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3.1: Attachment Theory

  • Page ID
    194440
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    Attachment

    Psychosocial development occurs as children form relationships, interact with others, and understand and manage their feelings. In social and emotional development, forming healthy attachments is very important and is the major social milestone of infancy. Attachment is a long-standing connection or bond with others. Developmental psychologists are interested in how infants reach this milestone. They ask such questions as: How do parent and infant attachment bonds form? What accounts for children’s attachment differences?

    Researchers Harry Harlow, John Bowlby, and Mary Ainsworth conducted studies designed to answer these questions. In the 1950s, Harlow conducted a series of experiments on monkeys. He separated newborn monkeys from their mothers. Each monkey was presented with two surrogate mothers. One surrogate monkey was made out of wire mesh. She could dispense milk. The other monkey was softer and made from cloth: this monkey did not dispense milk. Research shows that the monkeys preferred the soft, cuddly cloth monkey even though she did not provide any nourishment. The baby monkeys spent their time clinging to the cloth monkey and only went to the wire monkey when they needed to be fed. Prior to this study, the medical and scientific communities generally thought that babies become attached to the people who provide their nourishment. However, Harlow (1958) concluded that there was more to the mother-child bond than nourishment. Feelings of comfort and security are the critical components to maternal-infant bonding, which leads to healthy psychosocial development.

    Pause to Reflect!

    Discuss the following questions.

    1. Watch Harlow’s Studies on Dependency in Monkeys.
      Thumbnail for the embedded element "Harlow's Studies on Dependency in Monkeys"

      A YouTube element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here: https://pb.libretexts.org/children/?p=67


    This page titled 3.1: Attachment Theory is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Joan Giovannini (Remixing Open Textbooks with an Equity Lens (ROTEL)) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.