Intersections with Attachment

By Jacob L. Gewirtz; William M. Kurtines | Go to book overview

14
A Comparison and Synthesis
of Kohlberg's Cognitive-
Developmental and Gewirtz's
Learning-Developmental
Attachment Theories

Michael L. Commons


ABSTRACT

Kohlberg's cognitive-developmental and Gewirtz's learning-developmental approaches to are compared and synthesized on the assumption that the sequence of attachment stages and stage-change processes form a supersystem that can unify both approaches to the development of attachment.

Kohlberg's and Gewirtz's theories agree in their basic outline. The apparent differences arise from the emphases that each approach places on issues such as sequence of development and the mechanisms producing change. Whereas Kohlberg concentrates on a macroanalysis, Gewirtz's analysis concentrates on event-by-event analyses of change. Kohlberg posits the self as a source of action. He necessarily finds that people reason at a stage and have free will, because he takes the subjects' reports as representing and reflecting internal processes. Gewirtz does not find traditionally defined stages or free will, because he takes subject's reports as behavior just like any other. He considers attachment an abstraction for a coherent system of responses cued and maintained by the appearance and behavior of an object person and considers the self but an abstraction for that coherent system of responses and other coherent response system.

Kohlberg's and Gewirtz's attachment theories emphasize that attachment takes place throughout the life span rather than being simply an infant-acquired and -maintained characteristic. This synthesis of their theories suggests that both stage-independent-- notions of accommodation and adaptation and their behavioral equivalent in learning theory, such as the necessity of the reinforcement of next-stage behavior for stage change-and stage-dependent condition produce attachment stage change.

The synthesis also suggests that attachment refers to the nonsubstitutability of reinforcers emanating from different sources. Nonsubstitutable sources are the attachment objects. What the attachment objects can be develops in stages. Simple, generalized, and pervasive imitation are used along with role-taking to the construct a shared self and the

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