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Attachment in the early years
Attachment in the early years

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2.3 ‘Good-enough’ mothering

Bowlby was much influenced by the work of Donald Winnicott, who, in his work with mothers and infants, came to see how important it is for a mother to be emotionally available to her infant, and for a ‘system’ of two-way communication to be built up. At the same time, he did a great deal to challenge the idea of a ‘perfect mother’. He strongly believed that an important part of a mother’s role is to allow her infant to experience tolerable frustrations. He coined the term ‘good-enough mother’ to describe a mother who allows just the right amount of delay in meeting an infant’s needs to encourage both tolerance of waiting and confidence in ultimate satisfaction (Winnicott, 1964). This then leads, according to Winnicott, to a healthy development of independence and sense of self (Winnicott, 1965). He did not believe that a mother was doing the best for her child if her aim was to alleviate all distress, discomfort and frustration at the earliest possible opportunity.