Barbara Tizard (1977) when studying children who had been institutionalised for the first few years of their lives and then adopted, found that most of the children in the study had no problems in developing normal attachments towards their adoptive families. Tizard’s view in contrast to Bowlby’s was that early deprivation experiences in childhood do not always have irreversible effects. If an intimate relationship develops within the adoptive family then secure attachments can be made after the critical period as emphasised by Bowlby and other researchers.
Micheal Rutter argued it was the cause of the separation and not the separation itself that correlates with anti-social behaviour e.g. it was not divorce that causes behavioural problems but the stress and unhappiness leading up to the divorce that leads to behavioural problems. Rutter argued it was also the length of the separation, and under what conditions the separation was done, gradually or traumatically, and how much interaction the child had with subsequent carers. He emphasised that maternal deprivation would not affect all children the same way anyway, individual temperaments would mean different reactions. He believed one of the reasons why family conflicts are so disrupting and impact so adversely upon children is that the problems experienced tend to be enduring (Rutter 1990).
Mary Ainsworth developed a method whereby a child’s behaviour is observed when reunited with their mother after a short separation. This is known as the ‘strange situation’ and became widely used to determine whether their attachment was secure or insecure. Ainsworth’s strange situation is used to measure Bowlby’s hypotheses that early relationship experiences affect later adult functioning. The strange situation procedure consists of eight three minute episodes that have been arranged so as to create increasing levels of stress for a child that will activate attachment behaviours that researchers can then observe. (British Journal Psychology 1997)
The resulting behaviour was used to classify the child into one of three categories. These categories are insecure avoidant attachment, secure attachment and insecure resistant attachment. Securely attached children were able to balance their need to explore the environment with their need for comfort and support from their caregiver in relation to their feelings of stress. Insecure avoidant attached children when stressed continued to explore the environment showing minimal need for comfort and support. The children who were classified as having insecure resistant attachments stop their exploration and return to their care giver show the maximum amount of attachment behaviours. (Ainsworth et al 1978) Main (1991) has since identified a fourth category that of the disorganised/ disorientated child.
Critics of the method used e.g. instigating great stress for children question its ethical viability and believe the behaviour displayed by the child may not represent their true behaviour, for example the child may be not be well that day. The method also fails to take account of different methods of child rearing. e.g. cultural. Critics also argue the studies fail to take account of a child’s natural temperament e.g. shyness. But Horowitz et al have been able to relate the different attachment styles to different types of interpersonal problems that may be beneficial when assessing foster placements as needs could be met specifically rather than generally.
Critics have asked the relevance of determining the strength of an attachment but Gross argues that if the purpose of bonding and attachment is for the child to feel secure in different environments, to move away from their mother literally and emotionally, increasing independence – detachment. (Gross 1996) For detachment to be successful attachments had to be secure to begin with.
Ainsworth (1977) found through many studies the factors influencing these attachments to be how strong the interaction is between mother and child. How supportive the mother is of independent play and how sensitive and emotionally expressive she is towards her baby are also important factors. The mother does not have to be involved with the caring of the infant full-time as Bowlby had emphasised if these key factors are evident in the relationship. (Blehar, Leiberman & Ainsworth 1977)
Contrary to Bowlby’s belief that children would suffer if separated from their mothers many studies (Caldwell Wright Honig & Tannenbaum 1970, Farran & Ramsey 1977, Kagan, Kearsley & Zelazo 1978) of children in nursery care, found the same proportion of secure as insecure attachments occurred, when compared, with children brought up entirely at home. But the nursery care had to provide certain key features to be successful.
The key features were found to be the same in all studies. In the caring environment there had to be quality care and a key person for the child to identify with and with whom a close interactive relationship could develop. But it can be argued that if separation from the main caregiver is acceptable as long as there is quality of care then this implies there must be non-quality care and how is this to be distinguished? What is quality care?