Theories What Are the Explanations Thesis

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¶ … Theories

What are the explanations for the human dynamics from a psychological standpoint of the long-term attachment of a child with an older adult? And what happens to the child if, after years of very close emotional and physical attachment with that older person, when that older person dies? This paper will examine issues and theories that relate to an understanding as regards long-term attachment followed by death. The basis for attachment will be reviewed to provide background, and scholarly research will be presented for the greatest possible understanding of the key elements.

John Bowlby's book Volume 1 Attachment in his series Attachment and Loss, is a wealth of easy to comprehend knowledge -- based on empirical psychological research -- for the investigative person who wishes to fully understand the dynamics of attachment. In particular, the narrative in Chapter 11 of Bowlby's book references the response of a child to the separation or loss of mother-figure. In this chapter Bowlby discusses alternative theories that link the reader to revelations vis-a-vis a child's tie to his mother. He quotes Freud: "…A woman's strong dependence on her father merely takes over the heritage of an equally strong attachment to her mother" (Bowlby, p. 177). Freud goes on -- "Everything in the sphere of this first attachment to the mother seemed to me so difficult to grasp in analysis…" (Freud, 1931, quoted by Bowlby).

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TOPIC: Thesis on Theories What Are the Explanations for the Assignment

The author asserts at the outset that psychoanalysts agree that the very first human relationship is the "foundation stone of his personality" -- however, there is "as yet" no firm agreement among psychoanalysts on "the nature and origin of that relationship" (p. 177). Prior to 1958, there were four principle theories to explain the child's attachment to his mother (Bowlby uses the male gender). One, since the child has physiological needs (food, warmth) that attachment to mother is based on gratification and necessity (the theory of "Secondary Drive"); two, in infants there is "an in-built propensity to relate themselves to a human breast" -- to suck it and "possess it orally" ("Primary Object Sucking" theory); three, since humans as infants have a propensity (built in) to cling to a human independent of food, this is called "Primary Object Clinging"; and four, infants resent being pushed out of the womb and are trying to get back in there ("Primary Return-to-Womb Craving") (Bowlby, p. 178).

Of these four, Bowlby believes that the most widely accepted theory was the "Theory of Secondary Drive," but in this edition of his book he puts forward his own hypothesis that he says is based on the "Theory of Instinctive Behavior." It is clearly important to understand the psychology of the human dynamics that go into the beginning stages of attachment prior to relating to a later incident of loss. For Bowlby, the hypothesis postulates that a child's tie to his mother "is a product of the activity of a number of behaviour systems that have proximity to mother" as an outcome that is very predictable (p. 179).

No easy or succinct statement as to the child's progress during the first year can be offered with credibility, Bowlby contends. But in the second year of a child's life, when he is moving about and exploring the house on his own, "typical attachment behaviour is almost always seen." The various stimuli -- such as mother leaving the house, or a sharp sound or bright light -- are activated at that time. Sound, sight, and the touch of his mother are the key sensations for the child in his second year.

By the third year, attachment to mother is less urgent, and food and eating play just a minor part in the development of the child. The old version of Bowlby's attachment theory held that five behavior patterns -- sucking, clinging, following, crying, and smiling -- contributed heavily to attachment. But in his updated theory -- while those five patterns still have enormous importance -- it is "postulated that between the ages of about nine and eighteen months" those five patterns become incorporated into "far more sophisticated goal-corrected systems" (Bowlby, p. 180). Bowlby describes his theory as a "control theory of attachment behaviour."

When ducklings and ducks, and swans and cygnets, paddle the lake together the observer takes it for granted that the mother and babies will stay together. Bowlby writes that this behaviour has two key components: one, the young maintains proximity to another animal (which just happens to be its mother) and "restores" the proximity when something comes between the two; and two, the "specificity of the other animal" (again, in this case it is the mother). Instinctive behaviour dictates that a parent will know its young from any other animals, even within a few hours of hatching the eggs. So his point (p. 181) is that parent and young behave "towards each other in ways very different from the ways in which they behave towards all other animals." This leads to Bowlby's attachment theory -- also called "caretaking behaviour" (p. 182).

The author reviews the attachment experiences of deer, geese, sheep, apes, chimpanzees, baboons, gorillas and monkeys and reports that because the human infant is "born so very immature" and takes a long time to develop (unlike animals species), there is a very different kind of attachment. On page 202 Bowlby states that there are great differences between existing studies as to how long the period of a child's development runs; and in fact in any one child's situation, the attachment behavior can be remarkably dissimilar from another child of the same age. Variables -- some organismic and some environmental -- can be radically different with any one child when it comes to the intensity and consistency relative to attachment (p. 202). The behaviours can vary not only day-to-day but also "hour-to-hour" according to the author.

Organismic behaviours include fatigue, hunger, unhappiness and illness (which can lead to crying); environmental factors are usually considered those when the child is alarmed by some noise or event within the child's living space. These factors provide the ingredients for researchers to input when studying the attachment of children to mothers in a variety of settings and cultures. Interestingly, Bowlby reports that "all the variables reported" to have influence regarding the intensity of attachment in human infants "in the short-term are similar to monkeys and ape infants (p. 203). It is a given in mother-to-infant relationships that when she puts the child down for a nap or when she temporarily disappears from sight the child will protest (cry, whine, etc.). But by the third birthday the child is far better at accepting mother's absence and being in a new place is not nearly so upsetting (Bowlby, p. 205).

During adolescence a child's attachment to mother or either of the parents -- in most cases -- naturally becomes less intense. There are "extremes" however, and the extreme that is germane to This paper is the extreme in which the adolescent remains "intensely attached or unwilling to direct their attachment behaviour to others" (p. 207).

Death of a Parent

In Bowlby's Volume III (Loss) of Attachment and Loss, he discusses several studies of children who had lost a parent -- and the research available to Bowlby was mostly related to the loss of a father rather than a mother. That said, on page 310 Bowlby expresses the thought that those who lose a parent by death. During childhood or adolescence "are at greater risk than others of developing psychiatric disorder, and more especially, of becoming seriously suicidal and/or psychotically depressed should they do so."

A Hilgard study referenced by Bowlby included a survey of one hundred individuals whose ages ranged from 19 to 49, and all had lost a parent prior to the age of 19. None of those interviewed were under psychiatric care. One problem that surfaced with 9 cases was the mother had "manifested an emotional dependency on their children, particularly the sons" (p. 314). Some of those sons believed that had been transformed (by the mother) into a substitute husband. Those males had either remained unmarried until the mother died, or they had married "but later had divorced and returned to stay with mother." One mother in this particular group of 9 cases had threatened to commit suicide when the son announced he was to be married.

On page 202 the author discusses "disordered mourning" -- mourning that is the result of psychological issues prior to the passing of the loved one -- and references Freud; persons who develop a "depressive disorder" after a loss may have been disposed "since childhood" to make anxious and ambivalent relationship with those they are fond of." Going farther, Bowlby describes those individuals mentioned in the sentence above as combining "a strong fixation to the love object" (Freud's words) with very little power to resist frustration and disappointment.

In other words, someone who has a strong emotion connection with a parent over many years will possibly feel "disappointed,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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