Attachment and Development

Attachement et développement


Psychological development can be described in different aspects: physical, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, or intersubjective. These different aspects are closely intertwined and interactive. The attachment theory focuses on the emotional relationships, specifically on aspects of these relationships that affect the need for security. The study of the ontogeny of attachment behavior presupposes to consider simultaneously the impact of changes in attachment relationships on other aspects of development, and the developmental transformations on attachment relationships.

Attachment and DevelopmentIt is interesting to note that historically, the word “development” has a spatial sense, describing “the action unfold, unfold what is wrapped on itself.” Only in a second time he took a time value denoting “action to evolve and flourish.” The attachment theory is a spatial theory: when I’m around that or that which I am attached, I feel good; when I’m away I feel anxious or sad. The attachment is through sight, hearing, touch, that provide soothing, sense of security, and it is this feeling which then allows to move away, to explore.

Bowlby built his theory from the mother-child bond, following its comments on the reaction of the child to separation and relying on those of Mary Ainsworth.

Theories of shoring that prevailed at the beginning of its work, whether from psychoanalysis or learning theory, describing the development of the link as a result of maternal gratification, oral first.

In these designs, the only primary needs were those of the body. The work of ethologists, especially those of Lorenz on the footprint, Bowlby led to the hypothesis of a primary attachment behavior, active from birth, capable of binding the child to his mother, who would a fundamental component of human nature. He later gradually developed a theory of behavioral systems, particularly the attachment behavioral system. It aims to explain the formation of emotional bonds related to the sense of security throughout the development, not only between mother and child but also between adults.

This theoretical development owes much to psychoanalysis and ethology, but it is a large eclecticism and also uses concepts from cybernetics theory of regulation, systems theory, neurophysiology, the developmental psychology and cognitive psychology.

Ethology come the arguments that social behaviors are instinctive dimension, and tools to observe the relationship experimentally. Psychoanalytic theory (particularly the theory of object relations) comes the notion of an internal world of representations of themselves, others, and the relationship between oneself and others, and the idea that these representations may be distorted by immaturity or fantasies.

For Bowlby, attachment would become the characteristic of a large number of species, and humans in particular, during evolution, because of its biological function of protection (ontogenetic adaptation). Maintaining proximity to the attachment figure reduces hazards in the environment, mainly those represented by pests, and thus contributes to survival. Attachment relationships and exist for themselves, but nevertheless are interacting with the links created by feeding and sexuality.

Based on a cybernetic theory of instinctive behavior ethologists outcome of works, mainly Harlow Hinde and Bowlby suggested that attachment behavior, like all instinctive behaviors, rapidly intervene in the development of self-adaptive systems based on feedback mechanisms.

This is the concept of behavioral homeostasis. These behavioral homeostatic systems continuously maintain the distance, real or symbolic as the stages of development, from the attachment figure within certain limits. Bowlby proposed analogy with the temperature control by a thermostat.

Thus, a key assumption is that Bowlby’s attachment is organized within the central nervous system with a control system, similar to those that regulate physiological parameters such as temperature or blood pressure.

The attachment behavioral system gathers and organizes all the signal behavior and approach whose result is to obtain or maintain proximity vis-à-vis a given individual, individual for whom there is a preference and is most often the mother during the years of absolute dependence.

This system develops in the first months of life. From birth the baby is able to enter a social interaction, and shows a lot of fun doing it. During the first weeks, it already shows a large number of constituent reactions to what will become the attachment behavior. However, this behavior can actually be organized into a system, compared to a figure discriminated, when the child has the cognitive ability to keep his mother in mind when absent, capacity which develops during second half of life. It is from the age of 9 months that organized system is set up to achieve a typical form in the second year. It is activated by the departure of the mother or any alarming situation, and it ceases to intervene when the child can see, hear or touch her mother. After the age of 3 years, enabling this behavioral system is less frequent and deactivation is made possible by a range of increasingly broad terms, sometimes merely symbolic.The child requires less often physical proximity, outside stress.

Gradually, more than the actual presence of the attachment figure, are the forecasts for the availability of this figure, integrated form of mental representations (internal working models: MIO), who will play the lead role of regulation sense of security. Given these changes, the attachment behavior will persist throughout life.

These are the experiences with attachment figures from infancy, through adolescence, that determine the form in which the behavior of adult attachment.

This is an essential point of Bowlby’s theory, which considers the attachment pattern of an individual is shaped by the attitude of his parents and then tends to persist, becoming a quality suitable this individual, and impregnating her new relationship.

