The Role of Infant-Caregiver Attachment in Development
L. Alan Sroufe
Institute of Child Development University of Minnesota
At all developmental levels maturationally guided processes are turned into developmental processes as a result of the adaptations enforced by exchanges with the surround and the organism's response to them . . . Maturation is a useful concept, but in reality there is only development.
-- Spitz, Emde, & Metcalf ( 1970)
In Bowlby's theory it was proposed that all human infants, however treated, become attached to persons who care for them ( Bowlby, 1969/ 1982). The quality of such attachment relationships varies, however, depending on the quality of care the infant has experienced. Further, the quality of this early experience, and the relationship to which it leads, exercises an important influence on later development. Theoretically, this is because in the context of this developing relationship the infant forms initial expectations concerning self and other, or what bowlby ( 1973, 1980) called inner working models. Such models concerning the availability of others and, in turn, the self as worthy or unworthy of care, provide a basic context for subsequent transactions with the environment, most particularly social relationships.
Bowlby's ideas concerning working models recently have received increased attention, primarily due to the efforts of Main and Bretherton ( Bretherton, 1985; Main, Kaplan, & Cassidy, 1985). Our own theoretical perspective ( Sroufe, 1979; Sroufe & Fleeson, 1986) is closely related to, and draws heavily from Bowlby's theory. Differences are primarily a matter of emphasis. For example, we have emphasized how relationships are internalized, in addition to generalized expectations concerning self and others. Nonetheless, Bowlby's ideas that such experiences are