He theorized that what kids need most are safety and exploration. They need to feel loved by those who care for them, but they also need to go out into the world and to take care of themselves …

Brooks, David (2011-03-08). The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement (pp. 61-62). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Social scientists do their best to arrive at some limited understanding of human development. In 1944 the British psychologist John Bowlby did a study called Forty-Four Juvenile Thieves on a group of young delinquents. He noticed that a high percentage of the boys had been abandoned when they were young, and suffered from feelings of anger, humiliation, and worthlessness. “She left because I’m no good,” they’d explain. Bowlby noticed that the boys withheld affections and developed other strategies to cope with the sense of abandonment that plagued them. He theorized that what kids need most are safety and exploration. They need to feel loved by those who care for them, but they also need to go out into the world and to take care of themselves. Bowlby argued that these two needs, while sometimes in conflict, are also connected. The more secure a person feels at home, the more likely he or she is to venture out boldly to explore new things. Or as Bowlby himself put it, “All of us, from cradle to grave, are happiest when life is organized as a series of excursions, long or short, from the secure base provided by our attachment figures.” Bowlby’s work helped shift thinking about childhood, and about human nature. Up until his day, psychologists tended to study individual behavior, not relationships. Bowlby’s work emphasized that the relationship between a child and a mother or primary caregiver powerfully molds how that child will see herself and the world. Before Bowlby’s era, and even in the years beyond, many people focused on the conscious choices people made. The assumption was that people look at the world, which is simple, and then make decisions about it, which are complicated and hard. Bowlby focused on the unconscious models we carry around in our heads, which organize perception in the first place.

Leave a Reply