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Monday, September 20, 2010

Part VIII: A Series on Attachment Theory, a summary of A Secure Base -- Human personality development as a science

As part of my series on attachment theory, I am summarizing, A Secure Base, by John Bowlby, a leading researcher in attachment theory, which is the basis for attachment parenting philosophy.

Chapter four is Bowlby's argument that psychology should be considered a natural science. He believed that since it had been theorized that basic human personality development is molded in large part by environment, that the environment of various psychology patients should be examined in order to determine what caused them to develop as they had.

I understand his argument, but most of it is pretty dry, so I am not going to bore you all with most of this chapter.

What really jumped out at me in this chapter is the description of the biology behind human personality development.

Basically, we are all born with some specific genetic predispositions and our environments affect those predispositions. I think that is pretty much commonly accepted these days.

The theory of developmental pathways proposed by biologist C.H. Waddington describes human personality as being conceived starting in the womb.

At conception a human being has a wide variety of pathways to follow, but every interaction with its environment affects the developing human.

After birth, as the baby is introduced into its new family, or non-family, the potential pathways lessen.

It was Bowlby's belief that the treatment of the child, throughout infancy, childhood, and adolescence, by the primary attachment figure is one of the major factors in human personality development.

The rest of the chapter is a lot more  talk about research, Freudian psychology and more examples of how disruptive childhoods caused psychotic or neurotic behavior in adulthood.

Bowlby ends the chapter by saying that since we know that personality development is affected by environment, then we should study it just as we would study any natural science, like biology, physics, astronomy, chemistry, or earth sciences.

It makes sense to me. Ever since I began reading parenting books, I am overwhelmed with the amount of differing opinions that are out there. If science could come to at least some consensus on how and why children develop the way they do, then maybe we wouldn't all be so confused.

The next chapter is on violence in the family. I'm sure it will be riveting. Stay tuned folks. It just keeps on getting better.

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