Describe and Evaluate Bowlby’s Monotropic Theory

1111 words 5 pages
Describe and evaluate Bowlby’s monotropic theory [12 marks]

Bowlby’s monotropic theory of attachment after extensive research suggests that emotional bonds had evolutionary functions as he thought it helped a child’s survival. Attachment behaviours in both babies and their caregivers have evolved through natural selection, so the way they behave causes the infants to be biologically programmed with innate behaviours that ensures that attachment does occur. These innate species-specific attachment behaviours are social releasers i.e crying, vocalising and smiling.

Bowlby brought in the concept of monotropy through this that there is one relationship which is more important than all the rest. He, however did not rule out the
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Harlow also set the monkeys in a larger cage which was to test the monkeys’ degree of exploration.

Harlow found that the monkeys preferred contact with the towelling mother when given a choice of surrogate mothers, regardless of the milk being produced; they even stretched across to the wire mother to feed while still holding on to the towelling mother. He also found that monkeys with only a wire surrogate had diarrhoea due to stress and when frightened by a loud noise they hung onto the towelling mother when she was available. In large cages, the monkeys with towelling mothers explored more and visited their surrogate mother more often.

Harlow concluded that for a monkey to develop normally s/he must have some interaction with an object to which they can cling during the first months of life (critical period). Clinging is a natural response - in times of stress the monkey runs to the object to which it normally clings as if the clinging decreases the stress. A problem with the work by Harlow is that of extrapolation, which refers to the problem of transposing the results of studies on animals to the behaviour and cognition of humans. His experiments have been seen as unnecessarily unethical and of limited value in attempting to understand the effects of deprivation on human infants. However, it could be argued that the benefits of the research outweigh the costs (the suffering of the animals). For example, the research


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