Attachment theory and bring up children
by Dr. Fawzy A. Osman Salama, Ph.D.
Senior Clinical Counsultant Neuropsycholgist
Does attachment theory provide a sound for advice on how to bring up children?
The present essay is intend to explore research studies of attachment theory concerning how to bring up children.
The shape of my discussion is as follows: firstly, a review of research and theories on the child’s early relationships and experience. Secondly, the implications of these key features for the child development theories are discussed. Finally, end-up with final remarks.
Within child development one can distinguish a variety of approaches that provide different methods and explanations of understanding the growth of the relationship between a newborn child and the caregiver(s). There are four main approaches: behaviourist, nativist, , constructivists and social constructivists. The conceptual and methodological of each of these approaches are very different indeed. One way of comparing and contrasting these approaches is to look at their assumptions of first relationships and interactions on child development. Theoretical arguments have often centred on the issue of external versus internal influences on development. Behaviourists stress the role of environment and the child’s past history of reinforcements (i.e., perspective of stimulus-response relationship). Nativist theories stress the critical importance of biological factors of development (i.e., inborn ‘preparedness). Both, constructivists (e.g., sensori-motor schemas) and social constructivists (i.e., socio-cultural scaffolding perspective) propose that development is a discontinuous rather than a continuous process. Although social constructivist agree with the general constructivist position of the role of both maturation and learning, but stress the social nature of development, emphasizing the influence of the cultural context on development. No one theory is completely ‘right’ or completely ‘wrong’. Each theory has contributed widely to enhance our knowledge about child development. Together these theories give us a broad picture of early relationships.
Perhaps the most pervasive view concerning long -term development has been that the child’s early relationships experience predetermine the individual’s future. For Freud, the first five years were regarded as critical; for J. B. Watson it was the experience of the first two years, which would make or mar the life path. For Bowlby, good mothering was almost useless if delayed beyond two and a half years; the prolonged deprivation of maternal care might have grave and far-reaching effects on the child’s character and thus the whole of his or her future life. Like Bowlby, Ainsworth put emphasis on the importance of good mothering as a secure base for the child. In Bowlby’s words, a child who has formed a secure attachment is likely to possess a representational model of attachment figure as being available, responsive, and helpful and a complementary model of himself as at least a potentially lovable and valuable person’ (Bowlby, 1980, p. 242).
The emotional development, that is the psychodynamic approach has become important in psychology as important as cognitive development, behaviourist and nativist constructivism and social constructivism theories. This was shown by the research of Melanie Klein. She developed Object-relations theory. From its first emotional relationships the infant constructs mental models of self-with-other that guide emotional development. If a caregiver is reliable then the model is of love and interpersonal trust. Should the caregiver be neglectful, the correspondingly untrusting models of self-with-other from foundations for subsequent relationships. Generally, Kleinian theory describes how babies may form representations of other people and their relationships with them. The way mothers deal with distress in their babies may play an important part in their babies’ development. According to Klein, the first three or four months are characterized by splitting of objects into good and bad part-objects. Thus the child’s mind would come to contain representations of many part-objects, derived from experiences with her mother (i.e., bad or good feelings) and other based on fantasy. Thus, for example, in a depressive position such as feeling of hangar, the infant begins to appreciate that ‘the- breast that satisfies’ is actually the same object as ‘the-breast-that frustrates’.
Many psychologists believe that relationships between infants and their caregivers are crucial for mental development. Therefore, research has focused on the early relationships between babies and their caregivers. Both attachment and temperament are inferred from behaviour, and most of the behaviour which both kind of theories are concerned is social behaviour (Stevenson-Hind & Hind, 1986). Social behaviour is usually observed in interactions, that is, exchanges that are limited in time, and interactions can be described by specifying the content and their quality or style. Relationships involve a series of interactions in time between individuals known to each other (Hind, 1976). One of the key features of relationships is that when there is meshing between mother and infant which can give the infant the experience of taking part in a dialogue. This early experience with other human beings provides the first experiences of relatedness. Murray and Trevarthen, 1985 conversations with babies studies indicates that there is a clear signs of distress if the live link with the mother is replaced either by a delay in the circuit or a replay of a recording of the mother made in the same situation a few minutes previously.
However, relationships between children and their caregivers are not the same as relationships between adults. Clearly, then, relationships with others involve many psychological processes. For instance, the psychoanalytic concept of projection which describes a way of handling feelings and thoughts and attribute them to others, in fact, it belong to our own selves. In fact, it is socially adaptive. Thus we develop a sense of empathy, a feeling of belonging t a same species. The concept of projection can be used to describe some important aspects of relationships with infant.
It is common belief that one of the main applications for a critical influence of child development is the context of social interaction provided by the child’s interaction with significant adults, especially parents. Social interactions can be seen as providing the basis for psychological development. Different beliefs about children effect both the child-rearing practices and what children are expected to do.
Jerome Burner believed that the concept of joint-action format is a useful way of describing simplified and stereotyped interaction patterns between mothers and babies.
