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Small child being hugged and comforted by an adult

Attachment Theory

Attachment theory is broadly seen as a theory of personality development arising out of Bowlby’s work on children’s development.

Attachment behaviour is a biological response designed to get children into close relationships with, particularly, adults. As such it can be viewed as a self-protective strategy designed to elicit protection and comfort from a caretaking figure.

Being in a close relationship with one or more adults brings a number of potential benefits to the child. A supply of food can be protected. It provides a safe, protective environment for the vulnerable infant, particularly when the child experiences physical or emotional upset, anxiety, fear or danger. Equally important it offers an experience in which the child can learn about and become able to handle the social world. And as language facilitates communications about such experiences and exchanges, the child will learn to speak and pick up the cultural habits and expectations of his or her community.

The development of social and emotional understanding is crucial if children are to become effective and competent socially. In terms of children’s psychosocial development it is extremely beneficial for them to be in relationships where they can develop clear models of interpersonal life.

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This article is from the free online course:

Caring for Vulnerable Children

University of Strathclyde