To account for the persistence of attachment scheme in a given individual, Bowlby uses the concept of MIO, self-models and parents. These are mental models built in the early years, from the generalization real experiences of the subject with her attachment figures, which will persist even when circumstances will change.

Number of emotion among the most intense would be linked to the future of this attachment link. Its continuation or renewal cause joy and sense of security, its rupture causes anxiety, if temporary, grief if it is final.

According to Bowlby, pathology results from a deviant path of attachment behavior, which most often is the cause of too frequent activation of this behavior, realizing what he calls anxious attachment. The most powerful forms of attachment behavior then occur frequently. The protest performing anxious pathologies such as school phobia or agoraphobia.

Despair appear as depression, which can occur in the same way easier and more prolonged in some patients face loss situations due to their previous attachment disorders.

Attachment and Development:

Development, function and instinctive behavior of attachment:

Conventionally, a behavior is described as instinctive when it consists of a sequence of similar conduct in all members of the same species, it appears that there was no possibility of learning, and that has survival value for the species.

The opposition between the innate and instinctive one hand, the learned and acquired the other hand, however, seems too simplistic. Any biological nature, whether morphological, physiological, or behavioral, is the product of the interaction of genetic material with the environment. So there is a continuum from what is entirely innate to what is only acquired the two extreme positions are also rare.

Bowlby, taking terminology Hinde, therefore prefers to speak of the degree of stability with regard to the environment, usually described as innate characteristics being the most stable.

Instinctive behavior is characterized by high stability, but it is not so far fully inherited: what is inherited is the potential that develops certain behavior systems.

The most evolved species in the phylogeny such as the human species are those where the field of possible changes in behavioral programs inherited under the influence of the environment is the greatest. If this gives them great flexibility, counterparties are the length and the risk of deviations in their development.

Instinctive behavior can be understood with reference to its contribution to the survival of the species (or survival of the genes in a formulation into account the progress of the theories of evolution) in its natural habitat, Bowlby called “evolutionary adaptétude of environment.” For man, it is the primitive natural environment which operated as a selection agent. Only the contribution to the conservation of the population in this environment can therefore help to understand the behavioral systems as manifested in modern humans.

In this perspective, the main function of attachment behavior in humans, including the period of immaturity is extended, would protect against predators. To support this hypothesis, Bowlby relies on three arguments: a single animal is more likely to be attacked by a predator an animal that stays with other dogs;

the behavior of attachment intensifies in animals, because of their age or condition are more vulnerable: small, large and female patients; Finally, this behavior is particularly active in situations where a predator is feared.

Note that the proximity of the parent has many other beneficial aspects for the survival and development of children, as it allows the feeding, learning environment, learning and social interaction.

Currently assumptions Fonagy of Trevarthen, and Stern also show the fundamental role of active maintenance of proximity in the development of mentalizing and inter baby. It also seems that the attachment behavior plays a major role in a number of physiological regulations, which can not be provided independently from birth, such as temperature, heart rate. This explains why the somatic expression is favored in the baby, which depends on the other for its regulation, and builds a link between physical sensations, sense of self and its relationship to the other, without indicating why the forms it takes.

The importance of these different transactions facilitated by the proximity of course varies depending on the time of development.

The role of physical protection for example is probably less leading from adolescence, even as parents continue to play a major role in what we might call the psychological protection of their child, the regulation of emotions and the refinement of its mentalizing abilities.

Ultimately though, is vis-à-vis protection of predators appears to give the biggest benefit in terms of survival. Without this protection, the feeding is unnecessary and learning can be set up.

A key question concerns the effects of attachment on development. Psychoanalytic theory emphasized the lasting effect on the mental development of early relationships. In the same way that Freud had thought the relationship to the mother as a “unique, unparalleled, and appearing as the prototype of all subsequent relationships,” a close and warm relationship with parents promotes mental health and well-being of life. The differences in the safety of the mother-child attachment and have long-term consequences on the ability to conduct intimate emotional relationships for the ability to know oneself, and even the occurrence of psychopathology. With the development of the evaluation of the security of attachment by the strange situation of Ainsworth, this assertion has been tested in a series of longitudinal studies beginning in the 1970s, with the idea that the security of the attachment predicts better operation in various fields. The attachment theory offers several reasons to believe that security plays a role in the later development. The first is the nature of MIO: MIO are representations in development, or rather, they are a network of representations that emerge sequentially and interactively based on age. This concept of internal working model implies a prediction: Secures the individuals tend to expect to be treated with sensitivity and respect, and past experiences make them behave with others in an open and positive manner. In contrast, insecure individuals expect less help and support from each other, and may feel unworthy of loving care. These are according to Bowlby MIO filters, mostly unconscious, and that shape relationships, social experiences and the sense of self. They provide implicit modes making in relationships with others that will confirm, for better or worse, the expectations of the individual. These representations tend to be perpetuated, because of biases inherent in their operation, and because these expectations trigger in the parent or other complementary modes of response that will anchor it and perpetuate it, in the same way as if confirms the temperament of a child based on the care it receives. There is therefore a natural continuity between early attachment and subsequent operation because of the stability of ME. Understanding how representations of attachment become more complex and consolidated is essential to grasp how the security of attachment predicts subsequent operation.Moreover, security of attachment may have different effects at different ages, and its importance can vary depending on age where security is critical.

