How Does Attachment Affect Behavior?
According to Bowlby (1969/1982), infants construct internal working models of how relationships work based on their experience with their own attachment figure. Although these models aren't conscious, they prepare the foundation for social and emotional development; guide how children see the world, other people, and themselves; and serve as templates for future relationships, including their relationships with teachers and peers.
Building on the work of Bowlby and Ainsworth, researchers have studied the effects of early attachment and these internal working models in both children and adults.
Children who are securely attached (Weinfeld et al., 1999) receive consistently warm, sensitive, and responsive care from a primary caregiver who enjoys their company. From this experience, they develop internal working models of other people who are there for them, and they see themselves as capable of eliciting whatever they need from their environment. They tend to have a positive view of life, know how to manage and express their feelings (Honig, 2002; Karen 1998), and possess good social skills, many friends, and high self-esteem, Because they are also good problem solvers who can ask for help when they need it, they do well in school (Howes and Ritchie, 2002). About 55 percent of children are securely attached (van IJzendoorn, 1995).
Children who are resistantly or ambivalently attached experience a different kind of care. Their primary caregiver responds to their signals unpredictably (Ainsworth et al., 1978), and because they can't rely on her to provide comfort and security, they develop internal working models in which others can't be trusted and they're unable to get what they need by themselves. It is no wonder that they become clingy, dependent, and demanding (Weinfeld et al., 1999), In longitudinal studies, L. Alan Sroufe and his colleagues (1983; Weinfeld et al., 1999) found that resistantly attached school-age children were angry, anxious, impulsive, and easily frustrated; and their low self-esteem made them an easy target for bullying. They often focus on the teacher, creating conflict in order to keep her attention (Howes and Ritchie, 2002; Karen, 1998). About 8 percent of children have the resistant/ambivalent attachment pattern (van IJzendoorn, 1995).
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