The relationship of a child and a mother will always have certain advantages and disadvantages. The most painful for a mother perhaps is when the child or infant does not recognize the mother anymore as a maternal figure and instead sees other people as a person who is portraying that role. These other people may sometimes be in the figure of the father, grandparents, even, in some cases, a complete stranger. As what is the case today and is practiced by the majority—caregivers (or nannies) are the ones who are taking care of the child and this situation places him or her as the maternal figure. This paper will discuss that particular situation. It will answer various questions such as: What is attachment? What makes a child attached? How can other people, most especially strangers or caregivers become attached to infants?
An Essay on the Mother-Infant Attachment and the Strangers-Infant Relationship
With the added opportunities brought by globalization today, there is no wonder why there is a tremendous increase for mothers to want a career. With the economic crisis and recession happening on a global scale, it is also no wonder why many mothers need to have a career. This is the reason why there is a tremendous increase in working mothers, thus, an increase in caregivers or nannies too as they replace the roles of the mothers as mothers. Unfortunately, this situation causes a lot of setbacks for the mothers and the children. The sad part is that mothers tend to neglect the time and attention spent with their own children, resulting in strained relationships which start on an early age. Caregivers, baby sitters or nannies sometimes replace that role of the mother and thus, they are the ones who are left to form bonds and relationships with the child. This is not always the case however, as sometimes other members of the families are left to care for the child like aunts, uncles or grandparents. However, there is a general perception as to why it should be the mother who should form a bond with the child. In Santrock’s book, there are three different premises presented as to explain this so-called bond with the child. This bond is called the attachment which a child should feel for the mother. In some cases though, this bond is not present between the child and the mother. Freud explains that there is the presence of attachment because of the fact that it is the mother who feeds the infant—an oral attachment in some ways. However, some studies and researchers prove that such is not the basis. Erikson (1968) and Bowlby (1969) reiterates that it is not the instance of oral gratification of the infant that makes him attached but rather, the reason of physical comfort and the notion of trust. (Santrock, 2003, p.366)
It is not questionable therefore why people who step in and replace the presence of the mother is capable of forming some bond with the infant since they are the ones who are near the child proximity wise. Even if there are some instances of other family members who are taking care of the child, it is still undeniable that a majority of the people who are taking care of the children are the caregivers (or nannies) themselves. These caregivers are the ones who are left to take care of the child, sometimes, from the time that the child is very young. Bowlby (1969) as cited by Santrock (2003) hypothesized a theory that indicates that “both infants and its primary caregivers are biologically predisposed to form attachments” (p.366). If the primary caregivers are not the mothers themselves, then it is but natural that people who serve as the primary caregivers (be it whatever age, gender or race) are responsible for forming the relationship or attachment between him or her and the infant.
In Mary Ainsworth’s study on the concept of attachment, it was found out that it can be identified if the child is attached to the mother by laboratory experiments. This experiment would comprise of the participation of a mother, the child and a stranger. This study is famously called The Strange Situation wherein the child visibly showed attachment (or in some cases not being attached) to the mother. The Strange Situation recounts the reaction that the child makes when the mother leaves the room. If a child is attached and has formed a strong biological bond with the mother, the child is most likely to be at ease with other people if the mother is around; if the mother is not around, the child is visibly upset and will only be comforted when the mother comes back. In other cases, when there is clearly no strong attachment between the child and the mother, the child is strongly upset and even if the mother comes back to comfort the child, he or she does not welcome the mother back and is even vehement or violent toward the mother.
In conclusion and in simple terms, even if there are some forms of attachment, it cannot really be all positive or advantageous to both parties of the mother and the child; most especially with regard to the development and growth of the child with all aspects of his or her well-being. The theory of attachment is important in determining his or her relationship with not only the mother but with other people as well. This can be regarded as a classic case of trust as what Erikson (1968) has discussed. Even if the mother is not always present and the primary caregiver is another person (like a nanny or other family members), it is imperative that the child forms some strong bond with another person. After all, if the child is not even attached to his or her mother or a primary caregiver (like a nanny, the father or other family members) then how can he or she form sincere relationships with other people?
Ainsworth, M.D.S., Blehar, M.C., Walters, E., Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: a psychological study of the strange situation. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Santrock, J.W. (2003). A topical approach to life-span development, 4th Ed. Dallas: University of Texas. 366-373.