Another important aspect is that of the evolutionary adaptétude, which collects the attachment behavior as a species-specific system that promotes child survival. This view of attachment security as ontogenetic adaptation gives another perspective on the association between infant attachment and subsequent development. But to the extent that many intermediate influences can play in that relationship, theoretical developments are needed before you can test the actual value of attachment as ontogenetic adaptation.

Longitudinal studies on attachment suggests the security interest in peer relationships, self-esteem, the ability to concentrate. They have given rise to the idea that secure attachment was direct and powerful relationship with a variety of psychological effects on development, but the impact between attachment security and subsequent operation is modest when the empirical and longitudinally evaluated, and the future of secure attachment is more dependent on the stability of external conditions that we thought. The attachment security actually predicted a number of positive aspects of development, but especially when the parent-child relationships are stable and low-risk environment. The security of attachment predicted foremost parentsenfant good relations, which instills competence in intimate relationships, but not necessarily sustainable. These two aspects of continuity and plasticity are compatible with the plasticity of the attachment process in infancy, before the consolidation of MIO in adolescence, but the strongest correlations between early secure attachment are found with current state of intimate relationships, or in the short term.

We must therefore specify the areas in which the influence of attachment seems strongest, pay attention to intermediaries influences, determine in which period the influence of attachment is sharpest among other types of parental influence, to clarify that the security of attachment predicted or not in development.

Attachment organization and development:

The attachment behavior refers to what is observable.

It is defined as any form of behavior that results in obtaining or regain closeness differentiated figure, for which there is a preference.

Two classes of behaviors favor the proximity of the mother signal behavior, causing the mother to child, and behavioral approach, which brings the child to the mother.

The attachment system gathers and organizes all of these behaviors. It does not constitute a set that would work constantly and consistently. Instead, there is a functional equivalence, that is to say, a variety of behaviors can serve the same function. A child ramp, walking or running is secondary to the goal assigned the movement, namely maintain proximity with the mother when necessary. Behaviors selected in a specific context are those that the child is most appropriate at a given time. This perspective allows us to account for the stability of the attachment system, despite the enormous developmental changes in infancy. A child can maintain stability of the attachment behavioral system in relation to his mother at the various stages of its development, using different types of specific behaviors. For example, while a child without mobility will likely cry and open arms to make contact, an older and more mobile child can achieve the same goal by crawling toward her.

The organization of behavioral systems mediating attachment occurs in two distinct modes: as they are modified or not depending on the goal. The simplest method of organization, “not rectified as to the purpose,” is typified by what is called a stereotypical pattern of Action (fixed pattern action). This is a more or less complex sequence of movements, which when enabled, follows a typical course to completion without being changed by an action in return for the environment.

Although similar to a reflex, the schema of stereotyped action is fundamentally different in that its activation threshold is variable depending on the state of the body. This type of system essentially depend on a pre-existing program in the central nervous system. Among the behaviors mediating attachment, cry and smile, for example, appear as stereotypical schemes of action.

More complex, and especially more flexible systems “rectified as to the purpose” are organized so that they continually take into account, by a feedback mechanism, the difference between the provisional result of the current action and goal assigned, until it is reached. Thus, from a repertoire of behaviors, the system chooses, every moment, the most appropriate of them to approach the assigned goal. Bowlby used the metaphor of self-guided missile with a heat source to illustrate this type of mechanism. These systems are the result of epigenetic processes, derived from the interaction between genome and environment, and also the learning process. Among the behaviors mediating attachment, call or locomotor behavior, for example, operate on a corrected way in purpose.

behavioral sequences that make up each system rectified as to the purpose can be organized according to several levels of complexity: by stereotypical chain or hierarchy in causal or strategy hierarchy.

In a chain system, when a sequence has been performed, a feedback mechanism ends the active and the next. Each sequence is corrected as to the purpose, but not the whole system.

