The evolutionary theory of attachment as proposed by John Bowlby (1907-1990) suggests that attachment, in terms of adaptation, is essential for survival. In order to progress healthily, children are born with an innate tendency to form attachments. This means that infants are pre-programmed to become attached to their caregiver. This is supported by the research of Lorenz (1952) in stating that imprinting is innate. Lorenz found that goslings imprinted on the first moving object they saw, no matter what it was, even if it was Lorenz.
Lorenz demonstrated that animals are not born with a pre-existing view of their parents (innate). This was shown when Lorenz divided two groups of gosling eggs, one stayed with their mother while the other group were put in an incubator until they hatched at which point the first thing they saw was Lorenz. This caused the incubated group to follow Lorenz while the other group followed their natural mother. This proved that the goslings followed whatever they saw first which they then believed to be their mother and imprinted on them.
Lorenz’s research shows that attachment may have evolved in many species in order to protect young animals and increase their likelihood of survival. The weakness is the use of noon humans in research, as because it is was conducted on birds it can be criticized for not being able to extrapolate the findings. This is due to the fact that animals do not share the same physiology and anatomy as humans. Therefore observations can’t be generalized. Another issue is the ethics of using non humans.
We have to question whether ‘the ends justify the means of breeding animals for the sole purpose of research’, such as Harlow’s monkeys, as they had issues with mating, peer relationships and caring for their offspring conventually. Monotropy which refers to his suggestion that infants form one social bond with the person who is most sensitive to their social releases (i. e. their caregiver). This bond or attachment is a two-way process which is referred to as reciprocal. Furthermore, Bowlby proposed that infants develop an Internal Working Model which acts as a template for future relationships.
This is based on the relationships between the infant and the primary caregiver. Finally, Bowlby also suggested that there is a critical period of 21/2 years where an attachment has to be formed. If not, the infant will experience social and emotional problems in late life. This theory can be both criticised and supported through studies carried out by several researchers. For instance; Konrad Lorenz (1952) was an ethologist who found that a group of goslings became attached to the first living thing they encountered. This immediate attachment is referred to as imprinting.
Lorenz’s findings suggest and support the idea of an innate drive to form an attachment. However, there is also the issue of extrapolation. On the other hand, a study which contradicts the theory was carried out by Schaffer and Emerson in 1964. They conducted a large-scale observational study and found that after a main attachment was formed, multiple attachments followed. This contradicts Bowlby’s suggestion of monotropy as there was more than one attachments formed. The study also has high ecological validity but can also be criticised as being prone to bias as the infants’ mothers kept the records.
When considering the Internal Working Model proposed by Bowlby, two studies can be used to support this concept. In 1987, Hazan and Shaver found a strong relationship between childhood attachment type and adulthood attachment type. In a more recent study, Black and Schutte (2006) found a similar result, which suggests that the relationship between child and caregiver does form a template for future relationships. It also strongly supports the continuity hypothesis concerning attachment experiences. Nevertheless, both studies depend on the memories of young adult and so, the accuracy