By involving the baby joint-action formats, the mother creates simplified and stereotyped sequences of actions with objects that are repeated over and over so that the baby can learn them both as potent inter-subjective topics, and as potentially ‘do-able’ alone. Burner (1975) has used the term ‘scaffolding’ to describe a particular way in which adults use various techniques to enable infants to elaborate their behaviour.
The social dimension is very important in Vygotsky’s theory in studying developmental processes. Basically, Vygotsky’s (1962) believed that the process of developmental includes internalising social interactions and it occurs within the child. The interaction can then begin to extend its topics to include joint action, and joint attention, directed to things other than the interaction itself. Vygotsky pointed out that society was essential to human cognitive development, beginning with interaction between the child and another person.
Vygotsky’s theory stresses the importance of including the social dimension in understanding child development. He argued that all thought arises first in actions between people and only then becomes internalised. On the other hand, behaviourists focus on observable behaviour rather than internal processes. For example, Skinner argued that history of reinforcements determines behaviour and by understanding this and using reinforcements one can shape behaviour.
It has been found that the mother’s ratings of infant difficulties are more associated with negative mood that inadaptability/fear (Bates, 1987).
Bates found that observed parent-child interactions could predict behaviour problems. There are several studies that confirm the direct link between mother’s reports of temperament in the early development and later behaviour problems.
Furthermore, Whiting & Edwards (1992) emphasize the effect of the community’s values on the way children are treated (e.g. phenomenon of electing power children). Their argument is quite similar to many ideas and observations of Vygotsky’s theory.
Some societies encourage a great deal of adult child interaction with parents and elders while others discourage it. For example, in some societies with large extended families, children are usually discouraged from imitating interaction with adults, ‘respect and obedience to orders are valued’ Whiting & Edwards (1992). Miller (1987) suggests that such attitudes are common to many cultures and continue to exist today. Whiting & Edwards noted that adults caretakers, usually mothers, all over the world have similar goals-’caring for, socialising and transmitting culture to their children’ (Whiting & Edwards, 1988, p.87, quoted from BK1, OU).
Moreover, Schieffelin and Ochs suggests that the ‘developmental story’ of mother-infant interaction does seem universal is based on an assumption that sees the infant as a social being and the mother’s role as being to take the perspective of the infant.
As I approach the conclusion of the present study, it is appropriate to explain and try to answer the following question: How a parent’s behaviour can be affected by their image of their children?. The discussion by Prajna Das Gupta on audio cassette AC1: Image of childhood, pointed out that the views of baby as a positive reactor to how mother behaves is clearly inadequate, since the baby has to be active in rudimentary behaving and expressing feeling in order to be able to frame and give sense to these feeling and behaviours.
To sum-up, to understand more fully the development of beliefs about children it would seem to be necessary to take account of cultural processes that affect both child and parents behaviour. Therefore, a simple cause-and-effect model cannot fully describe the complex transactional links between parents and children behaviour: each person plays a part in determining how the other behaves within the cultural patterns that extend and have consequences beyond the specific interactions between parents and their children. According the transactional model (Sameroff & Chandler, 1975), the effect of child’s temperament on parents is two-ways, on one hand, by its own selection of activities and on the other hand, especially for young child, by the influence its behaviour has upon caretakers (e.g., the effects of crying babies on caretakers; Dunn et al., 1979).
Attribution theorists propose that causal attributions play a central role in predicting behaviour as individuals use them to understand, control and master their environment. When parents perceive behaviour to be more intentional, they are more upset by it and more likely to endorse power-assertive discipline techniques. Hence, children’s perception of their own behaviour will be co-determined by such parental attributions. To some extent, children’s representations of themselves will be moulded by parent’s expectations and ideals and these are transmitted through mimicry and actions that reveal to the child how the parents have interpreted his intentions. Through this process the child learns how to intend’ (Dunn, 1982).
Kaye and Brazelton (1971) found that mothers ‘deliver’ their behaviour during feeding in packages that fit in with a natural rhythm of the baby’s, and further adjust their pacing so that the interaction becomes very conversation-like. Adults tend to use a special form of speech when interacting with babies. They also found that the mothers interact with their babies during ‘face-to-face play’ shows some of the key elements of turn-taking.
The television programme ‘simple beginnings?’ provides an illustration of the way adults behave towards babies, especially how they speak to them, suggests that learning does play a significant role. In the same TV programme, Annette Karmiloff-Smith discusses how ‘baby talk’ seems to accentuate the very features of speech to which infants seem most attuned, an example of the matching of social environment to an infant’s developmental state.
In general, cross-cultural comparisons suggest that the type of parent-infant relationships are common across all cultures (for example ‘baby-talk‘, Snow and Ferguson, 1977).
5.0 Final Remark and conclusion:
Any account of development is necessarily culturally based, since the processes of raising children are essentially one of enculturation. To understand the development of early relationships between mothers and infants it would be seem to view the psychological processes of adapting and communicating with infants as cultural processes that serve the ends of producing particular sorts of individuals,
Psychologists studying children need to take into account both similarities and differences between children of different cultures.
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- Mother And Child Interaction (thinkingbookworm.typepad.com)