Attachment Theories and their Applications in the Practice of Social Service"My advice to mothers is not to miss an opportunity to show affection to their babies…" (Mary Ainsworth cited in Maurer, 1998 p. 1)IntroductionChanges in the life-styles of people may be considered as one of the important causes of stress and stress-related problems in the twenty-first century. Significantly, there has also been a rise in incidences of substance-abuse, molestations, divorce and single parents, necessitating the existence of a supportive system, knowledgeable and well-equipped in the concepts and practices social work, so as to reach out to the support-starved members of the society.
Appropriate education of social service practitioners and care-givers enable a caring and supportive relationship - devoid of criticism, with the client, for a smooth and efficient integration of field work management (Kadushin, 1992). Bennett & Saks (2006) have explicitly stated that not only does the study of Attachment theories offer a sold basis for the comprehension of important relationships, but it is also useful in understanding supervisory relationships in actual field work experiences (social services). This essay shall consider the Attachment theories, and analyze the various characteristics of attachment, and styles of attachment, the scales of measuring maternal sensitivity, and the usefulness of the research as a concept in providing therapeutic services by social service professionals.
The essay shall further cite one experience of social service seeker as an example. John Bowlby and Attachment TheoryThe emotional nature of relationship that human beings develop from the time of their birth is central to this theory. John Bowlby is the father of the ‘Attachment theory. ’ He explains the term ‘attachment as a "…lasting psychological connectedness" (Bowlby, 1969, p.
194) that existed between human beings. According to Bowlby (1953), the attachment formed at the initial stages of infancy by children towards their mother or the caregiver are powerful in nature, and have the potential to influence later stages of life of the child. It was Lorenz's (1952) research of imprinting in baby geese that inspired Bowlby to posit the Attachment theory (Pendry, 1998). Babies of human beings, just like animal babies, inherently possessed some behaviour that aided the infants to retain their parents’ close-by, and therefore increased the chances of getting protected in case of danger.
Even at the time of birth the child has built-in, albeit unconscious signals through which it is able to keep the mother’s attention, and proximity. The bonding is further strengthened into enduring affection by constant, continuous and sensitive attention given by the parent/mother, in a "warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his mother (or permanent mother substitute) in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment" (Bowlby, 1951, p. 13). In his work The Nature of the Child’s Tie to His Mother (1958) Bowlby states that by the end of a twelve month period "a strong libidinal tie to a mother-figure" (p. 1) is already in place in the child.
This relationship then becomes the secure foundation for the future. The internal depiction of this parent-child bonding within the child therefore becomes the internal working model for the child to unconsciously compose and assess a list of figures of who can be relied upon in the event of unfavourable, stressful, and threatening situations. Furthermore, this unconscious mental tabulation of the child then becomes the "basis of all future close relationships during infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adult life" (Pendry, 1998).