In a system organized by causal hierarchy, the implementation of a sequence is determined by the importance of activating factors present at one time. The sequence that brings in as many or those with the greatest intensity will be activated. In this mode of organization is still every sequence that is corrected as to the purpose and not the entire system.

On the contrary, in the systems organized in hierarchy strategy, this is the set of behavioral structure, in which the various sequences are integrated, which is corrected on the purpose.

These organizations are not incompatible, and often they are associated. An increase in the chain organization to organization strategy hierarchy appears during development.

For systems organized in a hierarchy strategy can achieve the intended purpose, it is necessary that the individual has a knowledge of both the world around him and his own abilities. This implies that the security relies as much on exploration and extraction of information on the possibility of return to the base safely. More or less complex models are gradually being developed to transmit, store and manipulate information that can make predictions about how to achieve assigned goals.

This is another function of what Bowlby calls the MIO.

The individual will therefore constantly build and redesign during development of experimental models that allow him to predict the availability of the attachment figure, to make plans to get it, and explore its environment from the -this. It is the structure of these models which determines the confidence in the availability of the attachment figure. Initially, these models are directly related to the actual proximity to the attachment figure, but beyond the third year, it is mainly the forecasts as to its availability involved in the feeling of security.

The regularity of the behavior of attachment figures can organize gradually the interaction experiments “with diagrams of being” that can build expectations about the nature of interactions with the attachment figure. For example, the repeated experience of being hugged without intrusion after a fall led to expect that distress creates comfort and reassurance from the attachment figure (caregiver). These expectations are built into mental representations, the IMU, which synthesize generalizing the previous relational experiences. These models built in the early years from real experiences are both on the attachment figure and how it responds when asked; they also deal with the subject itself and its ability to attract the attention of the attachment figure. It is therefore self-models and others. A secure child will build a model of a sensitive mother, loving and reliable and a model of himself deserves that love and attention. Then it will export those expectations on most important relationships for him. Conversely, an insecure child perceive the world as a dangerous and unstable place, unpredictable in which people should be treated with caution, and perceive themselves as helpless and do not deserve to be loved.

And will be through the development of self-representation models and others resulting from the internalization of early relationships. For Stern (1985), emotions associated with experiences of interactions are not only integrated with expectations that emerge but would even have a dynamic role in this integration.

The originality in humans behavioral systems hierarchical and MIO which they are connected is to be organized by the language from the age of 2 years, which gives them a degree of great development. However, there is in these complex hierarchical organizations, which are far from instinctive behavior, simpler and more stable systems with regard to the environment.

According to Bowlby: “In infancy of man, most behavioral systems in working order are simple systems that integrate channels. As with the development, systems rectified in purpose become more apparent, the model of the environment and the organization’s model are developed and systems are organized in hierarchies strategies.

Selection of attachment figures:

Attachment behavior is oriented towards a particular figure: the notion of attachment figure. Anyone who engages in a lively and sustainable social interaction with the baby in the early months of his life, which responds quickly and significantly to its distress signals and its approaches to be comforted, is likely to become a figure attachment. If that’s most often the mother who becomes the first and primary attachment figure, this is not exclusive, any other person in this type of interaction with the child may also become.

Children have an innate tendency to focus more specifically on a figure, which means that a stable group of adults, a figure and only one will become the figure of privileged attachment: the concept of monotropisme. Initially, Bowlby explained this orientation towards a precise figure taking the analogy with the phenomenon of imprinting in birds, according to the model proposed by Lorenz. The primate studies, however, suggest that attachment, instead of being a phenomenon in all or nothing, either in mammals the result of a gradual process involving a genetically programmed to social learning development. If there does not exist a “sensitive period” as the phenomenon of the impression, however, is however between 8 weeks and 6 months is the most favorable period for the creation of primary attachment relationships . This has important consequences, particularly for adoption.

Activating factors and termination of the attachment system:

There are different modes of activation and termination of the attachment system. It is not a question, as in Freudian theory, an instinctual model, but a contextual model and the theory of the motivation behind the behavior is very different. The attachment does not belong to the child system clean, it is turned on and off by specific contexts. In designing Bowlby: “The termination is not due to the depletion of some clockwork mechanism or some psychic energy, but to a specific signal; a stream of cars stopped because there is a red light, not because the vehicles are gasoline short. “

Specific factors of attachment behavior activation in a child of 2 years there are:

• environmental factors: the distance from the mother, time in his absence and the appearance of alarming events;

• factors related to the state of the child: fatigue, hunger, disease, pain, cold.

