Mother Still Loves Best: Attachment Theory’s Influence on Mothering Practice-Then and Now
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John Bowlby's (1907 - 1990) attachment theory was formulated to explain mother-infant bonding. The theory was bound by a number of assumptions that placed responsibility for child rearing soley in the hands of women. Bowlby’s theory suggested that infants form a single, principle, bond that once formed provides the mental models that will govern all subsequent attachment relationships. Infant separation from the mother—“maternal deprivation”—was seen as the primary agent affecting infant personality development. Bowlby assumed that women are biologically suited and best able to raise children. The infant’s role in the formation of attachment bonds was not considered, nor were the roles of others in helping infants and children develop positive “attachment” relationships. In 1952 Hilde Bruch (cited in Mead, 1954) astutely pointed out that Bowlby's emphasis on maternal deprivation was "...a new and subtle form of antifeminism in which men—under the guise of exalting the importance of maternity—are tying women more tightly to their children than has been thought necessary since the invention of bottle feeding and baby carriages." Although a highly influential theory from its inception, in the early 1970’s only a handful of “attachment” studies had been published; today we see entire scholarly journals devoted to the topic, publishing literally thousands of articles each year. This paper will review the historical development of the attachment construct and discuss concerns about its continued use in informing mothering practice.