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Mothering and Development
The presence of a sensitive mother throughout a child's developmental period is an essential determinant of healthy growth and maturation. The establishment of a solid social and emotional foundation during a child's formative years can not only aid in preparing one's youngster for life in the outside world, it can also instill a beneficial groundwork in the basic concepts of the self (Cassidy, 1990). In order to achieve such noble maternal goals a good mother needs to possess a plethora of fostering characteristics. The most important of such qualities include love, responsiveness, consistency, an eye to encourage and the ability to provide the child with a sense of security. Successful implementation of the aforementioned traits will allow the child to develop a healthy attachment to the mother. This attachment is most often constructed in the stages of infancy. Through the informative and enlightening work of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth we have learned that a healthy sense of attachment to one's mother permits for a secure base from which a child can safely explore and return to (Holmes, 1993). The presence of this safe haven subsequently helps to create a fit internal working model, which is crucial for the prospering of future relationships. Additionally, the attributes found in loving mothers can formulate an environment in the presence of trust. Developmental psychologist Erik Erikson identified that this trustful atmosphere is most often established during the first year of a child's life (Niolon, 2008). Furthermore, Dr. Erikson determined that consistency and predictability are the two most important functional traits necessary to achieve trust (as opposed to mistrust) with one's child (Niolon, 2008).
During a child's formative years a mother must be a lifeline. In successfully accomplishing such a comprehensive task, mothers must possess a multitude of nurturing tendencies. Although, while many mothers certainly possess the necessary qualities, several fail to realize the importance of integrating such qualities on a consistent and predictable basis. The level of regularity and dependability a child can garner from a mother's maternal behavior is crucial is the development of child's propensity to trust. Also, such reliable care can help a child to develop a healthy routine. Such a result has become increasingly important in the modern world and is also a vital tool in fostering a child's healthy emotional growth. More specifically, a steadfast routine can provide a child with a secure psychological base with which the child can benchmark future interactions and relationships (Bretherton, 1992). Ultimately, a child needs to form an unyielding picture of who the mother is and what she represents. While traits like love, sensitivity and support will comprise the substance of this representation; consistency will be the means of its instillation. Being that the child will subsequently adopt many of the mother's qualities during his or her developmental years, a child's future self-image and view of the world are essentially shaped through these early interpretations (Cassidy, 1990).
As we know, consistency is the factory in which a child's future character is manufactured. Therefore, it is also important to know what tools can be used in the creation of a physically, psychologically and emotionally healthy individual. Thinking of the mother as a "worker" in this "factory," this type of job requires a wide range of proficiencies. Throughout the entire early life of a child a mother must provide ongoing love, sensitivity and encouragement. The comfort gained by the child through this type of caring will help to ensure a healthy level of mother-child attachment (Bretherton, 1992). Even in neurobiological experiments about maternity conducted with lab-rats, offspring whose mothers showed the greatest levels of continual care and attentiveness exhibited, "substantially reduced levels of behavioral fearfulness and anti-social activity" (Caldji et. al., 1998). Therefore, in realizing the pysiological manifestations of this attachment, the essentiality of this concept becomes all the more profound. Even despite the realization of the vast importance of creating a healthy attachment to one's child, many mothers in the modern world are forced to forgo their job in the "factory" of their child's development for a job in the real world. This reality illustrates the prioritization strategies of many modern parents. Mothers and fathers believe that the objective provision of security to their children is far more important than the fostering of a functioning mother-child attachment, which is more subjective and emotionally based (Hallberg & Klevmarken, 2002).
The groundbreaking work of John Bowlby and subsequent research of Mary Ainsworth would certainly promote the restructuring of maternal priorities and the obliteration of this contemporary trend. Both of the aforesaid researchers devoted much of their work to the examination and ensuing advocation of the importance of a healthy mother-child attachment. Dr. Bowlby (the originator of the "Attachment Theory") postulated that a child's attachment to the mother begins as an instinctive longing to survive and be protected (Prior & Glaser, 2006). He defines "attachment" as the child's potential action towards the mother, while the mother's relationship to the child is born from "the care-giving bond" (Bretherton, 1992). The quality of the attachment is solely determined by the actions of the caregiver. Bowlby concluded that loving and affectionate interactions accompanied by devotion and attentiveness are the tools for the creation of a strong bond (Bretherton, 1992). However, the amount of quality time spent with one's child is also a key determinant of whether or not the child will formulate a solid emotional base as a result of the attachment to the mother (Holmes, 1993). During the formative period, if a child is able to experience a mother's love and devotion on a very regular basis, he or she is more likely to develop a healthy maternal attachment. Conversely, if the mother happens to be absent or unavailable, a child is likely to develop "separation distress" (Prior & Glaser, 2006, p. 16). Referencing the resultant stress of being separated from one's primary caregiver, this type of physical severance can lead to anxiety, anger, sadness, and despair (Prior & Glaser, 2006). Feelings like this can undoubtedly alter a child's future behavior and development. This is especially true if any of these adverse sentiments are experienced during the formative period. Ultimately, Bowlby's theory of attachment provided a developmental explanation of a child's behavioral system created through the consistency of loving and sensitive interactions with the mother (Holmes, 1993).
The research and experimentation done by his colleague and successor Mary Ainsworth reinforced the basic principles derived from Bowlby's theory. Through her experiments Ainsworth took Attachment Theory one step further by identifying four types of attachment. Placing a child's attachment into categories like "secure," "anxious-avoidant insecure," "anxious-resistant insecure," and "disorganized" (Reactive Attachment Disorder: Types of Attachment, 2009). The first of these categories implies a healthy relationship with the mother. A secure attachment creates the foundational basis from which a child is steadily able to engage in dynamic exploration of the world, while knowing that he or she has a loving and supportive environment to return to (Cherry, 2011). The encouraging tendencies and availability of the mother during a child's infancy period are key determinants of the formation of a secure attachment. On the other hand, when a child is anxious or fearful of exploration he or she will likely fall into Ainsworth's category of "anxious-resistant insecure attachment" (Reactive Attachment Disorder: Types of Attachment, 2009). In such situations, the child is often ambivalent to the presence of the mother and does not feel like the home environment entails a secure and safe haven. This type of attachment is typically birthed when a mother pays little attention to the needs of the child, and instead devotes more time to her own pursuits (Hallberg & Klevmarken, 2002). Furthermore, an "anxious-avoidant attachment" is produced when the caregiver is disengaged in his or her interactions with the child. The result of such a relationship occurs when the child ignores or avoids the company of the mother and subsequently does little (if any) exploration because they have not been given the necessary tools with which to do so (Cherry, 2011). Finally, the most recently created type of attachment is known as "disorganized" or "disoriented" attachment. This type of attachment usually results from a severe trauma in a mother's life around the time of the child's birth causing her to become extremely depressed or withdrawn (Main & Solomon, 1990). As a result of the mother consequently inconsistent behavior, the child will likely respond in a similarly atypical fashion. For example, a child may cry at the departure of the mother, yet not care about her return (Main & Solomon, 1990). To test the existence and frequency of the various types of attachment Dr. Ainsworth devised a method known as "The Strange Situation" (Main & Solomon, 1990). This experiment involves "the laboratory-based observation of the infant's response to two brief separations from, and reunions with, the parent" (Main & Solomon, 1990, p. 121). Ainsworth believed that these responses accurately reflected the historical relationship developed between child and caregiver. Many have since agreed with her and the…[continue]
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