Internal Working Models

Bowlby introduced the theory of internal working models of social relationships from the work of philosopher Kenneth Craik (Zepf, 2011).  Craik identified the ability of thought to predict events (Zepf, 2011).  According to Craik, “Prediction occurs when a small-scale model consisting of brain events is used to represent not only the external environment but also represents the individual’s possible actions” (Zepf, 2011, p. 17).  Internal working models permit individuals to apply alternatives mentally by using knowledge from the past in response to the present and in anticipation of the future (Zepf, 2011).  Internal working models also designate the development of individuals to be able to select, organize, and store images and impressions of themselves and their interactions with others.  These mental mechanisms develop during infancy as a collection of conscious and unconscious memories, thoughts, feelings, and strategies for affect regulation (Sable, 2008).  Secure attachment is an internal working model considered to be a provision of parenting, whereby a child can enter the outside world and return with the assurance that he or she will be welcomed, nourished physically, emotionally, comforted if distressed, and protected if afraid (Bowlby, 2005).  Essentially, a primary responsibility of the caregiver is to be available when called upon by the child to encourage and assist. 

Internal working models are primarily constructed by the child from attachment- related experiences and can be considered an accurate chronicle of environmental procedures and communications (Sable, 2008).  As a result of early attachment relationships, children adapt to what they are exposed to early in life, internalizing it into conceptions of the personal self (Zucker, 2014).  Internal models can be considered an internal set of rules and expectations children use to comprehend and to predict the behaviors of others (Zucker, 2014).  The more confident the child is that their base is secure and available if called upon to respond, the more likely the child will be able to take this availability, comfort, and care for granted (R. Bowlby, 2008).

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