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Encyclopedia of Psychology Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, Editor-in-Chief

ATTACHMENT.

Bowlby, a psychoanalyst who was much impressed by ethological theories explaining the emotional communication between nonhuman infants and their parents, believed that infants had an innate capacity to emit signals to which adults were biologically predisposed to respond. He began with the assumption that, during the early phases of human evolution, survival depended on the infants’ ability to maintain proximity to protective adults.

Infants come to focus their bids for attention on a small number of familiar individuals, and the process of attachment formation involves four developmental phases: indiscriminate social responsiveness (first and second months): discriminating sociability (2 to 7 months): maintenance of proximity to a discriminated figure (month seven through the second year): and goal-corrected partnerships (year 3 on).

Smiling is another signal that powerfully affects adult behavior: it enters the baby’s repertoire in the second month of life. Smiles encourage adults to stay near the baby in order to prolong rewarding interactions. whereas cries encourage adults to approach in order to terminate signals that they find aversive.

For example, young infants appear able to distinguish and prefer their own mother’s voice and smell from those of other mothers within the first two weeks of life (Porter, Bologh, & Makin, 1988).

First, they learn the rule of reciprocity-during social interactions, partners take turns acting and reacting. Second, babies learn that they can affect the behavior of others in a consistent and predictable fashion. Third, babies learn trust, because their parents can be counted on to respond when signaled.

Young children implicitly assume that others perceive the social world the same way that they do. One implication is that children under about 7 years of age may be limited in the ability to empathize and take the perspectives of others.

Main and her colleagues (George, Kaplan, & Main, 1985) have also developed the adult attachment interview (AAI) to assess adults’ ability to integrate early memories of their relationships with parents into overarching working models of relationships. According to Main, these working models fall into one of three categories, with adults classified as autonomous (free to evaluate their early attachment relationships), dismissive of their attachment relationships, or preoccupied with their attachment relationships. Autonomous adults appear more sensitively responsive to their infants than are adults in the dismissive and preoccupied groups, and their children are more likely to be securely attached.


Tags: encyclopedia of psychology
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