Jun 25 2008

Attachment: What the story of Rani the Bear in New Delhi, India can teach us

Ram Singh Munda found an abandoned sloth bear cub in the forest near his home in India. Fearing the cub would die left alone, he brought the cub home as a pet and companion for his young daughter.

Ram’s wife and mother of his daughter had recently died and he thought the cute bear cub would help he and his daughter deal with their grief.

Rani, the sloth bear, became a part of Ram’s family. Rani means Queen in English and that is apparantly just what she was for Ram, his daughter and their community.

Like all mammals, the architecture of Rani’s brain provided all the neural (brain) circuits she needed to become emotionally attached to Ram and his daughter.

What do we mean by attachment?

John Bowlby is a researcher who has helped us understand the importance of early childhood attachment.

He was a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who saw the importance of the infant-parent relationship very early on in his career.

He understood also that the earlier explanations of human behavior postulated by Freud and other earlier theorists were not correct and needed to be updated using contemporary research data from different fields.

We might call Bowlby the first evolutionary pschologist. His theory on attachment integrated ideas and research data from such diverse fields as evolutionary biology, developmental psychology, cognitive science and control systems theory.

His own observations and research led him to postulate what we now know to be accurate science…that an infant’s (or bear cub or any other mammal) attachment to a primary caregiver is a direct result from evolutionary pressures.

Remarkable discovery…but the feminist in me says that our ancient grandmothers probably would say, “what’s the excitement about? We knew that it was important to hold, love and sing to babies and that this helped them grow up to be healthy and happy…

Anyway, more on this later…

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