Maccoby defines attachment as `a relatively enduring emotional tie to a specific other person.' Human infants seem to have an innate sense of willingness to form attachment relationships almost instantly. This bonding is naturally a two way process.
One of the most influential psychologists in the field of attachments is John Bowlby. Bowlby performed his elementary psychological studies in the late 1960's, which undoubtedly caused a stir amongst close families and the setting of the times. He believed strongly in the idea of monotropy. This is the sense that all infants need one special attachment relationship, and this gives the child the ability to experience deep feelings. Bowlby claimed that a `warm, intimate, continuous relationship with the mother or mother substitute is essential.' Now, one has to appreciate the times and context that Bowlby is referring to. There has been a lot of research into the Fathers essential role in bringing up a child, and creating an attachment bond. In the sixties and seventies, it was natural for the mother to look after a child. It is of course becoming more popular in modern times for Fathers to be the primary caregiver.
A child's developmental outcome appears not to be affected by the primary caregiver's gender, according to research by Park, 2002.
There is no doubt that Bowlby felt the necessity and importance of forming attachments, as he once quoted, `Mother love in infancy and childhood is as important for mental health as are vitamins and proteins for physical health. Attachment for Bowlby was more than a simple emotional bond, but provided a secure state of mind for infants, and was even more vital to human development. Bowlby then leads on to say that the attachments you make as a child, affect the way your life turns out, the relationships you make, and the bonds you form.
But where did Bowlby believe the need for attachment came from? Why exactly is there a thriving necessity to form these emotional ties? Bowlby believed that attachments have a deep evolutional basis. He believes they are rooted in humanities distant past, at a time when predators were a serious threat to livelihood. A mechanism was required, in which offspring could keep close to their parents, for protection and ultimate survival. Babies are thus thought to be equipped with basic means of gaining attention from their parents, for example crying, grabbing and smiling. Babies are genetically wired to stay close. This could, however be construed with a more simple explanation. Babies have no immediate language skills or motor skills, and could be seen as vulnerable.
There are very few psychologists that reject the idea that attachments are important, but the extent in which they are needed has been greatly debated. There will always be dramatic influencing factors to consider when performing experiments related to attachment formation. For example, the tragic story of Genie would appear to be a rare case...