The child development in relation to attachment and

The nature-nurture debate is about the relative contribution that influences human behaviour and development with regards to genetic inheritance and environmental factors.

Jean Rousseau, who supported nature, said that a child is born a noble savage.

And, john Watson believed that all individual differences in behavior were due to different experiences of learning.  (Saul McLeod, 2014)


This work (assignment) is to explain, with attention to Nature-Nurture Debate, how have the Main Theoretical Approaches improved our understanding of child development and a discussion relatively to attachment and the Nature Nurture Debate.



As for the methodology to achieve the aims of this work, a qualitative data collection technique is applied which, includes some literatures reviews, analyses and evaluations on Main Theoretical Approaches and improvements on understanding of child development in relation to attachment and the Nature Nurture debate, with attention to the descriptions of the assessment criteria provided for this assignment.


1.1 The Main Theoretical Areas of Child Development

Main body

The human development as sole study area, is very complex and rich in subjects. Therefore, understanding how and why a person can grow, learn, and act the way that is done, sometimes tend to be very difficult and with diversion of opinions.

For the understanding and explaining of human development, psychologists have come up with various theories of child development known as Child Development Theories to explain those various aspects of human growth.

Child development theories gives a deep explanation on how children change and grow over the course of childhood, with the focus on various aspects of development including emotional development, social development and cognitive growth.

As stated in the paragraphs above, there are various theories of child development but for the purpose of this paper, will focus on evaluating the main ones in the section below.



Cognitive Developmental Theory

Cognitive theory is related to the development of a person’s thought processes and it looks at how these thought processes influence how we understand and interact with the world

According to Piaget, the schema stage is the first stage that any human being need to go through. This is the foundation of where a child learns everything from.

In terms of children’s thinking, Piaget revealed that children’s thinking is not as same as adults. Piaget emphasized that children require obtaining experience to learn. Then they can create their own plan and vary them in necessary time.

Sociocultural Theory

Vygotsky developed his theories around the same time as Piaget. And, also believed, like Piaget, that children learn actively and through hands on experience.

Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory suggested that parents, family as whole, peers, caregivers and the culture in a large scale have a major influence for developing higher order functions.

Psychosexual Developmental Theory

According to Freud, children progress through a series of psychosexual stages. During each stage, the libido’s energy becomes centred on a particular area of the body. These stages are the oral, anal, phallic, latent, and genital stages.             ( Kendra Cherry, 2017)


Emotional and Phycological Developmental Theory

Three theorists specifically associated with emotional and psychological development are Erik Erikson, John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth.

Erik Erikson built upon Sigmund Freud’s work, identifying 8 separated stages across life span. He believed that in each stage we face a crisis that needs to be resolved in order for us to develop socially and emotionally.

John Bowlby examined the attachment relationship between parents and their children. He identified four phases in which attachment develops. He believed that children are born with a variety of behaviours that encourage parents and others to be near to them. (Berk, 1996).

Physical development

Arnold Gesell was an early supporter of maturational theory. He identified the role of nature or heredity in children’s development. His findings were that nurture is everything external that contributes to our development, such as care giving strategies, parenting styles and other influences. Nature is our biological inheritance where the genes in our bodies determine the human physiognomy and movements developments.

Language development

For the understanding theories of language, there are also different views and beliefs on how it is thought that children develop their language and communication skills. There are also various theorists on this matter, discussed here, is that of Noam Chomsky.

Noam Chomsky developed the nativist approach. Proponents of this approach believe that children have innate abilities to learn language an in-built ‘language acquisition device’ LAD which is wired to help them learn language.

 (Nixon and Gould, 1999). 

2.1 Attachment Theory and the effects of deprivation and privation Analysis.


Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space characterized by mutual affection and a desire to maintain closeness. For infants it involves distress on separation, pleasure on reunion, and a constant awareness of their caregiver. (Ainsworth, 1973; Bowlby, 1969).

Attachment theory in psychology originates with the seminal work of John Bowlby (1958). He defined attachment as a ‘lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.’ (1969, p. 194)

Psychologists have proposed two main theories that are believed to be important in forming attachments: The Learning Behaviourist Theory of attachment and The Evolutionary Theory of attachment

The learning behaviourist theory of attachment defined as a set of learned behaviours. The basis for the learning of attachments is the provision of food.  An infant will initially form an attachment to whoever feeds him/her.

The evolutionary theory of attachment (e.g., Bowlby, Harlow, Lorenz) suggests that children come into the world biologically pre-programmed to form attachments with others, because this will help them to survive

 ( Saul McLeod, 2009).

