Compare and Contrast the Work of Harry Harlow and Mary Ainsworth on Understanding Attachment.

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This essay will compare and contrast the work of psychologists Harry Harlow and Mary Ainsworth. To compare and contrast will be to emphasise the similarities and differences of both Harlow and Ainsworth’s work on understanding attachment, to which they have both made great contribution. Attachment refers to the mutually affectionate developing bond between a mother and any other caregiver (Custance 2010). It is a bond in which the infant sees the caregiver as a protective and security figure. Failing to form any type of attachment during the earliest years of childhood is thought to lead to social and emotional developmental issues that can carry on well into adult life (Custance 2010). Attachment theory was formulated by psychoanalyst …show more content…
Mary Ainsworth is known for her ‘Strange Situation’ (Custance 2010) studies with children. Her theory was that the quality of an infant’s attachment depends largely on the kind of attention the infant has received. She observed the attachment styles of children, mostly aged between 12 and 24 months, by placing them in an environment and recording their reactions to their mothers (or primary caregivers) leaving the room and then returning. Based on these observations Ainsworth concluded that there are different types of attachment. Three types of attachment are: ‘anxious-avoidant’, where the child shows little upset with the stranger, but will avoid contact with the parent on their return. The ‘securely attached’ child is one that will show moderate levels of proximity seeking towards the parents and is upset by their departure but deals with the parents return positively, often returning to play. The third type is the ‘anxious-resistant’ child; greatly upset by the parent’s departure and on reunion seems angry and will not be comforted or picked up (Custance 2010).
There are similarities in the work of both Harlow and Ainsworth on attachment. Firstly, both of them used studies demonstrating attachment beyond Bowlby’s idea of ‘cupboard love’ (Custance 2010), with Harlow’s experiment in the 1950’s giving an example of the power and strength of attachment with the monkeys sometimes returning to an abusive
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