Two theorist that I chose that have a lot of similaritiesthat focus on the bond between the childand the mother is the theorist John Bowlby and Margaret Mahler. They both talkabout the bond between the mother and the child but in different theories.
JohnBowlby’s theory is attachment theory as Margaret Mahler’s theory is separation-individuation theory. Both theoriesexpose the fundamentals that complementarity the superior strengths of eachother. Both theories were formed to assist professionals and other individualsto understand the role of involvement in the development of mentalrepresentations. “Mahler paid close clinical attention to inner mental states andtheir evolution, while Bowlby searched for behavioural correlated that couldlead themselves to empirical observation and inferences about internalrepresentation” (Coates, 2012).
This means that although both of them have themain focus is the bond between the mother and the child, their theories arestill different as one is focused on clinical attention and their emotions andthe other is focusing on behavioural correlation.JohnBowlby’s theory is called Attachment theory. Attachment is a way a child bondwith the mother or caregiver. Attachmentis a deep and permanent sensitive bond that connects one person to another individualthroughout time and space.
Touch and voice is a way of attachment that a child receives from the mother (Ainsworth,1973;Bowlby, 1969). John Bowlby in 1952 wrote a paper to the World HealthOrganisation which recommended that maternal deprivation might have the main cause of numerous emotional, socialand intellectual disorders. One of the main principlesin Bowlby’s theory is that there is a critical period for attachment to beformed. This period is between the age of 6 months and 3 years that arecritical for attachment formation.Margaret Mahler’s theory is called Separation-Individuation Theory. Margaret Mahler’s theory is, onchild development which specifies on the relationship between the mother andthe child. In her study on separation-individuationis considered as the most important ofconsistent focus, specifically from the mother during the first three years ofthe child’s life. This reaches the goal of raising children to grow and besuccessful, adaptable adults (Grace, 2013).
In both theories stated that the main bonding of the childand the mother is critical until the ageof 3 and this shows one of the similarities between these two theories. In thefield of attachment and bonding, it is widely acknowledged that what occurs inthe beginning of the person’s life in terms of relationship has an influence onthe brain development and is important to secure attachment (Schore, 2003).According to Bowlby,there are 4 stages of attachment that are:· Pre-attachment Phase (Birth – 6 Weeks)· “Attachment in Making” Phase (6 Weeks – 6 to 8 Months)· “Clear Cut” Attachment Phase (6-8 Months to 18 Months-2 Years)· Formation Of Reciprocal Relationship (18 Months – 2 Years and on) (Henniger, 2014)As for Mahler theory,there are:· Normal Autistic Phase: Birth to 1 Month· Normal Symbiotic Phase: 1 to 5 Months· Sub-phase One: Differentiation – 5 to 10 Months· Sub-phase Two: Practicing – 10 to 16 Months· Sub-phase Three: Rapprochement – 16 to 24 Months· Sub-phase Four: Consolidation and ObjectConstancy – 24 to 36 MonthsMahler broke down the stages from the birth to 10 months inthree phases as Bowlby only has 2 phases. In Mahler theory, the first phase Birth to 1 month is a Normal Autistic phase. Normal Autistic phase iswhen a newborn child is not aware of hissurrounding except his/her needs. At this phase, the mother has to be availableat all times as to reach the baby’s needs and introduce affectionate and caring (Grace, 2013).
Compared toBowlby’s theory, Bowlby also has this phase that is called Preattachment phase thatis between birth to 2 months of age. This is very similar to Mahler’s theory asthis phase is when the child makes little difference between people in theirarea. Infect the baby turns toward the people and also follow them with theireyes, also they are more contact when others are nearby (Henniger, 2014).Both Bowlby and Mahler agree that from Birth to 1 -2 months the child is not bondingwith the mother or caregiver but he is more self-centred.In Mahler theory, the secondphase is Normal Symbiotic phase from 1 to 5 months where the child starts to learn his/her surroundings and starts todevelop the bond with his/her mother or main person that takes care of thechild. At this phase, the child starts todevelop trust as their needs are being met such as positive incentives such assmiling and relief of discomfort such as feeding punctually when hungry etc…,this helps build the basis for securityand confidence (Grace, 2013). This is helpful intherapeutic play as according to Axline the first principle is to develop awarm, friendly relationship with the child and this happens when a bond and agood trust relationship is being built (Axline, 1986). Infect according toSchaefer has observed that playful interactions consist of touch and smiling,which are the most natural and enjoyable ways to form a sort of bonding andattachment with the child in the playroom (Schaefer, 1993).
As for Bowlby’s theory is Attachment-in-the-makingphase from 2 months to 6 months of age. At this stage,the child is still interested in other people but s/he starts to be more keenin their reactions to their primary caregivers, that provide for their basicneeds (Henniger, 2014). In this phase of age, both theoristsagree that the child starts building somesort of bonding with the primary caregiver.Bowlbyas one phase between the age of 6 months to 2 years and Mahler has three sub-phases,the first sub-phase is between the age of 5 to 10 months, second sub-phase isbetween the age of 10 to 16 months and the third sub-phase is between the age 1-2 years.
Bowlby’s theory at this phase is called Clear-cut attachment whichthe toddler starts to bond more with the primary caregiver. Although theycontinue exploring the environment around them, they carry the attached individualas a secure base to be able to move out to network with other individuals orthings. At this phase the bond between the primary caregiver and the child are strong.It will be very difficult for the child to be separated from the attachedpersons. At this stage, the toddler starts to have anxiety and concerns when thereare strangers nearby (Grace, 2013).
