Ethology and Attachment:
A Historical Perspective
Eckhard H. Hess
Slobodan B. Petrovich
An outline is presented of the assumptions underlying earlier and contemporary ethology. An example of ethological analysis is presented, with a focus on the ontogeny, mediating mechanisms of causation, function and evolution of cricket songs. In a historical frame, conceptual and methodological origins of modern ethology were sketched out and the significance of important trends explored. The conclusion of the analysis of this chapter is that researchers of human development studying attachment under the aegis of ethological theory have moved in a direction that diverges from the conceptualizations and research emphases of contemporary ethology.
This chapter describes elements of the ethological approach to attachment in an attempt to facilitate an interdisciplinary exchange among ethologists and developmental psychologists. Its purpose is to share a historical perspective and habits of thought, and to communicate theoretical and methodological developments and that have had an impact on the ethological study of behavior.
At the outset, our goal is to tell what ethology is about, in a historical context. As an example, the treatment considers the development, mediating mechanisms of causation, as well as the function and evolution of the cricket's song. Then we extrapolate some conceptual and methodological lessons of interest and of use to a wider audience. Our treatment proceeds with an appraisal of the contributions of ethology to the study of human attachment. Finally, we focus on some of the issues of relevance both to ethology and developmental psychology, and evaluate whether or not human-development theory and research on attachment in the frame of ethology have diverged from the emphases of contemporary ethology.