The Importance of Early Emotional Bonds: Attachment Theory
The attachment theory was pioneered by John Bowlby, an English psychiatrist and Mary Ainsworth, an American psychologist. The theory focuses on the bonds and relationships between people especially parents and children.
In his theory, Bowlby sought to show that formation of early emotional bonds had lasting effects on human beings. Previous psychological theories suggested that attachment was a learned behavior. These theories stipulated that attachment occurred between a child and a caregiver during feeding. The caregiver provided nourishment for the child and the child became attached to the caregiver.
Over time, Bowlby had noticed that children became highly distressed and anxious when they were separated from their primary caregivers in spite of being fed. Bowlby posited that attachment depended on the interaction between the child and the environment to which the child is exposed.
Why bonding is important? Bonding is responsible for:
Shaping future relationships
Scientific studies of the brain have established that bonding plays a major role in shaping relationships. These studies have established that people who were unable to establish early emotional bonds with a significant person experience difficulties communicating with other people in their work or love lives when they grow up.
In the 1980s, Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver extended the attachment theory in the field of social psychology to adult romantic relationships. They found that adults who had secure attachments with caregivers in their childhood had a positive perception of themselves, their relationships and their partners. Such adults were comfortable with intimacy and independence.
On the other hand, adults who were unable to establish healthy attachments were overly dependent, impulsive and showed low emotional expressiveness. These adults tended to suppress their feelings and avoided close relationships.
Ability to communicate effectively
All infants experience a bundle of emotions intense − fear, joy, fear and anger. The emotional attachment that develops between a child and a caregiver is the first interactive relationship and depends heavily on non-verbal communication. When a child bonds effectively with a caregiver, he/she is able to relate and interact easily with people throughout their life. This is because the child was able to establish a foundation for all verbal and nonverbal communication during the early years.
People who bonded effectively with their caregivers in the early years are confident and find satisfaction in the presence of others. They are also able to deal with discouragement, disappointment and misfortune better compared to people others who had unhealthy attachments.