The distance from the mother does not only mean physical distance. The way she behaves in the presence of the child can trigger the behavior of attachment without any distance. If the mother pushes her child, or the child feels that his mother is from, or has an attitude of withdrawal or if he sees the care of another child, it will tend to s ‘hold onto it.

From the third anniversary, the behavior of attachment is activated less frequently and with a lower intensity, at least in the Secure child. This change is related to the experience, which makes familiar many situations that initially cause the alarm. Therefore a characteristic of the development of attachment system is the restriction of the range of stimuli may activate.

termination conditions vary depending on the intensity of the activation. Thus only the physical contact with the mother will be able to end an intense activation, whereas when it is less strong, hear or see the mother may suffice.

termination conditions are also changing with age range of stimuli ending with attachment behavior is gradually expanding, especially in symbolic terms such as photographs, letters, telephone conversations. A very young baby in distress will be soothed by the rocking in the arms and voice; a child older than 3 years can be by his mother’s phone call.

In connection with the termination conditions, we speak of “objective assigned” (or set-goal) attachment behavior. This goal is the maintenance of close, but taking into account that the notion of proximity widens with cognitive development. This is physical proximity in the early years, whereas in children older than 3 years, adolescents and adults, it is the availability of the attachment figure becomes the “goal assigned “system. This notion of availability corresponds to the fact that the subject:

• trust in the fact that the lines of communication with the attachment figure are and will remain open;

• trust in the fact that physical accessibility is possible;

• trust in the fact that the figure will respond if called to help. This is the concept of “responsiveness” untranslatable except by a circumlocution: ability to respond.

It is the psychological accessibility. This is a more dynamic concept than sensitivity since it implies reciprocity, and an activity of the attachment figure.

Concepts such as the tuning of Stern or Fonagy of mentalizing process come close, and are also directly inspired.

The sense of security is the result of emotionally obtaining proximity or the availability of the attachment figure.

In connection with the concept of system-related context, the notion of inherent motivation is very important. It corresponds to the fact that there is an inherent tendency to the system to continue working from the moment it is activated. This means for example that children will focus on those who care for them, they fulfill or not their duties properly.

Relations with other behavioral systems during development:

The attachment theory suggests that there is in every individual a number of behavioral systems characteristics of a species. Each system uses a set of functionally equivalent behavior, and each behavior can be integrated in several systems.

Research work on attachment have focused on behavioral exploration systems, fear / alertness and sociability, all systems that are closely linked with the attachment system.

The biological function of the attachment system and fear system is the protection against a wide range of hazards.The biological function of exploration and sociability systems is to allow learning the necessary skills to survive by itself, either in terms of individual capacity or harmonious integration in the social group.

These four systems have a close relationship: each has its specific context activation, however there is dynamic balance between their workings, and these balances are changing during development.

We will only address the most important in terms of development: balance attachment / exploration on the one hand, balance attachment / fear on the other.

Attachment and exploration:

The links between the attachment system and the system of exploration is particularly close. For Bowlby, the scanning system provides a benefit in terms of survival because it enables the acquisition of information on how to “walk the world”.

The exploratory behavior of the function is to extract information from the environment. Behavioral systems that constitute the activated by novelty and completed by stimuli associated with the familiarity; the originality of this system behavior is to turn again familiar, and therefore the activation termination stimuli stimuli.

Note that this is almost the same stimuli that elicit the exploratory behavior in some cases and in other cases trigger the alarm, and the return of behavior to “secure base”.

According to Ainsworth, the dynamic balance between these two behavioral systems is even more important, in terms of survival, each of them in isolation. The concept of “safe base” initially formulated by Ainsworth reflects this balance.The child uses his attachment figure as a “secure base” from which it can engage in exploring its environment. Most children respond flexibly to specific situations, after evaluating the characteristics of the environment and the availability of the attachment figure. When the attachment system is activated (either because the child is separated from his attachment figure, tired, or in an unknown environment in which foreigners are) play and exploration decline.Conversely, when the attachment system is not activated (when he is not sick, he sat in a known environment, not too far from his attachment figure), exploration is increased. Thus attachment, far from restricting the exploration, stimulates. Bowlby believed that through the cognitive and emotional development of the child is the child’s confidence in the availability of the attachment figure more than its physical proximity that allows exploration, and it then remained valid throughout life. Thus at any age have a secure base is to have confidence in the fact that a particular person will be available to offer support, comfort and protection in case of distress. Numerous studies since, in which we experimentally manipulated the physical or psychological presence of the mother, confirmed the association between the availability of the attachment figure and exploration.

