Ainsworth and Bowlby
Ainsworth and Bowlby described attachment as “a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space.”
They stated that attachment does not have to be reciprocal. One person may have an attachment with an individual which is not shared.
Attachment is displayed in 4 behaviours. These are researched by observing infants and so the examples will be about an infant and primary care-giver:
- Seeking proximity
- An infant will usually try to stay close to their carer. The most obvious behaviour of this is when a care-giver moves away the infant may crawl after in what the textbook calls a “hot pursuit”. The least obvious may simply be that the child will sit near the carer and periodically check to see if their care-giver is still there.
- An example from further on in life is to observe couples. A teenage couple are constantly around each other and close, if not skin to skin contact, is shown in public. Adults also display this although to a lesser extent because of the technology now available allows them to text each other and still feel proximity.
- Distress on separation
- A behaviour that is obvious among many infants being left with new people. The stereotypical example may be when a child is left alone and cries to get their parent to come back.
- This behaviour, in later life, can be observed at a train station when 2 people say goodbye presumably for a long period of time. They may cry or at least show signs of distress at the person they have this attachment with leaving.
- An unusual consequence of this can be seen in the “Strange Situation” experiment by Ainsworth. This is covered later.
- Joy on re-union
- This behaviour is also very apparent in infants. They will cling to their care-giver when they return and show obvious joy at their return.
- This behaviour is observed throughout life, as with distress on separation, at a train station. The classic movie scene of a passenger leaving the train and running into the embrace of another comes to mind.
- General orientation of Behaviour
- This is perhaps the least obvious behaviour of attachment. It can be seen when a care-giver is perhaps doing the washing up and may involve the child with this despite the fact that they do not need their help.
- Later on in life it becomes more difficult to observe this behaviour.