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Hypotheses

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The authors are severe upon the attachment theory, which is one of the most influential theories of relatedness. They believe that Western investigators made a step towards the alternative theories as being biased with the ideas and concepts of the western civilization. Attachment theory happens to be the least accused of ethnocentrism out of the other relatedness theories. Its proponents refer to cultural influences, although there appears to be a lack of cross-cultural research. Besides its theorists paid more attention to the peripheral cultural aspects, ignoring the core ones, which were highlighted by the authors, who had researched it thoroughly.

Out of a variety of core hypotheses, the authors have chosen 3 major ones, in particular, the sensitivity hypothesis, the competence hypothesis and the secure base hypothesis. The three hypotheses differently approach the prolonged need of the infants for the mothers’ care and protection, rooting back in evolution and possessing biological character. It is believed that despite the cultural significance to the attachment theory, it is only partially dependent on the culture, being totally independent from it in its core. The authors disagree with other scholars and state that  all three attachment theory core hypotheses have the right to exist in the Western reality, as they have proved to be universal. Biology is said to be the part of the system used for human development, along with culture.

The authors believe sensitivity hypothesis may be treated differently in relation to the different cultures, i.e. different societies in another perspective. E.g. Japanese parents react on the children’s needs while American ones chose to watch and make the infants identify the needs and then react to them. US infants get to explore the world in search of information, with mothers bringing informative messages to them, while Japanese infants depend on their mothers and listen to their emotional speech.

The competence hypothesis theorists define the following aspects of it in terms of individualization: exploration, autonomy, efficacy, independence, self-expression and positive peer relationships. Secure attachment helps children become more autonomous later, with individualism being the prior strength, while Japanese children are encouraged to achieve everything in groups, not on individual basis. The highly valued social harmony is believed to be perceived through cooperation and relying on each other in Japan. The US appreciate social openness which is perceived negatively in Japanese society. US children are encouraged to open communication and express themselves, while Japanese culture states the inner-group relationships are the only one appropriate, and children are kept in fear of contacting any outsiders. Japanese society estimates restraining of the emotions, keeping the harmony without any self enhancement, as if it could break the balance.

The secure base hypothesis allows the infant to explore “from the base”. Studies prove US infants to be oriented towards the exploration of environment, while Japanese ones rely on their mothers, whether in stressful or positive situations. Japanese mothers encourage their children to self exploration, studying their own philosophy, while US children are encouraged to explore the environment, with Japanese children proven to have more dependency on their mothers, while US ones are more independent.

Research assessment showed that Western researchers concentrate on children and their behavior, while Japanese scientists tend to explore the parent-child relations. Thus the conclusions of such studies may be varying, as different bases were used. Due to the cultural differences, normal behaviors for the US children might be interpreted as unacceptable for the Japanese society, and vice versa. Attachment may be the same, but conceived in different environments, it becomes a matter of misunderstanding. Thus authors call on our sense of intercultural understanding and believe this may lead to the mutual respect.

The authors are worried that attachment theory may be misinterpreted as the cultural influence distorts the research findings. They suggest to analyze the attachment theory basing on the specific cultural background, and not comparing with other cultures. More similar cultures might be compared, unlike Western and Japanese ones, like in this article.

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