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Attachment Theory and Social Work Treatment in Families


The theory of attachment and how it can be practically applied have once again emerged as important aspects of determining the quality of the relationship between a child and their caregivers (Shriver, 2011, p. 122-123). Difficulties in the place of children in the family setting have also been associated with attachment. Foster care has emerged as a popular option for children in most countries especially those that have to deal with HIV/AIDS pandemic that have resulted in many orphans being left behind and unattended. The practical use of the attachment theory has found a place in the assessment, development and supervision of the relationships in children care systems like foster care and normal families. A definition of foster care has been given to the rearing or nursing of children in an establishment or by people that are not their natural parents.

John Bowlby developed attachment theory as a psychoanalytic theory in the 1960s. His theory defined the relationship that exists between a child and the mother (Turner, 1974, p. 23). He studied the importance of this bond and the impact the bond has on the child’s life. At a larger scale, he was studying the significance of the bond between a mother and their child among all species. He established that this bond was the very foundation for the survival of a species. The primary caregiver provided their offspring with protection from any harm. They also gave the infants a chance to explore the environment around them. By so doing, Bowlby established a field of thought on the bond between a caregiver and a child. The researcher was able to postulate that there were complications in the child’s life whenever such a bond was broken or disrupted. Scholars like Walters, Belhar, Wall, and Ainsworth have since refined this theory (Fahlberg, 2012, p. 301). The theory has been developed to be more applicable when trying to classify the attachment relationships. Such relationships can thus be categorized as either secure or insecure. Patterns of attachment have been developed and are referred to as either insecure-avoidant or insecure-ambivalent patterns. A method named the strange situation has also been since developed in the determination of the attachment patterns in children. The correlation of the quality of the relationship between the attachment and the quality of care an infant receives has been determined. This correlation emerged as the basic assumption for users of this theory.

Attachment theory has been defined as the inclusive pool of knowledge that is associated with any growth in the children attachment field. Attachment is the development of a bond that is emotional in nature between a child and their primary caregiver. The caregiver can either be biological or a non-blood related individual. This theory is in a continuous evolution of the emergence of new research results. For this reason, giving an overview of all the concepts in the theory is very complicated. This paper, therefore, attempts to discuss the main theoretical issues in the application of this theory to how children are placed in any family setting. The application and knowledge of some of the main concepts of the theory as some of the aspects social workers in the placement of children in foster care have to understand (Turner, 1974, p. 43, 45 & 47). It also gives guidelines in assessing if children are comfortable living with their parents whether foster or natural.

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