As for Mahler’s theory,one of the sub-phase is differentiation. At this stage, the baby starts to look for the primary caregiver more ands/he is more interested in the outside world. At this phase, the parents start tonotice the baby’s first signs of separation anxiety. During this time, thechild will continually look for the mother when they are doing other thingssuch as playing as a reassurance that primary caregiver is still present. Frequently,babies try to express interest in the environment around them, when they feelcomfortable and safe in their caregiver’s hands. In this phase, the mother will be accessible to helpthe baby’s emotional well- being and while it first acts about this time (Grace, 2013).Thesecond sub-phase of Mahler’s theory is Practicing. At this phase, the child’s mobility increases and sothey start to explore the environment independently.
Still they are not ready to separate from themother, as when they are crawling or start walking, they separate for a bit butstill, they go running back to theirmother for comfort and assurance. At this phase,the child starts having play time independently but they are comfortableplaying only when the mother is within the child’s view. It is important thatthe mother leaves her child to begin the level of independence and leave themto explore, still, she needs to stay nearby so that to provide her baby with the ability to enjoy him/herself in theirgrowing world. Mahler describes this as “hatching” as at this phase the childstarts to build his individualisation, as the child starts to have a basic sense of self and not directly connectedwith his/her caregiver (Grace, 2013). This is veryhelpful for me in therapeutic play as this is how Axline principle describes,to let the child direct his/her actions or conversations and leave them to leadus the way as the therapist follow (Axline, 1986).
Leaving the childto explore but the therapist is near the child is the way when the mother isnear the child but leave them independently to explore play and express theirfeelings. This happens as the child has a good bond with us and are buildingtheir trust with us therapists. This is very helpful for me in therapeutic play since the value of psychotherapy is based on therapeuticrelationship, the therapeutic playfocuses on an interactive relationshipwhich offers the chance of greater attachment security for children thatsuffers from interpersonal trauma.
Also,a benefit of therapeutic play is that it consists of therapeutic powers of playis attachment and bonding (Malchiodi & Crenshaw, 2014).The third phase is Rapprochement.At this phase, the children will be a confusinggroup. As at one time, they don’twant their mother’s care or wishes and at the next,they are nervously clinging to their mother’s arm.
According to Mahler this iscalled “ambitendency” and explains thatthis is why the behaviour where the toddler’ssometimes conflicted their desires and needs. During these months, thechildren start noticing that they are individuals, and they start to distinct from their mother, which is both a terrifying and scary discovery. At this age,they continue taking pleasure in exploringtheir atmosphere, but during this phase, the growth comes from socialising with otherchildren and people. They start imitating others and the tendency is that they want what others have and they will take it byforce. Mahler observed in toddlers that they often become a bit low key when they are not close to their mothers and they might withdraw a bit in themselves. At this stage, the children learnthat their emotional needs are not automatically sensed and so they becomedemanded mother’s attention. When they don’t get their way, they started to befrustrated that results to temper tantrums (Grace, 2013). In my opinion this phase, Mahler breaks the phases better thanBowlby in my opinion.
Mahler in this phases brings up how toddlers become moreindividual as Bowlby states that the child will be more bonded with the primarycaregivers.Mahler theory in the last phase that is called consolidationand Object Constancy. At around the age of 2, children start to be morecomfortable to distinct from their mothers, as they recognise that they will reappearand this is called object constancy. This makes the child accept that they are distinctivefrom their mothers without nervousness, allowing the child to involve alternativeswithout the mother being present (Grace, 2013). As for Bowlby,this phase is called Goal- corrected partnership, as from 2 years of age, theystart to develop relations with other people that are more complex and thatstart to distinguish the goals and strategies of the close individual. In thisphase, the child starts to focus on their needs that are being met and theirattachments are a rather one-sided relationship. Gradually, these corporationsmature, and the increased chances formutual relations value both the child and the adult (Henniger, 2014). Mahler focusesmore on the feelings and emotions of the child while Bowlby focuses more on the relationships and thebonding between the child and other individuals.
Both Mahler and Bowlby although they have a lot ofsimilarities and they have also differences they both thought me the importanceof how important the bonding and attachment in the first 3 years of the child’slife. Knowing the phases of Attachment and Separation-IndividuationTheory, helps me to notice when a child has attachment or bonding difficulty. It’simportant to know that a child without any attachment and bonding in his/herearly age will be affected in hischildhood and also in adulthood and they will find it difficult to have asteady relationship as well to find someone to trust (Fonagy & Target, 2007). These theorieshelped me realise how difficult a child will go through when there will be lackof attachment and bonding. Once the child comes to therapeutic play, throughplay I need to build a secure bonding and positive attachment with the childthat had never experienced this bond before. Therapeutic play consists ofmirroring, pretence, performance, sharing, showing and witnessing and this isvery helpful to repair and reforming attachment through experiential andsensory means and brings up those early relational situations that happenedbefore words became central, permitting the brain to accomplish new, more creativepatterns. Infect, reparative presentations of secure attachment involvementsbetween the therapist and the child are essential to positive change (Malchiodi & Crenshaw, 2014). Although all the therapeutic playtherapists can be used with the goal of attractingrelationship, dance/ movement therapy is most frequently used to deal withattachment issues since it focuses on the body.
For example, mirroring a client helps to set up and improve therelationship between the client and the therapist. If the client had issues ofattachment when he was young, he will find it very difficult to attach easilyand bond with the therapist (Malchiodi & Crenshaw, 2014). Gaining this knowledge on both Mahler and Bowlby’s theoryhelps me to improve my therapeutic play and with my clients and also gain the importanceof a good relationship between the child and me.