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3 theoretical approaches to the origin and development o f the infant-mother relationship are reviewed
  Child Development, 1969  , 40, 969-1025 OBJECT RELATIONS, DEPENDENCY, ANDATTACHMENT: A THEORETICAL REVIEW OF THEINFANT-MOTHER RELATIONSHIP MARY D. SALTER AINSWORTHJohns Hopkins University 3 theoretical approaches to the srcin and development o f the infant-mother relationship arereviewed: psychoanalytic theories of object relations, social learning theories of dependency(and attachment), and an ethologically oriented theory o f attachment. Object relations,   dependency, and attachment, although overlapping, are seen to differ substantially. Among the concepts in regard to which there are significant inter-theoretical differences, the following are discussed: genetic biases, reinforcement as compared with activation and termination of behavioral systems and with feedback, strength o f attachment behavior versus strength of attachment, inner representation of the object, intra-organismic and environmen-tal conditions of behavioral activation, and the role of intra-organismic organization and  structure. Finally, the relation between theory and research methods is considered. Three terms have been commonly used to characterize the infant's relationship with hismother: object relations, dependency, and attachment. Although they overlap somewhatin their connotations, these terms are not synonymous. Each is more or less closely tied to adistinctive theoretical formulation of the srcin and development of early interpersonalrelations.The concept of object relations stems from psychoanalytic instinct theory. The object of aninstinct is the agent through which the instinctual aim is achieved, and the agent is usuallyconceived as being another person. It is generally agreed that the infant's first object is hismother. The srcin of object relations lies in the first year of life, and most, although not all, psychoanalysts have viewed the infant's initial relationship with his mother as being essentiallyoral in nature. The major theoretical division, however, is between those who hold that thereare at least prototypical object relations from the beginning and those who hold that true object relations grow out of and supplant the infant's earlier dependency relationship with hismother.Although the term dependency has been used by some psychoanalysts to characterize theinfant's preobjectal relations, it is especially linked to social learning theories. These theoriesfollow the psychoanalytic lead in conceiving the srcin of interpersonal relations to lie in theinfant's dependence on his mother. (Although dependency and dependence may be usedinterchangeably, dependency has been preferred as a technical term in scientific and  2 Object Relations, Attachment & Dependency Mary D.S. Ainsworth  professional writing.) Dependency was defined at first as a learned drive, acquired through itsassociation with the reduction of primary drives. Dependency could become a generalized personality trait, in regard to which there were individual differences, presumably reflectingdifferent learning histories. Or, more recently, dependency has been viewed by learning theoristsas a class of behaviors, learned in the context of the infant's dependency relationship with hismother, and reinforced in the course of her care of him and interaction with him. In any case,although the first dependecy relationship is a specific one-with the mother or mother substitutedependency is viewed as generalizing to other subsequent interpersonal relations and to becommonly nonspecific in its implications. Dependence connotes a state of helplessness. Behavior described as dependent implies seeking not only contact with and proximity to other persons butalso help attention, and approval; what is sought and received is significant, not the person fromwhom it is sought or received. Dependency in the psychoanalytic context also has nonspecificimplications, but object relations once acquired are considered sharply specific.Dependence implies immaturity, and, indeed, the term is the antonym of independence. Although normal in the young child, dependence should gradually give way to a substantialdegree of independence. And yet it may be observed that relationships to specific persons-whether termed object relations, attachments, or dependency relationships -developconcurrently with the development of the competencies upon which independence is based.Recognizing this paradox, some social learning theorists (e.g., Beller 1955; Heathers 1955) havedisclaimed a bipolar dimension of dependence-independence, but this disclaimer leaves the term dependency a misleading one.Occasionally, psychoanalytic writers from Freud onward have used the term attachment whenreferring to specific love relations. Its current use in the psychological literature stems, however,from Bowlby (1958) . In the course of proposing a new approach to the srcins of a child's tie tohis mother, a theory based on ethological principles, Bowlby sought a term to replace dependency -a term free of the theoretical connotations that dependency had accumulated,The term attachment then gained usage with some ethologists and spread from them to psychologists studying animal behavior and thus to some contemporary learning-theory formula-tions. Attachment refers to an affectional tie that one person (or animal) forms to another specificindividual. Attachment is thus discriminating and specific. Like object relations, attachmentsoccur at all ages and do not necessarily imply immaturity or helplessness. To be sure, the first tieis most likely to be formed to the mother, but this may soon be supplemented by attachments to ahandful of other specific persons.Once formed, whether to the mother or to some other person, an attachment tends to endure. Attachment is not a term to be applied to any transient relation or to a purely situationaldependency transaction. Dependency relations vary according to the exigencies of the situation.Attachments bridge gaps in space and time. To be sure, attachment behavior may be heightenedor dampened by situational factors, but attachments themselves are durable, even under theimpact of adverse conditions. (The same enduring quality is attributed by psychoanalysts to object relations. ) This implies the formation of intra-organismic structures, presumably neuro-  3 Object Relations, Attachment & Dependency Mary D.S. Ainsworth  physiological in nature, which provide the person with a continuing propensity to direct hisattachment behaviors toward specific objects of attachment.It is the purpose of this paper to review the corpus of theory that has accumulated in regard toeach of these three terms. For