Some attachment strategies, say avoidant or replacement, are to regularly use this hyperactivation of exploration to disable attachment.

Attachment / Fear-vigilance:

For Bowlby, the fear of danger is part of the basic behavioral equipment produced by the effect of natural selection.

Bowlby opposes fear, which encompasses both what is typically covered by the terms of fear and anxiety, the sense of security.

Since there are security signs, there exists natural indications of danger, recognized as such because of genetic predisposition, not their intrinsic hazard.

Note that the test of “real danger” is not relevant to distinguish anxiety from fear. The main danger indices are natural strangeness, a sudden change of stimulation, a sudden approach, being alone. Fears such as fear of animals or fear of the dark would result from the simultaneous presence of several of these natural indices.

In these natural cues, sometimes modified by learning, quickly added during the development of cultural clues that the child discovered from observing the behavior of adults, children imitating their fear without always understanding behavior the danger is avoided.

During its development, the child recognizes first natural clues, then he joined the cultural clues, finally it manages to an individual assessment of the reality of the danger in different situations. This development follows the cognitive abilities, enables an estimate more realistic danger, but does not entail the disappearance of the effectiveness of the indices ‘indirect’, natural or cultural, in triggering the behavior of fear.

Face of danger, withdrawal, escape or avoidance can increase the distance to the subject of the threatening object.

The reduced attachment behavior, him, the distance to the protective purpose, the attachment figure representing a “safe haven.”

So tuck behavior and attachment behavior are two major and distinct behavioral components showing fear, with the same function of protection and similar stimuli. The emotional states associated with the activation of these two behaviors, although similar, are also distinct. The term “alarm” is proposed by Bowlby to describe the feeling that accompanies the leak, that of “anxiety” to describe the feeling that accompanies the unsuccessful search for the attachment figure.

The feeling of fear therefore include both alarm and distress in proportions that vary according to the activation of the intensity of one or the other behaviors by the hazardous situation.

Bowlby offers an analogy to illustrate the relationship between alarm and anxiety in the sense of fear, using the position of an army in the field. “The salvation of an army depends not only of his defense against a direct attack but its free access to its base (stewardship). Any military commander who neglects to give equal importance to liaison with its base than its front lines would quickly incur a loss. “The argument advanced here is that it is no less natural to feel frightened when the lines of communication with the base are cut when product is in front of us, something that terrifies us and encourages us to retire. Similarly, the feeling of fear can be triggered both when an individual feels “cut lines of communication with its base”, that is to say away from his attachment figure, as when occurs before him something that terror and “encouraged him to retire.” Thus any defection from the attachment figure, whether real or only feared, can cause intense anxiety. If an individual who has no confidence in the availability of its attachment figure must also face another source of alarm, it will feel a more intense fright.

The separation, in which the mother is inaccessible, can be considered a natural hazard index. The behavior lest it causes could be considered an instinctive behavior, it is the product of the only ontogeny or results of simple learning process that the opportunity is always present in the environment. The intervention of learning phenomena in reaction to separation is suggested by the study of individual differences. Presumably the newborn, who felt a helplessness in the absence of his mother, combines these two events, or having experienced an intense fear of a threat occurred in the absence of his mother, feel later this absence itself as a cause of fear.


The behavior of attachment develops gradually, and this development is characterized by:

• restricting the range of stimuli that trigger attachment behavior;

• the introduction of increasingly complex organizational systems;

• the integration of non-functional systems early in functional sets.

Although these different lines of ontogeny are continuous, Bowlby schematically describes four phases of development during childhood, the first three were held during the first year of life and the fourth begins around the third birthday.Adolescence is then when major revisions of bonding, which stabilizes in adulthood.

First phase: orientation and signals without discrimination figure

She goes from birth to 8-12 weeks.

From birth, the child is moving and reacts preferentially to stimuli from humans. Conversely, the child’s signals are of interest and care of people around him, and that give it close, physical contact, warmth and food. The child’s attachment behavior can only be understood in the context of the responses of those who care for him. To paraphrase Winnicott: the attachment behavior of a child alone, it does not exist.

The baby’s ability to discriminate against someone in particular is very limited; it is not able to distinguish the behavior of a person from one another, and behaves the same way with two people interacting in the same manner with him.From birth, the sensory systems are operative, particularly hearing, and their operation will continually improve. Thus partial phenomena orientation to the human voice they appear very early.

