Studies on the importance of human development are essential because they provide scholars with a better understanding of how children change, learn, and grow over the years. This view of development is crucial because different types of growth might be affecting individuals even during adulthood. There are the so-called grand theories and several mini-theories, with the key difference between the two being that the grand theories take every aspect of development into consideration, and mini-theories only addressing social and cognitive growth in most cases. The stage-based approach is much more characteristic of grand theories. The current paper is going to compare and contrast the attachment theory and family systems theory in an attempt to point out the common advantages and differential downsides of both theories.
Review of Evidence
Discussion of Theories
Attachment theory focuses on the bonds between people and their interpersonal relationships, especially their long-term variations such as romantic partnerships or parent-child relations. According to Fletcher et al. (2015), attachment is an outcome of evolutionary routines that becomes rather impactful over time. By the same token as other behavioral theories, Bowlby’s attachment theory is focusing on the idea that all behaviors are learned, and every child would be able to develop attachments with caregivers during the process of growing up.
The family systems theory developed by Bowen suggests that there are emotional systems within a familial structure that defines the specific rules and roles that have to be followed. There are different patterns that become characteristic of family systems in addition to the growing impact of interpersonal relationships on other members of the family (Erdem & Safi, 2018). The process of emotional system development in family systems theory depends on human relationships within the domestic environment. Therefore, the theory introduced by Bowen suggests that the majority of patterns developed within a family either lead it to dysfunction or balance.
Impact of Theories
In terms of psychological and social development, attachment theory is rather straightforward because it influences the associations between close people and affects the development of opportunities for attachments that can be identified and analyzed by children. For example, when there is no primary care figure available to a child, they would be most likely to fail to develop a sense of trust in the future. Because of the lack of such attachments, many children raised in orphanages have to deal with the lack of emotional response and have no ability to reintegrate into society after leaving the residential home (Van Rosmalen et al., 2016). Accordingly, caregiving under the attachment theory should be based on the idea that children learn from society and develop attachments based on the quality of caregiving they receive from the environment.
The concept of family systems theory presupposes that there are specific psychological and spiritual bonds that affect the emotional system developed within the family. The impact of the family systems theory may be outlined as an ability to predict eventual behavioral phenomena and navigate interpersonal relationships within the family. Therefore, the process of functioning within a family depends on emotional connections between its members because of the unique contributions that each of the members could make irrespective of their age or socioeconomic status (Henry et al., 2015). From a psychological point of view, the family systems theory outlines the ways of achieving harmony within a familial system.
Practical Application of Theories
Practical applications of the attachment theory recurrently relate to policy-making activities because of the crucial nature of relations between children and caregivers. Depending on the length of contact, the attachment theory could have an incredible impact on caregiver-child relations. Therefore, one of the venues of the practical application of this theory is the implementation of mother and baby units in healthcare, allowing the care providers to maintain positive relations between parents and children during the earlier stages of a child’s life (Powell et al., 2017). Poor quality daycare should not be seen as a consequence of the inappropriate application of the attachment theory because incorrect policies causing dysfunction are recurrently attracting exceptional criticism.
The family systems theory is most likely to be utilized in the case where there is a need to implement family therapy and provide counseling services to family members experiencing dysfunctional relationships. One of the most common venues of practical applications of the family systems therapy is the setting of dementia in the elderly that causes caregivers to alter their psychoeducational and behavioral patterns in order to allocate available resources more effectively and improve the given family member’s wellbeing (Overton & Cottone, 2016). Therefore, the family systems therapy could be helpful in couple and family therapy when there is a need for improved interpersonal functioning.
Factors Affecting Human Development
In terms of the factors affecting human development, attachment therapy is most likely to point out conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder in children, especially in the case where they have been previously exposed to trauma or neglect. Existing literature on the subject suggests that attachment problems could have long-term implications for children as old as six months, causing them to suffer from the consequences of inappropriate attachment during early adulthood (Fletcher et al., 2015). Secure attachments cause children to become much more independent in the future and experience less anxiety and depression throughout life.
As for the family systems therapy, it may be suggested that it affects human development through the lack of education and inability to acknowledge the role of family emotional systems. Responsive conditions within any family could be eventually affected by a person’s removal from the family system (e.g., death or divorce) (Erdem & Safi, 2018). With enough evidence regarding family development, caregivers would have the opportunity to affect the development of younger family members and encourage cooperation to maintain familial wellbeing.
Cultural and Social Differences
The attachment theory mostly addresses the differences in cultural and social development with the help of focusing on the parent-child relationships and the outcomes of those relationships in relation to current and future children behaviors. One of the biggest influences of this theory is that it allows care providers to gain insight into future potential attachment issues while evaluating behavioral patterns of any given child (Van Rosmalen et al., 2016). According to the attachment theory, interpersonal styles and social behaviors can be predicted efficiently. Parent-child interactions might be utilized to learn more about the incorporation of behavioral models into family functioning and helping caregivers to make sense of their relationships with children. It would ultimately generate the required change in terms of intrafamilial relationships and cause more parents to come to an improved realization of what leads to childhood trauma.
As for the perspective that the family systems theory takes when addressing the cultural and social differences, it may be safe to say that the advent of a better understanding of constructive and destructive behaviors is what sets this theory apart from any of its counterparts. The most common issue that the theory touches upon nowadays is parentification, where children have to become adults much earlier than expected (Schier et al., 2015). It forces many counselors and therapists interacting with damaged families to become less enthusiastic when they do not apply the family systems theory, as the lack of relevant evidence causes them to allocate responsibilities incorrectly. In a sense, the issue of parentification is one of the key consequences of dysfunctional intrafamilial relationships that leads to early competence and cultural changes affecting children. Accordingly, the social dimension of the family systems theory allows for proper restabilization of age-appropriate roles and a thorough review of possible solutions to the issue.
The current paper provides a detailed overview of attachment theory and the family systems theory. The evidence collected within the framework of this research shows that these two theories are essentially similar in terms of how they approach the question of the psychological development of humans during their earlier stages. On the other hand, the key difference between these theories is that the attachment theory mostly focuses on the influence of inherent and learned experiences while the family systems theory relies exclusively on the interpersonal relations among family members with no concern given to the reasons behind specific behaviors or patterns. Overall, these theories are mostly similar because they touch upon the importance of human development and point out childhood experiences and potential traumas as the key triggers in establishing future interpersonal relationships.
Erdem, G., & Safi, O. A. (2018). The cultural lens approach to Bowen family systems theory: Contributions of family change theory. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 10(2), 469-483.
Fletcher, K., Nutton, J., & Brend, D. (2015). Attachment, a matter of substance: The potential of attachment theory in the treatment of addictions. Clinical Social Work Journal, 43(1), 109-117.
Henry, C. S., Sheffield Morris, A., & Harrist, A. W. (2015). Family resilience: Moving into the third wave. Family Relations, 64(1), 22-43.
Overton, B. L., & Cottone, R. R. (2016). Anticipatory grief: A family systems approach. The Family Journal, 24(4), 430-432.
Powell, C., Marzano, L., & Ciclitira, K. (2017). Mother-infant separations in prison. A systematic attachment-focused policy review. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 28(2), 274-289.
Schier, K., Herke, M., Nickel, R., Egle, U. T., & Hardt, J. (2015). Long-term sequelae of emotional parentification: A cross-validation study using sequences of regressions. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(5), 1307-1321.
Van Rosmalen, L., Van Der Horst, F. C., & Van der Veer, R. (2016). From secure dependency to attachment: Mary Ainsworth’s integration of Blatz’s security theory into Bowlby’s attachment theory. History of Psychology, 19(1), 22.