… for the developing infant, social relationships are both the problem and the solution. If the child is to develop social competence, he or she needs to become fully engaged in good quality social relationships. The maturing child will be exposed to a range of significant relationships, each of which will be capable of influencing the developmental pathway followed by that child. Forming a close attachment to a care-giving figure is still regarded as perhaps the most important early social relationship, but others, described as ‘beyond attachment’, become increasingly important, particularly as the child grows older. The child is part of a social network and if attachment relationships are weak with, say, the mother, it might be that the father, an older sister or a grandparent serves equally well as that child’s selective attachment figure. Rutter (1991: 341) notes the growing recognition that developmentalists now give to the quality and character of social relationships in understanding the formation of the self and the structuring of personality:

Attention has shifted from ‘mother-love’ as such to the growth of social relationships. However, within the latter topic, the concept of attachment has come to dominate both theory and empirical research. The basic idea is that children have a natural propensity to maintain proximity with a mother figure, that this leads to an attachment relationship and that the quality of this relationship in terms of security/insecurity serves the basis of later relationships.