Education 2 Essay, Research Paper
In each person’s life much of the joy and sorrow revolves around attachments or affectionate relationships — making them, breaking them, preparing for them, and adjusting to their loss by death. Among all of these bonds is a special one — the type a mother or father form with his or her newborn infant. Bonding does not refer to mutual affection between a baby and an adult, but to the phenomenon whereby adults become committed by a one-way flow of concern and affection to children whom they have cared for during the first months and years of life. According to J. Robertson in his book A Baby in the Family: Loving and Being Loved, individuals may have from three hundred to four hundred acquaintances in there lifetimes, but at any one time there are only a small number of people to whom they are closely attached. He explains that much of the richness and beauty of life is derived from these close relationships which each person has with a small number of individuals — mother, father, brother, sister, husband, wife, son, daughter, and a small cadre of close friends (Robertson 1). A mother s love is a crude offering, and according to Kennell and Klaus in their book Parent-Infant Bonding, there is a possessiveness and an appetite in it.
Some argue that attachment is one qualitative feature of the emotional tie to the partner. The operationalization of the construct (attachment) to determine the presence or absence has to be done by some measure of the interaction between partners. Joe Mercer s Mothers’ Responses to Their Infants with Defects says, The mother either responds to her infant s cries with affectionate behaviors and evokes the infants interactions to suggest the infant is a central part of her life, or she does not. The infant either shows preferential responses to the mother, responds to her verbal and tactile stimulation, or does not. (Mercer 17). He further goes on to explain that it is easier to say the infant s tie to the mother is absent, but the psychological complexity of adults make it far more difficult to say a mother has no bond to her infant (Mercer 19). Attachment is crucial to the survival and development of the infant. Kenneth and Klaus point out that the parents bond to their child may be the strongest of all human ties. This relationship has two main characteristics: before birth the infant gestates within a part of the mother s body and after birth she ensures his survival while he is utterly dependent on her and until he becomes a separate individual. The power of this attachment is so great that it enables the mother and father to make the unusual sacrifices necessary for the care of their infant. Day after day, night after night; changing diapers, attending to cries, protecting the child from danger, and giving feed in the middle of the night despite their desperate need to sleep (Mercer 22).
It is important to note that this original parent-infant tie is the major source for all of the infant s subsequent attachment and is the formative relationship in the course of which the child develops a sense of himself. Throughout his lifetime the strength and character of this attachment will influence the quality of all future ties to other individuals. The question is asked, “What is the normal process by which a father and mother become attached to a healthy infant?” Well, since the human infant is wholly dependent on his mother or caregiver to meet all his physical and emotional needs, the strength and durability of the attachment may well determine whether or not he will survive and develop optimally.
Experimental data suggests that the past experiences of the mother are a major determinant in molding her care-giving role. Children use adults, especially loved and powerful adults, as models for their own behavior. Kennell and Klaus explain that unless adults consciously and painstakingly reexamine these learned behaviors, they will unconsciously repeat them when they become parents. Thus the way a woman was raised, which includes the practices of her culture and the individual idiosyncrasies of her own mother’s child raising practices, greatly influences her behavior toward her infant. Bob Brazelton s The Early Mother-Infant Adjustment says, “It may seem to many that attachment to a small baby will come naturally and to make too much of it could be a mistake… but there are many, many women who have a difficult time making this adjustment. Brazelton also points out that we must understand the ingredients of attachment in order to help, because each mother-child dyad is unique and has individual needs of it’s own (Brazelton 12). The developing parent attachment is evidenced during pregnancy as both parents fondly pat and rub the fetus through the thinning abdominal wall (Mercer 31). It might be argued that the length of breastfeeding is not a valid assessment of the strength of bond between mother and infant since it is culture bound. According to Violet Oaklander in Windows to our Children, too many variables influence a woman’s decision to continue breastfeeding to make it a valid assessment of bonding. A woman who discontinues breastfeeding to return to work four weeks after delivery can be just as bonded as a breastfeeding mother who takes a nine-month maternity leave (Oaklander 102). Similarly, she explains, the initial decision to breastfeed must be continuously used in the assessment of bonding. A mother’s decision to breastfeed may be an indication of her willingness to give of herself to her infant, which is characteristic of bonding. However a mother who decides to bottle feed in order to give her infant the best “American start” is giving of herself in an equally healthy, but different way. The parent-infant (father as well as mother) relationship is a continuing process of adaptation to each other s needs, and parents should be aware that all is not lost if early contact is not possible. However, it should be emphasized that it is the mother’s choice to determine how much time she spends with her infant in the hospital. “When it is possible for parents to be together with their babies, in privacy, for the first hour, and throughout the hospital stay, the most beneficial and supportive environment for the beginning of the bonding process is established”, (Kennell and Klaus 57). Eye-to-Eye contact serves the purpose of giving a real identity or personification to the baby, as well as getting a rewarding feedback of the mother (Oaklander 45). The mother’s voice is another important element as well as entertainment. Although the infant moves in rhythm to his mother’s voice and thus may be driven to be affected by her, the infant’s movements according to Oaklander, may reward the mother and stimulate her to continue. Another important element is odor. Rolland Macfarlene in The Relationship Between Mother and Neonate, found that by the 5th day of life, breastfeeding infants can discriminate their mother own breast pad from the breast pads from that of other mothers with significant reliability (Macfarlene 63).