Attachment theory is important because good attachment allows a person to develop a well-functioning internal working model, this is: sense of self, sense of others, relationships with self and others. ( Sarah Phillimore, 2017)

On regards to effects of deprivation and privation, it is said to be in presence of deprivation if a bond was formed then broken, between the child and the primary caregiver, and in the other hand if a bond was never made, that is privation. For this later can have serious consequences, which Bowlby mention the effects as follow:

·         Affectionless psychopathy – the inability to experience guilt or deep feelings for others, which can lead to delinquency

·         Developmental retardation – simply meaning improper development (Bowlby suggested that those who do not form a strong bond with their primary caregiver will always suffer from low intelligence)

·         Separation anxiety – distress caused due to the separation of the primary carer and the child (


2.2 Critically evaluation of Bowlby’s research theory of attachment in terms of children and later development.


It is understood that separation from the primary caregivers can be very hurtful for an infant. Bowlby believed that the bond to the mother was very crucial that had a strong effect in the child development and socialisation – learning the rules of society and how to interact with others, including understanding spoken language and appropriate body language. However, his theory is controversial, and it is criticized by many as it does not clearly differentiate between deprivation and privation, Bowlby did not suggest a separate consequence for his attachment theory.

Furthermore, in his internal working model, he suggested that a child who internalises a working model of attachment as kind and reliable will tend to bring those qualities to future relationships, and should succeed as a parent themselves. On the other side, he suggested that those children who are neglected or abused will have a chance of reproducing those patterns in future relationships, meaning that, it is hard for them to be in some future long-term relationships and their own parenting will not be successful.

However, this may not be the case, according to Harris as he believes that parents do not shape their child’s personality or character. He has given an example of children whose parents were immigrants. A child can continue to speak their parent’s native language at home, but can also learn their new language and speak it without an accent, while the parents accent remains. Children learn these things from their peers because they want to fit in (Harris, 1998).

2.3 The studies into maternal deprivation/privation evaluation

Bowlby definite that mother-based separation/deprivation in the child’s early life caused permanent emotional damage  ( Saul McLeod 2007)

In Bowlby 44 thieves study were noted some weakness. It is understood that there might be a link between early ‘separating a child’ from his/her caregiver and ‘later psychological developments’, but these types of associated techniques cannot always be taken as proof of cause and effect. However, some researchers, consider that it was not solely separation that was responsible for maternal privation/deprivation findings, but its combination with the anxiety generated by hospitality received.

A study conducted by Rutter et al in 2000 boys aged between 9 and 12 years old, found that early separation and maladjustment may both be caused by family discord.

Furthermore, the information on separation from caregivers that was collected by Bowlby is understood to be unreliable. It is also difficult to envisage how the very short separations which characterized some of the children in his study could cause psychopathic disorders. Indeed, diagnosis of affectionless psychopathy was made by Bowlby himself, and his expectations may have biased the outcome. However, Bowlby’s theory is supported by other empirical findings.

Douglas (1975) also analysed data from a longitudinal study of 5000 children, and his finding are that children who had spent more than a week in hospital, or experienced repeated admissions under the age of 4, had increased chances of behavioural or reading difficulties in adolescence


5.1 The basic ideas within the nature nurture debate explanation

The basic idea within the nature vs nurture debate, the term “nature” refers to human beings behaving as they do in response to genetic predisposition. And the nurture, referring to human being thinking and behaving the way they do as influence on how they were taught to do so, linking this to environmental factor’s influences that, one is exposed to, from birth do death.



5.2 The contributions to the nature nurture debate with particular regard to development evaluation

The nature nurture debate has been an ongoing debate and, it has had significant social implications, particularly regarding what are thought to be the fundamental factor which determines human being’s ability to learn or their intelligence.

Whether the human being development being influenced by genes inheritance or environment, somehow is still an endless debate and has had some considered contributions.

Nature is responsible for the growth of a person from the foetus level until development into a normal adult. The gene of a human being is responsible for their physiognomy as well as distinguishing those features which are inherited.

Nature can only assist in the growth of a foetus into a normal well-developed adult who may have inherited some special talents and interests. Thus, it can be concluded that nature uses the genetic coding to help in physical development and does impart some positive or negative traits to an individual. However, it is nurture which can be utilized to improve positive characteristics and diminish the effect of negative characteristics in a child, as the talents have been given by nature, but they can only be developed into skills through the challenging work of nurture.

It is indeed important to recognize that nature in the form of inherited characteristics does exist but a person’s overall behavior is influenced a great deal by nurture or upbringing and the environmental factors involved in this upbringing.


To conclude, the studies into human development are very complex and rich in subjects. And understanding the stages that people go through, when on their physical and intellectual development, sometimes tend to be very difficult and with diversion of opinions. Inherited genes and environmental factors are important to human being development, as well as the attachment theories, in order to determine how the deprivation/privation can affect the future of a person or a child development. Indeed, it is important to recognize that nature as inherited genes do exist but a person’s overall behavior is influenced in a great part by nurture or social environmental factors involved in when in this upbringing process.