The view will soon play a major role in attachment behavior. From birth, the newborn is capable of visual and eye tracking direction; to 4 weeks, most of the children show a preference for human faces relative to other objects. At 4 months, the baby’s vision is close to that of an adult near and far.

During this first phase, each sensory system has its own activation and termination factors, and there is no interconnection between the different systems.

The behavior of the newborn vis-à-vis a person familiar is characterized by: orientation this person, follow the eyes, trying to reach or grab, smile, babble. Often the baby stops crying when he hears a voice, or see a face. During this phase as the following, it is primarily the environment which ensures proximity.

The IMU does not yet exist to speak during this phase, and then in a rudimentary form. They are not distinct from actual behavior and are limited to “still” or “stop” internal, linked to the activation or termination behavior.

Second phase: orientation and signals to a figure discriminated

It goes from 8 weeks to 6 months, and gradually differs from the previous phase. In this second phase, attachment elementary behaviors begin to organize them in simple systems, chain. Second change, the child’s discrimination capabilities are refined and develops a preference for a particular figure, usually the mother figure, which is directed towards the attachment behavior. The differential responses to the mother’s voice is increasingly clear; visual discrimination face starts around the 10th week and from 14 weeks, it is clear that the child prefers to watch his mother. These differential responses to a particular figure is quite evident in many situations, from 16 weeks. The preferred orientation of behavior is an essential part of what defines this second phase, made possible by improved discrimination capability and probably determined by repeated interactions with the same person, we saw it n does not exist in the process of man strictly related to the impression. So there is a progressive restriction of activation and termination signals of attachment behavior towards those who are the most common, familiar in the context of interactions with parents.

Third characteristic: the child becomes more and more often the initiative of attachment behavior and social interactions at large.

Once this phase in the first quarter of the first year, may begin to appear interindividual differences in behavioral strategies. Because of its ability to differentiate the figures around her, the child knows who takes care of him.However, it still can not build its global representations of attachment figures as having a separate existence of his experiences to him. The structure of the MIO is still rudimentary, like the chain of behavior structure. He has not the capacity to experiment or internal image manipulation, goals or intentions, to make plans to achieve goals.

Third phase: maintaining proximity to a figure discriminated by means of locomotion as well as signals

It begins about 6 months (between 6 and 9 months) and extends to the beginning of the third year.

While discrimination is becoming more pronounced, it is mainly the expansion and sophistication of the repertoire of responses that characterizes this period. The child has a more active role in maintaining proximity. The most important change is the acquisition of motor skills that allows him to have a much greater control of the proximity to the attachment figure. He begins to approach, follow or seek his mother and four behaviors that play a fundamental role in the attachment will appear at this time system:

• the specific differential approach to the mother at reunion or distress (28 weeks);

• differential specific pursuit of the mother when she leaves the room where the child is located (24 weeks), for these two types of behaviors the child maintains the proximity to the attachment figure;

• the use of the mother as a “secure base” for exploration (28 weeks);

• the use of the mother as safe haven: the child back to his mother when he was alarmed to find comfort and support (34 weeks).

Some of these behaviors locomotive, as well as the behavior of Appeal, are organized on a corrected fashion as to the purpose, which was not the case before. The child can mentally manipulate representations and choose his behavioral repertoire actions that will enable him to get what he wants. However, these systems are corrected as to the purpose just yet organized and use a primitive representation of the mother figure, conceived as an independent object that persists in space and in time (this permanence of the person preceding the object permanence the sense of Piaget), but the assigned goals remain unknown. Indeed, if the MIO are now able to clearly differentiate representations of the attachment figure and the self, they relate only to the behavior.

The child can not even conceive the other, beyond his behavior, has perceptions and objectives that are different from his.

At the beginning of this phase, when the child well discriminate the attachment figure, that appear in normal development, separation anxiety first, then the fear of the stranger then. For Bowlby, these are two distinct phenomena, although related, but both participate in the consolidation of the relation in a given figure.

Bowlby critical position which gives Spitz as the first index of the object relation the occurrence of stranger anxiety, known as the 8th month, stressing that the fear of separation precedes and is earlier than Spitz indicates.

It is during this period that, for most authors, the attachment relationship is truly tied; Bowlby talked about sensitive period. He considered that the ability to quickly tie remained intact until the end of the first year, although more recent studies indicate that it would extend even beyond.

Fourth phase: formation of a partnership corrected as to the purpose

It begins at the earliest at the beginning of the third year.

The child learns to develop strategies that address the goals assigned by his mother, and those goals are numerous and contradictory. The child tries to influence them. The development of cognitive abilities allows her to gain an understanding of the intentions of the other, after Bowlby, has been called theory of mind (theory of mind). A complex interaction then develops, in which both partners have an intuitive understanding of the feelings and motivations of the other, what Bowlby called a partnership.

