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

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

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 John Bowlby with the theory of ‘cupboard love’ (affection that is given purely to gain a reward) (Custance 2010). There are differing theories on why and how infants form attachments but this essay will concentrate on the theories of Harlow and Ainsworth.

Harry Harlow’s work on attachment was conducted on two groups of rhesus monkeys. The monkeys were separated from their mothers and were subsequently given a choice of two surrogate mothers, one made of wire, the other of towelling (or terry-cloth)(Custance 2010). In one group the wire mother provided food in the form of a baby feeding bottle containing milk and the terry-cloth mother provided no food. In the other group the wire mother did not provide food and the terry-cloth mother did. The young monkeys would cling to the soft terry-cloth mother whether or not it provided them with food, and they chose the wire surrogate mother only when it provided food. The monkeys would go to the terry-cloth mother for comfort when frightened or anxious no matter which mother provided them with food. Harlow concluded the monkeys bonded with care givers that provided tactile comfort rather...