Bowlby’s theory and adoption

John Bowlby defined attachment from an ethological perspective as the emotional bond between an infant and the primary caregiver(s).   An emotional bond quite vital to the child as the book continues on to say that the it is an ‘evolved response that promotes survival.’  Bowlby expresses the importance of an ‘internal working model,’ or a set of expectations of the availability of attachment figures, their likelihood of providing support during times of stress, and the self’s interaction with those figures.’  We know because of class that the internal working model is a critical step to babies and ultimately determines much of baby’s social interactions. This is a platform for an infant throughout childhood with which the child might safely and excitedly experience the world.

Bowlby continues his research with the four phases of Attachment:

  1. Pre-attachment phase
  2. Attachment in the making phase
  3. Clear-cut attachment phase
  4. Formation of a reciprocal relationship

In class we discussed the vitality of each of these phases in further detail.  One major aspect of each phase was the absence or presence of  “separation anxiety,” this being the case that the child becomes upset when the caregiver with which the child has attached to, leaves.  This occurrence can be mended upon the caregivers return, but what might happen if they never do?  Imagine, for example, the case of an international infant adoption.  Many infants in these circumstances are not placed in their adoptive families’  home until the child reaches one year of age.  This, of course, interferes with Bowlby’s four phases on multiple levels.   A child under such circumstances might have been cared for by the child’s birth parents, or possibly similar conditions for an entire year , and might have already formed a  “Clear Cut” attachment with a caregiver, thus producing a somewhat negative affect on the child once the child is then placed in the adoptive home, OR the child might have faced much less sensitive circumstances in which the child was in a caregiving unit thus preventing a solid “attachment” with any one caregiver.

Interference with this particular relationship at the child’s such particularly fragile stage of life, could potentially damage a future relationship not only with the parent, but later with siblings, adults, strangers and friends.  Although an adoption does not always face such conditions, it is certainly more difficult for the child and parent to reach the  “Formation of a reciprocal relationship” when interference is evident.

Kellie Gibson

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~ by alicefairinloveandwar on September 27, 2009.

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