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Bowlby began his study of the attachment of children to their caregivers in the late 1940s. The observations clearly confirmed that early separation produced extreme distress in children and that there were significant long-term adverse effects on the chil-dren as a result of even relatively brief separations. These initial observations, combined with the fact that there was at the time no adequate theoretical framework for understanding the pro-found effects of separation, led Bowlby to research and formulate theories about attachment, separation reactions, related anxiety, depression and psychopathological processes originating in dis-turbances in attachment.
Bowlby’s major thesis was that the child’s tie (attachment) to the object, for which he preferred the term attachment-figure, is primary and instinctive (in the sense of instincts shared by humans and animals rather than in Freud’s sense of instinctual drives). This attachment is not secondary to the gratification of any drive. It is independent of the need for food and warmth and of any other striving. He strongly opposed the theoretical posi-tion that there is ever an early objectless state.
Bowlby went on to extend his observations of attachment behaviors and responses to separation across various cultures, citing anthropological observations. “No form of behavior is accompanied by stronger feeling than is attachment behavior. The figures towards whom it is directed are loved and their ad-vent is greeted with joy. So long as a child is in the unchal-lenged presence of a principal attachment-figure, or within easy reach, he feels secure. A threat of loss creates anxiety, and actual loss sorrow: both, moreover, are likely to arouse anger” (Bowlby, 1969, p. 209). For Bowlby, the unpleasurable affects of anxiety, grief and anger were secondary to the thwarting of attachment.
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