John Bowlby

John Bowlby (1907-1990). You’re gonna have to live with it… you need to know the name. And the date.

I wont bore you with the boring stuff about psychoanalysis because, overall, that’s not gonna help you at AS! Bowlby designed a theory of attachment that suggests we are “biologically prepared” to form attachments with others. He believed this became innate because of our need to survive.

You remember good old Lorenz, right? Discovered the idea of imprinting. Well, Bowlby thought that he was onto something!The difference being that he believed that it was instinctual and was activated by certain conditions. Learn these conditions:




Notice anything? Distress on separation is in fact one of the attachment behaviors.

It might not be that necessary to know those conditions but it wouldn’t hurt to put them in an exam. So, when a child fears, is separated from their caregiver or feels insecure it starts to cry and it will crawl. It will do anything to keep the caregiver nearby! These are known as social releasers. (1988)

It may also use operant conditioning (article needed) to keep the mother near. A smile will positively reinforce the mother into staying near the baby, whereas crying will negatively reinforce the mother into staying. Clever, eh?

All these words have probably got you in the mood for a good cry. No fear! I will outline the main points and what you need to know…here:

Main Points Of Bowlby’s Theory:

2. A child has a innate need to attach to one main attachment figure. This is known as monotropy.

It shows this attachment through behaviours known as social releasers (see above). Although Bowlby did not specify in certain terms how a primary caregiver (usually a mother) and child’s relationship is different, he believed that any later attachments formed would never be the same. He believed that if maternal deprivation occurred (deprivation of the mother, duh) then th child may experience affectionless psychopathy. Affectionless Psychopathy means that the infant may show an inability for affection or concern for others in later life. An example of this may be that they show no guilt about performing antisocial behaviour.

2. A child should receive the continuous care of this single most important attachment figure for approximately the first 2 years of life.

Bowlby (1951) said that mothering becomes useless if not performed in the first 2 years of the infants life. This may suggest a critical period for infants and their mothers. He believed that if the attachment is broken the child may, and most probably will, experience long term maternal deprivation (e.g. Affectionless Psychopathy). This risk COULD continue until the age of 5.

3. Long Term Consequences of Maternal Deprivation

Learn these and their definitions:

  • Delinquency
  • Reduced Intelligence
  • Increased Aggression
  • Depression
  • Affectionless Psychopathy

4. The child’s attachment relationship with their primary caregiver leads to the development of an internal working model.

An internal working model is a “cognitive framework consisting of mental representations for understanding the world, self and others.” Or, in normal people words, it’s us. It’s how we see ourselves, how we react with others and how we see the world. (Bretherton and Munholland 1999) (LINK NEEDED).

There are 3 main features of an internal working model you need to know:

  1. A model of others being trustworthy.
  2. A model of the self as valuable.
  3. A model of the self as effective when interacting with others.


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1 Response to John Bowlby

  1. Suz Hd says:

    Hi, I am wondering if you could provide details of who wrote this, so that I can use for referencing in my essay please?

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