Attachment

We recently celebrated mother’s day. A day to cherish women that not only went through the process of child birth, but also the mothers that have lost a child, adopted one or yearn to have one. A day to remember the mothers that are no longer with us, those that have just taken their first steps on the journey that is motherhood, the foster mothers, the step mothers and the single mothers. All of them equally special and deserved to be celebrated.

The bond between a mother and child is considered to be one of the most pure, unbreakable bonds. That bond is called attachment. Attachment as defined by Bowlby is the positive emotional connection between the child and mother. One of the very first observations made regarding the attachment between a perceived mother and a child was done by Konrad Lorenz. He did an experiment in which he took a large amount of goose eggs, and kept half in an incubator, and half under the mother goose, making sure that he was the first moving object encountered by the goslings that hatched in the incubator. He observed that the naturally hatched goslings followed their mother, whereas the incubator hatched ones would follow him around. He called this process imprinting. Imprinting is the behaviour which involves the attachment to the first moving thing that is observed by the new born. This process suggests that attachment is innate and programmed genetically.

Another interesting experiment was the Strange Situation experiment in which Mary Ainsworth measured the attachment between a caregiver and child through a series of actions. She theorized on 4 types of attachment patterns:

  •  Secure attachment pattern: A style of attachment in which children uses mother as a home base. Children are at ease when the mother is present and the child gets upset if she leaves.
  • Avoidant attachment pattern: A style of attachment in which child does not seek proximity to the mother. If the mother leaves, the child avoids her when she returns. This might be a result of a neglectful or abusive caregiver.
  •  Ambivalent attachment pattern: A style of attachment in which children display a combination of positive and negative reaction to their mother. This might be a result of unavailability of the caregiver when in need.
  •  Disorganized- disoriented attachment pattern: A style of attachment in which the children show inconsistent behaviour, often contradictory behaviour. This might outcome is observed when the caregiver is source of both comfort and fear. 
Check out this short video explaining the Strange Situation in detail!

According to studies, the attachment styles that we develop early on in life are usually carried over to other relationships that we form across our life span, however this does not mean they aren’t flexible or open to change. Life changing events in our life do have the potential to change one’s attachment style and the way we go about in our relationships.

A mother in any form, is the most important individual in a person’s life. That bond plays a huge role in the way we build our other connections, and also the way we see ourselves. Go hug your mother after reading this, thank her for being her, as I do the same!

Take it easy,

Monali

References:

Kirkpatrick, L. A., & Hazan, C. (1994). Attachment styles and close relationships: A four‐year prospective study. Personal relationships1(2), 123-142.

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