How important is developing a close parent-child relationship in the early years?
Attachment is a strong survival instinct that can be observed in all humans and many species’. The primal importance of a child’s attachment to its mother has long been appreciated, studied and debated. This essay will explore the reasons for and importance of attachment and emotional closeness between parents and their children.
Freud proposed that the relationship between mother and infant was of the utmost significance at a time when it was thought that babies were largely unaffected by the world around them and incapable of having real relationships. He believed that all future relationships of the child would be modelled on the intimacy he or she shared with their mother describing it as “unique, without parallel, established unalterably for a whole lifetime as the prototype of all later love-relations.” John Bowlby’s experience led him to believe that this relationship was vital for both later functioning and immediate social needs. Both he and Robertson noted that children became distressed when separated from their mothers even though others were caring for them. Whilst Freud maintained that attachment occurred between a mother and child purely because of the mother’s ability to provide food, Bowlby was convinced by, amongst others, the Harlow experiment of 1958 involving infant rhesus monkeys that showed, tellingly, that the animals became more attached to the comforting, cloth-covered, “surrogate mother” than the wire mesh “surrogate mother” that provided milk and so he ultimately rejected Freud’s “cupboard love” theory.
Attachment and interaction is also necessary for cognitive development to occur. Children will not learn to speak unless they are spoken to continually and receive positive feedback from attempting themselves. Language acquisition occurs in stages, according to Piaget, and advancing from one stage to the next requires trial and error,...