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Discovering Love - Mother and Son

Essay by   •  May 10, 2011  •  Essay  •  655 Words (3 Pages)  •  2,015 Views

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The attachment between a baby and its mother is strong and undeniable, but the causation of such "love" was for a long time up in the air. The Freudians viewed it purely as the importance of the mother's breast and a baby's oral tendency towards it. Behaviorists disagreed and instead hypothesized that it was associated with our primeval needs, such as hunger, thirst, and protection. Nonetheless, a man named Harry Harlow (1906-1981) was perplexed much like the rest and to quench his curiosity he developed a study.

In Harlow's previous studies he had recognized something quite relevant to the study he was about to partake in. In working with monkeys, Harlow realized that infant monkeys became very attached to the cloth pads that were used at the bottom of the cage, to the point of becoming extremely angry and aggravated when they were removed. This led him to theorize that infant monkeys had a basic need for something soft and comforting in addition to biological needs such as hunger and thirst.

In order for Harlow to test the theory of the necessity of "contact comfort," he developed a three-stage study; first, the infant monkeys would be given a cloth surrogate mother and a wire surrogate mother, with one randomly given the ability to provide food. Second, after living with the two mothers, Harlow would place the monkeys in a room of assorted objects, also placing in the room the wire mother, cloth mother, or neither. Finally, after six months, the monkeys would be repeatedly taken away from the cloth mother for increasingly long periods of time.

The results of these experiments were astonishing. In the First study, all the monkeys preferred the cloth mother to the wire counterpart, whether it provided food or not. Even the monkeys fed by the wire monkeys would only leave the comfort of the cloth mother for a short time to go to the wire mother to satisfy the necessity to eat. This was drastically different from popular theories that stated the attachment of an infant was developed almost only through the mother's ability to provide for hunger, thirst, and other basic human needs.

In the second and third studies, conclusion ran the same path. All the monkeys preferred the cloth mother to the wire mother, regardless of who provided food. When placed in a strange room, all the monkeys would immediately run to the cloth mother before gathering the courage to go explore the objects within. If there was no cloth mother, or the wire mother was present, a fit of rage and crying would occur as the monkeys looked around the room for the cloth mother. When being returned to the cloth mother, after being taken away for long periods of time, the monkeys would climb on it, clutch it tightly, and rub their faces on its body. All of these findings went against the popular thought that feeding was the driving force behind infant-mother bonds.

Despite these amazing discoveries there

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