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Bowlby Attachment Theory: How to teach children to love?

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Before love, there is satisfaction. Satisfaction is a love seed. From that seed, attachment germinates and love develops.

Let me explain … Namely, babies, in the beginning, feel only disturbance and satisfaction. Over time, disturbance develops in anger, disgust and fear. On another side, satisfaction develops in excitement, favour and many other positive emotions among which is love. So, in order for children to love their parents, parents must satisfy their needs while they are helpless babies. On that way, parents develop the attachment of their babies which are crucial for their socio-emotional development. Bowlby Attachment Theory explains that by pointing out the importance of babies’ attachment to persons for all further relationships that babies will establish with other people later.

Explanation of Bowlby Attachment Theorybowlby attachemnt theory

Edward John Mostyn Bowlby was a British psychologist which are famous as a pioneer of attachment theory. Here, in gratitude for his discovery which is important for psychology, pedagogy and many other sciences, I will call this theory Bowlby Attachment Theory.

According to Bowlby Attachment Theory, an attachment is a behavioural system that is defined as seeking and maintaining closeness to another person. Depending on the age, temperament and instant mood, babies are looking for an adult by smiling, calling or usually crying when they feel the need for closeness. When adults respond to these signals of babies by cuddling or smiling, babies calm down feeling satisfaction. And, from satisfaction, positive emotions will develop in meantime.

Therefore, babies are active participants in an interaction that results in attachment, although the development of attachment depends primarily on adults’ reaction to babies’ signals. Babies stimulate attachment between parents and them by expressing their needs. Adults stimulate the attachment with babies by meeting their needs. So, if a child needs someone to satisfy his/her needs, the child will cry or try to establish an interaction. 

From all mentioned, we can conclude that babies need closeness from the birth. Human touch and warmth give them consolation, security and love. The best proof is that babies try to reach out for the mother’s breasts when the mother place them on her chest, even though babies aren’t hungry. 

Phases of the attachment development in babies

Attachment in babies develops through 4 stages.

The first stage: Orientation and signals without discrimination of a person (up until the baby’s 8th week)

At this stage, babies show the need for touching, smiling and establishing eye contact with another person. That is why it shouldn’t be strange if a baby cries although all the baby’s physical needs are met. Babies cry when they want to establish contact with someone also, not just when they are hungry or have colic. When adults approach them, they calm down and express positive emotions. So, from the birth, babies show the need for attachment, but they are not yet attached to a particular person.1 stage

The second stage: Orientation and signals directed towards one or more people (up to the baby’s 7 or 8th month)

In it, children begin to react more strongly to people who are in contact with them every day. Through interactions with them, babies learn how to influence them. Also, babies get confidence that these people will respond to certain signals in a certain way. Of course, another person can stop the child’s crying and/or smash a smile at this stage, but there is a person who is best in that, usually a mother.

The third stage: Keeping proximity with a particular person (starts between the 7th or 8th month and lasts until the child’s 3 years)

By Bowlby Attachment Theory, in the third stage, attachment of baby to one particular person or multiple people has all components. About 9th months of age, about 75% of infants express intense signs of attachment for at least one person. After the first year, babies start to show attachment to at least two people (usually both parents).parents kiss a baby

Attachment of babies at this age is very important for the development of their learning. For example, when a mother is near to her child, the child explores the environment because she means the child’s safety database. If the child sees a new and unusual situation, he/she will come close to her mother for support. Also, the child will react to that phenomenon depending on the mother’s reaction.

In this stage, one of the indicators of attachment in babies is the fear of strangers. Infants begin to express separation anxiety if the person to whom they are attached is not in their vicinity. Fear of separation is growing by about the 15th baby’s month. It also shows the intense cognitive development of toddlersmore precisely, their memory. It develops so intensely that children become able to recall a person they don’t notice in their vicinity. After the child’s 3rd year, the intensity of attachment to one person begins to decline. 

Recommendation 

If you want to find interesting, useful facts and advice about establishing attachment with children at the age from 12th months to the 3rd year, I recommend you the book  Parent-Child Interaction Therapy with Toddlers. This book is a must-have resource for researchers, professors, graduate students in the fields of clinical child and school psychology, and many other professionals but and parents who want to know how to provide the healthy social-emotional development in children. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy with Toddlers

The fourth stage: Establishing attachment according to the goal (from the child’s 3rd year)

Through this stage, reciprocal relations develop. Children become aware of other’s feelings and motives, which leads to a higher level of interaction. Separation anxiety decreases because children begin more able to understand the reasons for an absence of the person to whom they are attached (work, travel, etc.) and to predict his/her return. They also begin to make attachments with an increasing number of people, such as grandfathers, educators,…



Attachments from cradle to grave

Bowlby attachment theory explains attachment as a feature of man through the ontogenesis. Namely, an attachment is a phenomenon that extends from “cradle to grave”. Thus, children need peers and socializing during the period of latency and school age. During adolescence, socializing and friendship with peers of both sexes develop. Later in adolescence, love partnerships develop. In the end, for adults, attachments mean reciprocal relationships between family members (e.g. granddaughter and grandparents,…).

attachment between three generations

At the end…

After all, Bowlby attachment theory gives us the conclusion that an attachment between adults and babies affects all following relationships that babies will establish with others during their lifetime. In fact, relationships between adults and babies affect all other interpersonal relationships in society. Therefore, if you want your baby to become a person who loves selflessly and shows love with self-confidence by respecting those who love him/her, firstly, you must express the love for your baby through proper care and closeness. If every parent establishes a secure attachment with their child, the result will be selfless love between all people of the world.

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