Henry W. Maier
Care interactions basic to human life
When parents cannot fully be available to nurture and support infants or young children, alternative care persons are enlisted to assure these children adequate personal attention. "Every child," in the words of Urie Bronfenbrenner, "needs at least one person who is really crazy about him [or her]" (1977, p. 5). In daycare or nursery school, instruction might be taking place; nevertheless, most of the activities involve caring interactions for the children's nurturance. In kindergarten a change occurs; nurturing interactions become increasingly replaced by educational endeavours. However, when there is prolonged absence from regular caregivers (parents or foster parents) in latchkey programs or hospitalization, special care interactions surely are always inserted as part of the service.
Older children and young adolescents can endure longer separation from
their central caregivers. Only when apart for an extended period as in
summer camp, hospitalization, in group care or residential schools, do these
age groups receive especially sanctioned personal care to bridge the absence
of a continuously available attachment-person.
Older adolescents and young adults continue their attachments with their folks at home while developing bonds away from their original caregivers. Some, however, have to rely upon intermediary support such as counsellors in group homes and supervised "independent living" arrangements. Additionally, there are other unofficial nurturers such as sensitive supervisors at the job, teachers/ counsellors in educational institutions, or empathetic sergeants while in the military services. The range of additional attachment provisions by parents has been evidenced with the boomerang generation where young adults, males and females, who had left home to live on their own, return once more to their original home. Their attachment needs frequently seem to require a booster toward subsequent further development (Sroufe and Waters, 1979; Weiss, 1982).
During adulthood personal care is primarily experienced through partnerships (hetero- or homosexually) and by means of highly valued friendships. During the adult years, persons who find themselves in severe stress, in transition, homeless, or experiencing a painful severance of close connections are assisted by a good friend, a genuinely caring colleague, or a care worker in any one of the service programs. (Hopefully, care personnel will also be available before too long for people behind bars!)
In the older ranges of life the necessity of caregiving again is evident. Attachment-persons are frequently no longer available or accessible. Furthermore, the elders themselves have more limited opportunities for new attachment-formation. Many adult children, in a reversal in the care process continuum, now assume major responsibilities for the care interactions with their aging parent(s). Additionally, adult daycare centres and residential programs usually include specifically acknowledged personal care functions along with their concerns for the physical, health and recreational aspects of the elders' daily life. The issue of personal attachment becomes again a central service concern as it was earlier inherent in the care of the young.
In actuality, attachment bonds are seen as the most important ingredients for the maintenance of primary relationships (Ainsworth,1985, p. 801). A thrust for personal connectedness and anchorage in the community is operant throughout the course of life (Weiss,1982, p.174).
* * *
Ainsworth, M.D. (1985). Attachment across the life span. Bulletin of
the New York Academy of Medicine, 61.pp. 792-812.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977, October 5). The fracturing of the American family. Washington University Daily, p. 5. (Summary of a lecture.)
Sroufe, L.A. and Waters, E. (1979). The coherents of individuals' development: Early care, attachment, and subsequent developmental issues. American Psychologist, 39. pp. 834-841.
Weiss, R.S. (1982). Attachment in adult life. In C.M. Parkes and J. StevensonHinde (Eds.), The place of attachment in human behavior (pp. 171-184). New York: Basic Books.
Maier, H. W. (1992). The substance of care practice throughout the life span. Journal of Child and Youth Care, 7, 4. pp. 79-80.