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Does early attachment predict

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Does early attachment predict

Attachment is generally considered to be an emotional bond, or strong affectionate ties to a companion. For the purposes of this paper 'attachment' will refer to the primary attachment formed between an infant and his/her primary caregiver. It is maintained that a healthy primary attachment relationship is an essential element the in the emotional and psychological development of the infant and that the formation of the attachment will provide the infant with a base from which to judge and react to situations throughout life. It has thus been suggested that the quality of the attachment relationship of the infant will predict later behaviour, however evidence concerning later developmental outcomes is mixed and must be clarified.

Ainsworth, Bell and Stayton (1971) found individual differences in infant attachment relationships, and proposed that these differences are crucial in development of the child. Mary Ainsworth and her colleagues devised a test called the 'strange situation', to measure the quality of an infants attachment relationship to his/her primary caregiver. This consists of 8 short episodes, which attempt to simulate events that would take place in the process of normal living. Through these the experimenter observes the infant/caregiver interaction, the infant's reaction to separation with the primary caregiver and the infant's reaction to strangers. Ainsworth asserted that infants display three types of attachment quality: secure, resistant (insecure) and avoidant (insecure), and found that generally about 65% of the population have secure attachments (subject to culture). More recently Main and Solomon (1990) have developed a fourth organised strategy of attachment; termed disorganised/disoriented attachment behaviour. Infants in this classification display a mixture of resistant and avoidant behaviour. Mary Main suggests it is a result of fearing their primary caregiver as it is prevalent among infants of abuse or difficult family circumstances.

Waters and Deane (1985) criticise the 'strange situation', pointing out Ainsworth et al., (1971) could not classify a reasonable portion of their subjects. They propose the 'strange situation' can not simulate normal situations because it is conducted in a laboratory and therefore is not truly measuring the infants' normal behaviour. However, the 'strange situation' experiment has been replicated numerous times with reasonably reliable results and it is generally accepted to give some measure of infant attachment quality. Kagan (1984) also criticises it, and argues that the test is measuring temperament, not attachment. Carlson (1998) undermines this claim, as she found no relationship between infant temperament and later behaviour problems in her longitudinal experiment.

It is the forming of the attachment that is vital to the infant for healthy development. Attachment quality stems from child attributes and temperament, caregiving sensitivity, environment and the interaction of all three. Thomas and Chess (1977) developed the 'goodness of fit' model to explain attachment formation. They suggest that secure attachments form when there is a good fit between the child's temperament and the caregiving it receives, thus sensitivity to the baby is of prime importance. Inge Bretherton (1990) proposes that through this interaction infants develop an Internal Working Model, which is a cognitive representation of themselves and the world that they use to form the basis of rules governing interpretation and expression of emotion in the different situations they are faced with. A child reared sensitively and responsively will learn that people are dependable and trustworthy; on the other hand, insensitive, neglectful or abusive caregiving will lead to insecurity and mistrust and the child will form a negative Internal Working Model. Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991) expand on this to suggest the optimal internal working model for healthy psychological development is made up of a positive representation of themselves and the caregiver, as contrariety might cause avoidant or preoccupied behaviour.

There is much evidence to support the theory that this attachment quality can predict later behaviour. Matas, Arend, and Sroufe (1978) gave infants of 18 months an attachment relationship classification by observing mother/child interaction; they found that infants with an insecure attachment classification were in general less cooperative, enthusiastic, persistent, and less competent in problem solving tasks than securely attached babies. That sample of infants were again assessed at age 4 ' years by Arend et al. (1979), who found that the children originally classified as securely attached now showed significantly greater flexibility, persistence and curiousness than the earlier insecurely attached infants. Pipp, Easterbrooks and Hammon (1992) also found secure babies to be more creative and complex in play at aged 2. Londerville and Main (1981) found that infants who were securely attached at 12 months were more likely to obey their primary caregiver and be cooperative at 21 months.

In their peer interaction study, Ross and Goldman (1977) came to the conclusion that the quality of attachment will predispose the infant to actively seek new relations. Waters, Wippman and Sroufe (1979) did a study on infants from 15 months of age until 42 months; they found that securely attached infants scored significantly higher on peer competence and ego strength than insecurely attached infants. Jocobson and Wille (1986) found that securely attached infants were more attractive to their peers at 2-3 years of age, and that peers often reacted negatively to those infants who had been anxious or resistant. Waters et al., (1979) classified the attachment relationship of infants at 15 months, in observing them in school at 3 ' it was found the securely attached infants were now 'social leaders' and initiated activities, they were also found to be more eager to learn and more curious. The insecurely attached were withdrawn, less curious and more forceful in pursuing their own goals.

On the other hand, Bates, Maslin and Frankell (1985) failed to find a relation between attachment behaviour in the 'strange situation' at 12 months and behaviour problems at three years. Goldberg, Corter, Lojkasek, and Minde (1990) also found no relationship between infant attachment and later problem behaviours. Even many studies that find have a general relationship between insecure attachment and later behaviour problems, report significant number of exceptions.

However, evidence suggests the findings could be explained due to lack of use of disorganised/disoriented attachment classification, and the use of low-risk population samples (which as a result would provide a very low rate of disorganised/disorientated attachment). For example: Lewis, Feiring, McGuffog and Jaskin (1984) looked at children at 1 and 6 years of age in order to examine the relationship between early attachment and later psychopathology. They found that for males, an insecure attachment produced greater chance of psychopathology, if this was coupled with environmental stress there was very high predicability. Yet they found no effect for females. However, Lewis and his colleagues did not use the category of disorganised/disoriented attachment and a low-risk sample was used; consequently a low rate of disorganised/disoriented attachment was to be expected and numbers of behavioural problems should have been very small. In accordance with this, it was found that a secure attachment in a low-risk environment almost guaranteed no behaviour problems. In his high-risk sample, Erikson (1985) found significant relationship between attachment security and later maladaption. In examining this effect, Lyons-Ruth, Alpern and Repacholi (1993) conducted a longitudinal study on a high-risk sample, using 4 categories of classification. They found the strongest single predictor of deviant behaviour towards peers to be an earlier disorganised/disoriented attachment classification. Interestingly, they also found maternal psychosocial problems independently predicted hostile behaviour in preschool.

Elizabeth Carlson (1998) expanded on this and examined the consequences of disorganised/ disoriented attachment up until 19 years of age. She found that it predicted behaviour problems in preschool, elementary school and high school, and was related to psychopathology and dissociation in adolescence. She proposes this result is a factor of disorganised/disoriented infants' higher vulnerability to stress, which, when coupled with a traumatic environment, almost certainly leads to problems. Putnam (1993) also notes that trance like behaviour in infants (found to be exhibited by infants with a disorganised attachment) is the single best predictor of dissociative disorders in children, especially if they are exposed to more traumatic circumstances. Therefore evidence that attachment does not lead to predictions of later behaviour can be attributed to experimental flaws, while the evidence showing behaviour can be predicted is extremely convincing.

A strong relationship between early attachment quality and later behaviour does not necessarily mean the child is bound for rest of their life. For example, Thompson and Lamb (1984) have shown that the attachment relationship remains stable only as long as the environment does. Secure children who were exposed to traumatic circumstances sometimes displayed problem behaviour later, while there is hope for insecurely attached infants who find stability in other places. ...

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Keywords: does infant attachment predict adolescent intimacy, how does early attachment affect emotional development, how can early attachment affect emotional development, how can early attachment impact later relationships, anxious attachment early dating, how does the attachment bond developed early on influence personality development later in life

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