According to Mark A. Stewart in Raising a Hyperactive Child, There are some homes in which children are raised so permissively or so haphazardly that they are never taught how to listen to someone else. Neither are they taught how to stick to a task, or how to control their impulsive behavior because there never was a great bond created between the child and parents (Stewart 23). Stewart continues by pointing out that these children will, of course, be at a disadvantage when they venture outside the home to school or to other children’s home or in other situations where they are injected to exert some control over their behavior. Stewart also stresses the importance of parents teaching their children how to socialize and behave in public. He says, “if there is a bond between the parents and child there will never be a problem when it comes to one parent getting the child to do what s right” (Stewart 24). If a child has been brought up in a very unstructured environment without a reliable pattern to depend on, he will tend to exhibit some of the traits of hyperactivity. There is a widespread but mistaken assumption that behavior determined by inheritance, or by damage to the brain cannot be influences. Stewart believes that a mother’s love is one of the most powerful of all influences when it comes to what the child will be in the future (Stewart 30). In dealing with the problem of disobedience in the child, Stewart goes on to say, The first and most important step in management is that whatever a mother says, always must be done. For this reason, do not require too much; and on no account allow your child to do at one time, what you have forbidden him to do at another (Stewart 127).
According to Susan Meyers in her book Who Will Take the Children?, No one factor can be held responsible for shaping the kind of person one becomes or the ways in which an individual tends to look at things (Meyers 30). She further explains that many elements impact upon people’s lives, from the genes we inherit to the families we are born into and the communities in which the child grows up (Meyers 31). As pointed out by Berman, “Divorce is one of the worst things that can happen between parents during the early years of a child s life, not only can divorce break all the bonds which were previously established, but is something that can leave the children with lots of baggage.” When children learn that a vow or bond can be broken, they face life with uncertainty. Berman states the case of a 34 year-old woman whose parents divorced when she was thirteen. The woman asks, “when your parents betray you and break the bond between them and their child, then who do you trust?” Is it a rhetorical question? She goes on to explain, “for years I had the feeling that everyone was out to get me. It took me a long time to trust anyone.” Maybe now people especially parents will come to realize that bonding does not only refer to mutual affection between a baby and an adult. But it is the phenomenon whereby adults become committed by a one-way flow of concern and affection for which they have cared during the first months and years of life.
Berman, Claire. Adult Children of Divorce Speak Out. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991.
Brazelton, Bob. The Early Mother-Infant Adjustment. Amsterdam: Elsevier Publishing Co.
Kennell, John and Marshall Klaus. Parent-Infant Bonding. Missouri: The C.V. Mosby Company,
Macfarlene, Rolland. The Relationship between Mother & Neonate. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1978.
Mercer, Joe. Mother’s Response to Their Infants with Defects. New York: Charles B. Slack Inc.,
Meyers, Susan. Who Will Take the Children? Indianapolis/New – York: Bobbe-Mervil, 1983.
Oaklander, Violet. Windows to our Children. Utah: Real People- Press, 1978.
Robertson, J. A Baby in the Family: Loving and being loved. London: Penguin Books, Ltd.,
Stewart, Mark A. Raising a Hyperactive Child. London: Harper and Row Publishers, 1973.