Attachment Theory and the Mother-Infant Relationship
In the first third of our course we studied the intense, complex relationship a mother has with her offspring. In order to fully understand this bond, three concepts must be understood: the emotional nature, the adaptive strategy, as well as the relationship's pros and cons. However, for the purpose of this paper, I will be focusing on the mother-infant relationship as an adaptive strategy primates developed, with emphasis on attachment theory. The root of the mother-infant relationship as well as a child's development can be linked to John Bowlby's theory of attachment. Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst, developed the theory after running a study in which he attempted to understand the intense distress experienced by infants who had
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In their 2005 study, Samantha K. Shaw and Rudi Dallos linked the impact of early attachment experiences with adolescent depression. They theorized that the primary attachment figure has a lasting impact on individuals for more than simply evolutionary factors, but for family and inter-personal factors (such as developing strong emotional connections)_ as well as socio-cultural factors (Shaw, 414). Shaw and Dallos referenced the depressed state Bowlby observed in many infants upon separation with their mother. This depression, albeit relatively short, made the infants' personality development vulnerable when separated from their mother figure for an extended period of time, especially if no one acted as a substitute mother during her absence (Shaw, 414). Bowlby further concluded: "until they were about 3 years old, attachment behaviours were easily activated in most infants, after which time they were displayed less urgently, as the infants' need for proximity to the caregiver lessened" (Shaw 418). Shaw and Dallos are quick to state, however, that while "early attachment experiences [may] lay the foundation for the developing self
" they "
do not simply cause' depression, they establish a vulnerability for emotional problems" (Shaw, 419). The two researchers identified, using Ainsworth's classifications, the attachment styles of depressed adolescents and correlated them with the reasons adolescents