John Bowlby

John Bowlby, a British psychiatrist was the first to study attachment and has been called the father of attachment theory.  Bowlby believed that human infants like the infants in other animal species have a set of built-in behaviors called proximity-seeking and contact-maintaining behaviors; things that infants do like smiling, gazing into their parent’s eyes, cooing, and getting their parents to come closer and stay near them.  When infants can crawl or walk, they may follow their parent from room to room to keep them close.  Parents do this too.  They will go in and check on infants when they are sleeping to make sure that they are okay.  Bowlby believed that attachment is needed for the protection and survival of our species.  The attachment figure serves as a secure base from which the infant can go out and explore his/her environment.  As children get older, they explore farther away, knowing that they can always go back to the person to whom they are attached if needed (Berger, 2018; Bowlby, 1988; Feldman, 2014).  

“Attachment theory…revolutionized child-rearing methods.  (Now when I get to sleep beside my child’s bed as he recovers from an appendicitis operation, I thank John Bowlby.)  Today it is widely accepted that children have an absolute requirement for safe, ongoing physical and emotional closeness, and that we ignore this only at great cost” (Johnson, 2008, p. 18).  You can see the cost when we discuss internal working model and you can see the downsides of a poor quality of attachment when we talk about the different types of attachment.  Of course, the most extreme result would be an attachment disorder.

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Berger, K. S. (2018). The developing person: Through Childhood and adolescence (11th

ed.). New York, NY: Worth.   

Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base:  Parent-child attachment and healthy human development. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Feldman, R. S. (2014). Child development: A topical approach. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Johnson, S. (2008). Hold me tight: Your guide to the most successful approach to building loving relationships. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.