Role Of Attachment Theory In The Social Work
Social work places emphasis on attachment theory because of it role played in the life’s of children bon into families that are disadvantaged (Parrish, 2014). Social work practice is considered as a helping profession that protect children and families. The ability to observe key indicators in attachment during intervention is critical to the development through the life span.
One of the most studied psychological theory of today in understanding human development through the life cycle is attachment theory. Attachment theory involves the study of relationships and behaviour patterns in action to keep a child with its primary caregiver, that is bonding of a baby after birth and the attachment during early years of development (Payne, 2014). Bowlby (1988), is known to be the founder of attachment theory following his work in trying to understand the psychological relationship between a mother and their children.
He believes that attachment begins from birth and that it has a critical impact in throughout the life cycle (). He suggests that a child needs to feel secure in their relationships with an adult (mother) in their early ages, as a positive and emotional attachment is important as this is the central point in the development of both emotional and social need (Walker, 2017). Basically, attachment explains parent-child relationships and how it influences a child development ().
This theory was based on Freud’s psychoanalytical theory of ‘trust and mistrust’ which emphasised on the importance of infant-mother relationship, while learning theorists based their argument of attachment on the operational way by which the needs of a child is satisfied such as warmth and food (Walker, 2017). According to Beckett and Taylor(2010), attachment is a two-way process between a mother and baby as development is seen through their interaction.
Common references are being made to Bowlby and Ainstworth’s models of attachment which explains behaviour of infants towards their attachment figures in separation and reunion (Crawford and Walker, 2003). Biological framework in attachment behaviours enables infant to increase the probability and frequency of contact to the attachment figure who is a source of food and comfort. According to Bowlby, central features in parenting is secured attachment as children with close relationships develop clear mental representation of other and their own senses is self-worth.
As attachment highlights the importance of early relationships in a child’s emotional and adult relationships, it also highlights how relationships are shaped by the environment through experience of both the past and the present. For this reason, application of this theory is used in many areas of knowledge and research in social work during professional practice.
In children, attachment behaviours are anticipated through response to the attachment figure and the child’s show signs of discomfort when the significant figure is not present. Such bonding is reciprocal between two adults but between a child and a care giver the bond is based on safety, security and protection. Bonding in first relationship makes up the foundation block for attachment in later life. If a parent cannot bond with the child due to personal reasons, the child in later life cannot mirror this in his behaviours, hence, has problems in relationships in later life (Howe, 2005).
A family Social worker working on this case is important to understand the effect of the actions of the mother to the child development, hence a deep knowledge in attachment theory will enable understanding of the role played by the relationships. In practice, this is critical and vital during client intervention and assessment (Gibson and Gibson, 2016).
According to Bowlby, internal working models is vital for the development of a child as the child begins to understand what to expect from the relationship. Howe and Campling (1995), the internal working models influence a child when they are young, but as the child get older and gets more organized it tends to help shape their relationships and behaviours. For example, when a child starts schooling, he comes into contact with different people in authority and becomes autonomous. Through negotiations he tends to fit in the wider scope. If the child’s attachment is secured this will be relevant in the kind of friendship that he makes and the behaviours that are exhibited. Through observation and learning in attachment patterns. A social worker will employ a better understanding in order to obtained knowledge that will help in the continues development and wellbeing of the child through practice.
An adolescent attachment style can be predicted n the kind of relationship with the type of peers and romantic relationships formed. Whiles childhood peer’s relationship is important for social learning, when growing up, parent attachment does not really play major role, as peers’ relationship is critical to development. Here relationships formed in late adolescent aid transition and growth as this serves as a safe haven and a source security.
Here an adolescent can be endangered for those with insecure attachment in transferring anxieties from carer relationship to new peers’ relationship. This can be overbearing to other members of the group as their need to feel close and demand attention but with avoidant adolescent they become switch off to their emotions as their behaviours are difficult to handle as they do not have any experience in gaining intimacy and recognition. A social workers awareness and theoretical knowledge in this kind of behaviours will stimulate the relationships and behaviours in a person. Good relationship can be built on trust to gain emotional connection to a person during direct work and intervention with the child.
Social workers appreciate attachment as a lifespan concept (Howe, 2011). In understanding the level of organisation, is necessary when working with multiple relationships (family), this aid during intervention with children and families. A social worker will be able to focus on the persons capacity to adapt and concentrate on the growth of a child. For example, when working on a case that deals with a trauma child. Here in order to be able to provide support and intervention for survival, a practitioner has to prove that the child can be safe hence, being trustworthy in this environment (Parrish, 2014).
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