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Attachments theory as it affects adolescants - Essay Example

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The establishment of a secure attachment with a primary caregiver is a developmental stage-dependent task that the children confront between their ages of 6 and 12 months. The attachment system refers to the organization of a diverse set of behaviours in the infant that maintains proximity to the caregiver when the child is distressed, in danger, or hurt…
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Attachments theory as it affects adolescants
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Download file to see previous pages According to attachment theory, primary caregivers become increasingly differentiated from other people in the minds of infants during their first year of life.
During childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, many individuals encounter difficulties in their relationships with parents and spouses that shake their confidence in the availability of these attachment figures. Such difficulties may fundamentally disrupt attachment bonds and dramatically reduce an individual's capacity to adapt to challenges outside the family. In the second volume of Attachment and Loss, Bowlby (1973) refined his definition of the set goal of the attachment system. In considering the effects of separations on children, he moved toward the notion that security derives from a child's appraisal of an attachment figure's availability (Bowlby, 1973). The child needs to experience a parent who is not only accessible but also responsive. This aspect of security incorporated Ainsworth's findings that it is the quality of day-to-day interactions, not just major separations, that influences infants' attachment expectations. In contrast, various nonresponsive or insensitive forms of care can undermine the infant's confidence or even lead to expectations for rejection or inconsistent response. Separation distress results from the appraisal that a parent is inaccessible (Ainsworth et al., 1978). This perceived threat to a parent's accessibility activates the attachment system and motivates a child to reestablish contact. Emotional reactions accompanying the appraisal of threat include fear and anger. Fear activates the attachment system and signals the child's distress. Anger results from frustrations that the child encounters in trying to regain access, and it mobilizes efforts to reestablish contact.
The adolescent, by contrast, may act out her conflict about separating through fights with her mother and open defiance. Her upheaval may be more visibly apparent in her relationship with her mother, more provocative and dramatic. Girls may direct their acting out toward their bodies and engage in behaviors that are outside of the domain of parental control. They are at increased risk for eating disorders, reckless or promiscuous sexual activity, and self-cutting or other forms of mutilation. Adolescents may also use drugs and alcohol to rebel, explore, and escape painful feelings. Self-defeating or destructive behavior may provide an illusion of independence while also serving to defend against regressive longings. The thrill and power of reckless acting out can reduce their sense of vulnerability and distract from feelings of loss associated with the transition from childhood dependence. The attachment to a therapist can take pressure off the mother-daughter dyad, as some dependence needs are being met in a relationship outside the family. However, the stage is then set for the adolescent to recreate with the therapist elements of her struggle with her mother. Her dependence on the therapist can trigger resistance to treatment. Like the defiance at home, acting out within therapy may serve both to rebel against therapeutic influence and to pull for protective intervention (Cassidy et al., 2003).
Similar patterns of maladaptation have been identified in adolescents and adults who are classified as ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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