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The Attachment Theory

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The Attachment Theory

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Attachment theory is a psychological model, which attempts to demonstrate the long and short-term interpersonal relationship of human. However, the theory was not established as a general theory of relationship, rather it considers the specific aspects regarding the feelings of human being when their relationships are hurt and separated from loved ones or when they perceive a threat. The attachment theory is mostly applicable for the infants, who are attached to the caregivers. The attachment model of Bowlby and Ainsworth demonstrates infant’s behavior towards their attachment figure, during the time of separation and reunion (Bretherton, 1992). The theory assumes that attachment behaviors in infancy helps to shape the relationship, which people have in adulthood. Through the term “attachment”, the author tried to define the emotional bond developed within the child and his “primary caregiver”. One of the assumptions of the theory was that “attachment behavioral system was one of four behavioral systems that are innate and evolutionarily function to assure survival of the specie” (George & West, 2012). As the child interacts with the caregiver, the type and quality of the attachment evolves. The attachment status of the child towards the caregiver is dependent on the interaction between two individual as well as on the “state-of-mind of the attachment” of the caregiver. It has also been demonstrated in the theory that peers have significant influence on the personality of a child, as the child’s surrounding environment does.
The attachment theory explains the attachment of children during their development and how this attachment affects their life. The Attachment theory highlights that a growing child does not break former attachments; rather he learns to be more active or sovereign within past attachments and join the new attachments, which do not need a break with the past attachments. It assumes that individual people are a social being and one does not use other person for satisfying his drive. Thus, the assumptions of this attachment theory are related to the object relations theory (Brisch, 2012). This theory demonstrates the attachment styles in children. Based on the theory, children can be categorized into four groups, according to their behaviors. Previously, it was known that the mothers are the primary attachment figure to their children, but later, it was proved that children form similar attachment to both their mother and father.
In clinical practice, the attachment theory was used for treating the attachment disorder. Attachment disorder is a disease, where individual fails to establish normal attachments with the caregivers during the period of childhood. The result can be seen throughout the lifespan of the individual. In psychotherapy, communication is very important between patient and the psychotherapist. During the non-verbal communication, the therapist has to observe the non-verbal signs of a patient and interpret, according to which the appropriate interventions are made. It is one of the key element of establishing a therapeutic relationship with the patient, based on which the outcomes are expected. While working with the patients with mental health, I always try to attune myself to the “verbal and non-verbal signals” of the patient as well as I try to attune myself to my inner understanding. As a mutual regulation happens during the development of attachment between parent and child, the similar attachment process is developed within the caregiver and the patient during the development of therapeutic relationship with the client. Some non-verbal cues are picked up and processed for interpreting, but a reaction occurs nevertheless (Snyder, Shapiro & Treleaven, 2012). Thus, it is very important to be attuned to own internal emotion by the therapists. Similarly, the state-of-mind of the therapist is picked up by the patient and it will help them to reduce their anxiety or agitated behavior. The close attention towards the contingency process is complex for developing a good therapeutic relationship. According to the attachment theory, when a patient feels something positive by others, the patient feel a profound sense of being valued and understood properly, that helps to develop “positive feelings” related to the nearest relationships.
Though this theory helps to demonstrate the attachment patterns of children and adults, which also helped in some psychotherapy development, the theory have some weaknesses, based on which some criticism has been done. It has been criticized that, peers have wide influence on the child’s personality and thus he disagreed with the nurture assumption of the theory.  On the other hand, other scientist criticized that the attachment model has many limitations (Snyder, Shapiro & Treleaven, 2012). One limitation is that the attachment model is developed on the basis of behaviors occurred during the momentary separations, instead of developing during nonstressful situation. Another weakness of the model was that this model viewed mother as a primary attachment figure, where father or siblings can also have similar attachment patterns, as proved in later researches.
Reference List
Bretherton, I. (1992). The origins of attachment theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. Developmental psychology, 28(5), 759.
Brisch, K. H. (2012). Treating attachment disorders: From theory to therapy. Guilford Press.
George, C., & West, M. L. (2012). The Adult Attachment Projective Picture System: attachment theory and assessment in adults. Guilford Press.
Snyder, R., Shapiro, S., & Treleaven, D. (2012). Attachment theory and mindfulness. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21(5), 709-717.

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