand Rapid, MI.
Tracking Attachment Through the Lifespan