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Such bonds may be reciprocal between two adults, but between a child and a caregiver these bonds are based on the child's need for safety, security and protection, paramount in infancy and childhood.

John Bowlby begins by noting that organisms at different levels of the phylogenetic scale regulate instinctive behavior in distinct ways, ranging from primitive reflex-like "fixed action patterns" to complex plan hierarchies with subgoals and strong learning components.

The telephone rings or there is breakfast to prepare.

The concept of cybernetically controlled behavioral systems organized as plan hierarchies (Miller, Galanter, and Pribram, 1960) thus came to replace Freud's concept of drive and instinct.Such systems regulate behaviors in ways that need not be rigidly innate, but—depending on the organism—can adapt in greater or lesser degrees to changes in environmental circumstances, provided that these do not deviate too much from the organism's environment of evolutionary adaptedness.Such flexible organisms pay a price, however, because adaptable behavioral systems can more easily be subverted from their optimal path of development.But the hallmark of a sensitive caregiver is that the ruptures are managed and repaired." This has important implications.Infants cannot exit unpredictable or insensitive caregiving relationships.