The child’s ability to integrate the goals and desires of its partners and change by his own behavior according to their needs will narrow gradually, but from the age of 3-4 years, it will play a key role in the ability to negotiate conflicts.

It is during this phase that the infant attachment behavior becomes paramount in maintaining proximity with the mother.

The self and the environment representation models playing an increasingly important, and the child to feel secure, no longer needs the physical presence of his mother. In addition, secondary attachment figures take over and allow to confront foreign media.


The terms of attachment relationships built during infancy are stable outside the occurrence of specific events likely to revise them. Before the transition to adulthood, adolescence is however an opportunity for significant revisions.

It is a time of profound physical and psychological changes during which take place:

• a distancing figures of primary attachment;

• creating new bonds of attachment;

• the emergence of behavioral systems reproductive and caregiving, but also links sexualization.

Ainsworth suggests that cognitive changes are also very important from the perspective of attachment to this period, allowing the emergence of a more mature operation. This is the stage of formal operations Piaget said. The thought is freed from the concrete, the adolescent becomes able to reason formally correct way on assumptions and unsupported concrete. Paradoxically, adolescence is not a very favorable time for self-reflection, probably due to the sexualization of relationships and intellectual functioning.

This thinking, however, allow a loophole to theorizing, intellectualizing, and maintaining self-esteem and making sense of reality by intellectual functioning. This period is when major revisions of the IMU, and their integration into a unified and coherent whole.

Adult attachment:

From the end of adolescence, the attachment system is symmetrical, balanced, between individuals who have reached the same adult stage of psychological development.

Attachment relationships are established in reciprocity. Each partner is, indeed, both donor and recipient support, attention, security, becoming the other an attachment figure and using his partner as an attachment figure for itself.

Within these adult relationships, significant differences exist between friendly relations and affiliative, representing figures of auxiliary attachment and romantic partner, accounting, after a certain time relationship that seems to be after a period of 2 or 3 years, the primary attachment figure.

Relationships, and especially the relationship, as well as early childhood care behavior, will be impregnated by the MOI built during childhood.

The functions of attachment in adulthood links can not be identical to those children or adolescents as adult subjects have gained autonomy allowing them to provide for themselves to survive.

Their importance is at a level which, for attachment theorists in adulthood, may be linked to the survival of the species, transmission of genes, in particular the contribution to the quality of “farming” babies. Indeed, the dependence of babies at birth makes them dependent for their survival and quality of their further development, quality of parental care.

The attachment created between sexual partners link would help keep as long as possible parental couple together and thus to better fulfill this function of parental care jointly assuming the investment necessary early care and then to all of education until the end of adolescence.

The continuity links to attachments by providing a affectivoémotionnel support, helps maintain a secure base that each partner gives the other, and more extensive exploration.

For example, professional activity and various social investments in adulthood are richer thanks to the balance between the attachment system itself and the exploratory system as other ages.


The attachment theory considers the child and his mother are psychologically different from birth. It focuses on how the internal world is constructed in interaction with the environment. The attachment relationship is built gradually: the pattern of attachment, genetically programmed from partners, parents and children, is shaped by the social environment. It is therefore much more complex and less immediate than the ethologists footprint behavior. The small turns preferentially to figures discriminated against to seek inputs (nurturance), comfort, support and protection at the same time that appear anxiety vis-à-vis foreign and protest in case of separation, two indications of the existence of preferential attachment.

Whatever the stage of development, attachment relationships can be defined by four characteristics that distinguish them from other affective relationships: proximity search vis-à-vis a preferential figure, using the attachment figure as security basis (ie freer exploration in the presence of the attachment figure), refuge of behavior (ie return to the attachment figure when the subject faces a threat perceived) and finally protest marked reactions in the involuntary separation.

Throughout the development, attachment security depends on three factors:

• the occurrence of breakage or rupture of current threats in attachment relationships, either as a result of chronic conflicts, prolonged separation, divorce or bereavement;

• the nature of affective communication in the attachment relationship;

• attachment strategies, ie the MIO that the subject has developed during his childhood to fit the attitude of his parents.

The attachment theory has profoundly changed the approach to early development, consistent with the data of cognitive science and neuroscience. It has also proved remarkably fruitful scientifically and clinically. The attachment security seems predictive of a good number of positive aspects of the development, especially on an interpersonal level, but this predictive ability has yet to be confirmed and clarified.