Bowlby’s theory of attachment suggests that attachment is adaptive, as an infant will be more likely to survive with protection from the attachment figure. This is why the theory states that attachment is innate and children are born with a natural drive to form attachments. Children are also born with social releasers, to aid the formation of attachment, which encourage caregiving. Bowlby also suggests that there is a sensitive period of 3-6 months in which attachment must be formed; after this sensitive period forming attachment becomes increasingly difficult. Attachment figures act as secure bases for exploration, which leads to independence. The theory also suggests that there is a hierarchy of attachments with one primary attachment figure – this is known as monotropy – therefore all other attachments are known as secondary attachment figures. There is also the idea that infants develop an internal working model which is expectations of what attachment consists of based on previous attachments. This leads on to the continuity hypothesis which is used to show that early attachments will reflect in later attachments. There is evidence to support this theory, for example we could argue that attachment is found in every culture. This indicates that the theory is representative of all human beings and that behaviour is universal. Therefore Bowlby’s theory could accurately explain attachment. Additionally, we can argue that real life situations support the idea of the continuity hypothesis. For example some research suggests that those who were abused as they grew up also abused others in their adulthood. Similarly the case study of Genie further supports this as she grew up with maternal deprivation and was unable to ever form attachments.
Consequently these studies support Bowlby’s theory of attachment and the idea of the continuity hypothesis. Tronick et al studied an African tribe called the Efe tribe and found evidence to support this theory. The infants were fed by multiple women but it was discovered that they slept with their own mother at night. This shows that the primary attachment figure is the main caregiver and also challenges the learning theory which would suggest that feeding is the main factor in forming attachments. This study, therefore, supports Bowlby’s idea of monotropy as attachments form in a hierarchy with one primary attachment figure: the mother. However Howes et al’s research into child-peer relationships suggests that the continuity hypothesis is not an accurate explanation of later attachments. He found that there was no positive correlation between parent-child relationships and child-peer relationships, which disproves the idea that early attachments reflect in later relationships. This, therefore, helps to disprove Bowlby’s theory of attachment as it provides evidence against the continuity hypothesis which is a key factor of the theory. Moreover we could argue that this theory has an over-emphasis on survival. It has been found that healthy attachments have formed after the sensitive period at a later stage in life. For example adoptions show this type of attachment being formed, showing that attachments do not need to be formed during the sensitive period of 3-6 months. This provides evidence against Bowlby’s theory of attachment, which would suggest that attachment must be formed in the sensitive period otherwise it will not occur at all.