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Attachment in the early years
Attachment in the early years

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1.2 Attachment and human evolution

The ‘environment of evolutionary adaptiveness’ (EEA) in which earlier pre-human species evolved into Homo sapiens was very different to the world in which most of us live nowadays. For most humans, we live a largely ‘built’ environment; even what most of us think of as ‘wild’ countryside is to a greater or lesser extent the ‘tamed’ result of human activity. Apart from a few pockets of lived-in ‘natural’ places in remote corners of the globe, humans no longer need to be alert to the presence of predators, and we are largely protected against extreme environmental conditions because of our housing and clothing, and the ‘constructed’ nature of our current life-spaces.

One of the striking, distinguishing features of human development as opposed to the development of other animals is the long period of dependency of infants and then children on their caregivers. The psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott wrote that:

there is no such thing as a baby … if you set out to describe a baby, you will find you are describing a baby and someone. A baby cannot exist alone, but is essentially part of a relationship ... .

(Winnicott, 1964, p. 88)

Here he is stressing that existence itself starts in the context of a providing relationship.

Described image
Figure 5 A mother and baby mutually engaged