Exploring the Attachment Theory: Can Your Infant Attachment Style Predict Your Approach to Romantic Relationships? (Part 1)-A A +A
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
AHH, yes, the big, complicated, thorny world of love and romantic relationships...this, we're all at least a bit interested in, and most, if not all of us would rather go through it unscathed-thus, the attempt to understand as much of its intricacies as humanly possible.
Psychology, of course, has all but shied away from studying the whats, whos, whens, hows and whys of this "many-splendored thing."
One of the most widely studied facets of romantic love from the psychological perspective is how early childhood experiences may affect the way one interacts and forms romantic relationships with others later on in adult life. Can infant-mother interactions and attachments early in life significantly influence how one seeks and deals with romantic relationships later on?
To gain insight as to how this question might be answered in relation to your personal life, you'll need a little help from your mother, father, or anyone else who spent time watching you when you were just a baby.
Ask them these two questions: When you were around a year old, how did you react when you were left alone with a stranger or someone who was not your usual caregiver? And upon the return of your primary caregiver (meaning the person who primarily took care of you, usually the mother in most cases but may also be another family member or an unrelated person), how did you interact with him or her?
In 1978, developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth and her colleagues conducted a study that involved placing infants in such situations and then systematically observing their responses. By exposing infants to stresses such as being in the presence of a stranger and being separated from their primary caregivers, the study shed light on individual differences in infants' styles of attachment. "Attachment" means an emotional bond formed between two people; in this study meaning the bond between the infant and the mother or other familiar caregiver.
Here's how Ainsworth's experiment went: In what came to be famously known as the Strange Situation procedure, a mother brings her infant (12-18 months old) into an unfamiliar playroom and plays with him or her for a short while. Then a stranger comes in and attempts to play with the infant as well, first with the mother still in the room and then alone with the baby as the mother leaves. After three minutes, the mother returns to the playroom and plays with her baby again.
From this experiment, Ainsworth identified three categories of infant attachment styles based on the infants' reactions to the situation:
A. Secure Attachment Style
The infant cries, protests, or becomes visibly upset when the mother leaves, but happily welcomes her back and plays with her again upon her return. The infant may be comforted by the stranger in the mother's absence, but clearly prefers the mother to the stranger. A large majority (around 60%) of the infants in the study exhibited this attachment style.
B. Ambivalent-Insecure Attachment Style
The infant loudly protests and becomes extremely distressed when the mother leaves the room, and is especially wary of strangers even when the mother is present. Upon the mother's return, the infant is not easily soothed and may show conflicting behaviors of wanting to be comforted by the mother by seeking close contact with her, but at the same time wanting to "punish" her for leaving and thus either passively rejects or openly shows anger against her.
C. Avoidant-Insecure Attachment Style
The infant shows little to no distress when the mother leaves, and displays no particular preference between the mother and the stranger. Although the infant may not directly reject attention from the mother when she returns, the infant also does not actively seek contact with her upon reunion and may instead continue to play with the toys in the playroom.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 04, 2013.