The aim of this study was to investigate the attachment styles of children between the ages of six and twelve years of age who were admitted as inpatients in a children’s ward of a psychiatric hospital. Attachment theory (Bowlby, 1997, 1998) proposes that children develop certain attachment styles towards their primary caregivers from birth through to three years of age, after which the styles remain relatively constant as can be seen through attachment behaviours later on in life. These attachment styles can be secure, insecure-ambivalent / anxious or insecure-avoidant (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters&Wall, 1978). Green and Goldwyn (2002) also refer to a fourth category that was established through later research on attachment, named disorganised attachment. Psychiatric hospitalisation of a child implies the assumption of psychopathology and through institutionalisation, he or she is literally separated from the primary caregivers and inevitably placed in unfamiliar surroundings with strangers, making it an ideal setting to investigate attachment features. The researcher worked from the supposition that the mere fact of hospitalisation and implied pathology would thus point to insecure attachment styles in these children. A qualitative research design was implemented to gather information regarding the children’s attachment styles. Two projective techniques were used, namely the Children’s Apperception Test and the Picture Test of Separation and Individuation. Analysis of the information consisted of a first- and second-order process of thematic content analysis. The results yielded thirteen categories of experience. An extensive description of each category was provided, and the categories were then related to theory. The results obtained support previous research findings that found that institutionalised children tend to show more insecure attachment styles. The results from this study also indicated that these insecure attachment styles tend to be predominantly insecure-avoidant or insecure-disorganised.
Dissertation (MA(Psychology))--University of Pretoria, 2007.