convenience, the review will be ordered as follows: (a) psychoana-lytic theories of object relations, (b) social learning theories of dependency and attachment, and(c) an ethological approach to attachment. Except for passing reference crucial to the comparisonand evaluation of the theoretical formulations, pertinent research evidence cannot be reviewedhere.PSYCHOANALYTIC THEORIES OF OBJECT RELATIONSAccording to Freud's instinct theory, an instinctual drive has a source and an aim, both of whichare genetically determined and hence little influenced by environmental variations-and also anobject, the means through which the aim is achieved, which is variable and environmentally labile(S. Freud [ 1914] 1957, pp. 122-123) . In 1905 (1953) Freud specified that the child's first loveobject is the mother's breast, and he referred to the early suckling relationship as the prototype of all later love relations. Even in this first statement, however, he broadened the basis of this earliestof relations beyond orality. The mother, in stroking, kissing, and rocking the baby, is fulfilling her task in teaching him to love (p. 222). In 1914 Freud characterized the first object relation as anaclitic -because he viewed the sexual instincts, in this phase of development, as finding their satisfaction through leaning on the self-preservative instincts (p. 87). The implication is thatanaclitic love depends chiefly upon being fed. Later (1926) he observed that the infant experi-ences anxiety when his mother is absent or seems about to go. He identified this as signal anxiety; separation signals the danger to the child that his bodily needs will go unsatisfied ([1926]1959, pp. 136-138).It was not until 1931 that Freud came to a L ill recognition of the enduring significance of infant-mother attachment (S. Freud [1931] 1961), and this he reiterated in 1938 when hedesignated the mother's importance as unique, without parallel, established unalterably for awhole lifetime as the first and strongest love-object and as the prototype of all later love relations (1938, p. 188) . He then reviewed his earlier statements, but at the end of his discussionintroduced a new concept. The phylogenetic foundation has so much the upper hand . . . over accidental experience, that it makes no difference whether a child has really sucked at the breastor has been brought up on the bottle and never enjoyed the tenderness of a mother's care. In bothcases the child's development takes the same path; it may be that in the second case its later longing grows all the greater (1938, pp. 188-189) .Freud's account, although unequivocal in regard to the significance of the infant-mother tie, wasincomplete, scattered, and somewhat contradictory. Consequently, it left room for theoreticaldivision in subsequent psychoanalytic theory concerned with the srcins and development of thistie. In one tradition are theorists who follow Freud's emphasis on the lability of objects and hisview that the infant acquires the mother as object through his dependence on her for need-gratification. This group of theorists views the development of object relations as beinginextricably intertwined with ego development, and thus as being dependent on the acquisition of   4 Object Relations, Attachment & Dependency Mary D.S. Ainsworth cognitive structures not present at the beginning. This is the tradition of ego psychology. Theother group of theorists, implicitly or explicitly picking up Freud's reference to a phylogeneticfoundation, views object relations as primary rather than secondary and acquired. This traditionis self-designated as object relations theory.  Ego Psychology The ego psychologists, while accepting Freud's theory of psychosexual development, haveemphasized the development of object relations in the context of the development of egofunctions-a view relatively little elucidated by Freud. Although there are some differences fromone theorist to another, there is a substantial core of agreement among them. The ensuing accountis a very condensed summary of the following: Benedek (1952) ; Escalona (1953); Anna Freud(1946, 1952, 1954, 1965) ; Greenacre (1960); Hartmann, Kris, and Loewenstein (1946, 1949);Hoffer (1949, 1950) ; Kris (1951, 1955) ; Mahler (1952, 1963, 1965) ; Mahler and Cosliner (1955) ; and Spitz (1957, 1959, 1965a, 1965b) .There is general agreement that the newborn is an almost wholly undifferentiatedorganism-undifferentiated structurally, topographically, and dynamically. Neither id nor ego haveyet emerged from their common, undifferentiated core, and distinctions between conscious, preconscious, and conscious processes are irrelevant, if, indeed, they can be made at all. The babycannot discriminate between things in his environment, norbetween person and thing. Indeed hecannot even distinguish himself from his environment-which implies that he cannot discriminate between sensory input from his own body and sensory input from the external world. Because of this discriminative failure, the newborn is described as experiencing everything as part of himself-and it is held, therefore, that all of his libidinal energy is contained within himself. Hisexperience varies between states of tension (which have the affect of unpleasure) and states of relative quiescence. Since the baby cannot even distinguish his mother from himself, he cannotrelate to her as an object -that is, a love object. He is aware of very little else but the ebb andflow of his own tensions, being protected by a high stimulus barrier from environmentalimpingements. This first period of life is characterized by what Freud called primary narcissism ;others label this first period as undifferentiated or objectless. Within a relatively short period of time-somewhat less than 12 months-the infant will haveundergone profound transformations. Ego functions will have emerged. The baby will be able todistinguish between self and non-self; his passivity will have given way to active engagement withthe external world; he will have achieved a substantial degree of competence; and he will makeclear-cut distinctions between people, have definite preferences, and under ordinary conditions hewill have formed a firm attachment to his mother. There is substantial agreement among the ego psychologists as to the main steps in this transformation and as to the processes which play a partin it, although there are some differences in emphasis.In general, the development of object relations is viewed as going through three main stages: (1)an undifferentiated or objectless stage, (2) a transitional stage, and (3) a stage of object relations. The undifferentiated, narcissistic, or objectless stage.-In emphasizing the undifferentiated nature
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