Attachments, Nativist and Empiricist Theories


An attachment refers to a close emotional bond from one person to another.   In terms of the nativist theory it suggests that attachments are innate. They are pre-programmed, biologically there waiting for nurture.   According to Schaffer (1977- 1989),   from about 6 weeks, babies develop an attraction to other human beings.   (Richard Gross, 1996 pg 550).   Nativist theory is more concerned with the biology and genetics.

However, the empiricist theory on attachment is concerned with experiences. Childrens problem solving skills must be discovered and learnt by an individual.

John Bowlby (1907 -1990) defined attachment as a lasting physical connectedness between human beings.

Bowlby suggested that we first form one primary attachment (monotropy).   That figure acts as a “secure base” to an infant.   This attachment relationship acts as a prototype, for all other social relationships.   This is an IWM, an internal working model , behaviours in the IWM   follow the same template in future, “continuity hypothesis”.   He suggests babies have an attachment gene and that the infant produces innate “social releasers”, these are behaviours such as crying which in turn stimulate the innate caregiving responses from adults, as well as having survival aspects also.

Bowlbys theory of attachment has studies to support his findings.   Lorenz (1935), discovered geese followed the first moving object they saw after hatching, “Imprinting.”   This suggests that attachment’s innate.   Ainsworth (1978), conducted a study called the “Strange situation”.   It consists of a sequence of eight episodes in which the mother (and/or the father) and a stranger come and go from a room, each episode lasting about three minutes   (Richard Gross 1996 pg 550).   Infants became distressed upon parents leaving, and were glad on return.   They had formed secure attachments.   However Piaget   (1952) saw children as “little scientists” and maintained infants learn through play, although to...