AQA As Psychology Unit 1 Attachments Revision Notes

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Attachments Booklet
Why do we form attachments?
This is best broken into short term (immediate) benefits and longer term benefits. Both, to some extent, can be
explained in terms of benefits to the reproductive success of the species or individual (depending whether you
favour Darwin or Dawkins; for the biologists).
Short term benefits
Most species emerge into the world unable to fend for themselves so require lots of assistance in the early stages of
life. This is particularly true of the human infant that is helpless for many early years of its life.
Forming a close attachment with a caregiver therefore ensures that the offspring will be fed, protected from harm,
educated in various techniques of survival and kept warm. It seems likely that the infant's need to form an
attachment is innate. It is also worth considering that it is also in the interests of the parent(s) to protect their
offspring from harm. Again in evolutionary terms they, particularly the mother, have invested a lot of time and
energy in producing offspring, it is in their best interests to see the fruits of their labours reach maturity and
reproduce themselves. It therefore seems likely that adults also have an innate tendency to form attachments with
their offspring.
Long term benefits
These are not so apparent. Bowlby (1969) proposed that early attachments provide a template or schema, or a set
of expectations that allow us to build other attachments later in life. He called this template the `internal working
model.' Early attachments are our first feel for what constitutes an emotional bond and we use this in later life as a
basis for other attachments.
It seems they also act as an anti-incest device. Incest, as well as being morally repugnant in all societies, is biologically
very dodgy, leading to greatly increased risk of genetic abnormality. Any species or individual that avoids incest is
therefore more likely to successfully propagate its offspring.
How do attachments develop?
It seems that different rules apply to animals and humans.
1. Imprinting as proposed by Konrad Lorenz
This idea comes from the work of ethologists on non-human animals, particularly birds.
Just as physical characteristics of various species develop at certain stages of growth, the ethologists claim that
perhaps attachments will only form during similar critical periods. The most famous examples of this are birds
forming attachments to the first thing they see upon hatching. Think of Quackers!
Ethologists refer to the phenomenon as imprinting. It has the following characteristics:
It occurs during a critical period. With ducklings the strongest tendency, according to Lorenz, is between 13 and 16
hours after emerging from the egg. If no attachment has developed within 32 hours it's unlikely any attachment will
ever develop.
It is irreversible: once the bond is formed it cannot be broken, nor can its effects.
It has consequences both for short term survival and in the longer term forming templates for later relationships.
Konrad Lorenz (1935) split a clutch of goose eggs and got half to be hatched by their mother and the rest were
placed in an incubator and saw Konrad on hatching. The second group subsequently followed Konrad everywhere
and became distressed if they were separated from him.

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Although of fragile and amiable appearance, Lorenz's
politics did leave a lot to be desired. In 1938, at the
age of 35 he joined the Nazi party and devoted his
research to the aims of the National Socialists. Some
of his later research supported the idea of `racial
hygiene' proposed by the Nazis.
In later life, he joined the Austrian Green Party and
distanced himself form his earlier politics.…read more

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Durkin (1995) pointed out that most of the mothers were unmarried and from poor families so results may be
difficult to generalise to the general population. Perhaps the closer bond was due more to the extra attention given
to them during the experiment.
(Note that this is another one of those `catch-all' evaluation comments that can be applied in any situation when
participants are chosen from a narrow grouping, e.g. students).…read more

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However, accuracy of data collection by parents who were keeping daily diaries whilst clearly being very busy could
be questioned.
Types of attachment
Ainsworth and Bell (1970)
AIM: The aim of this study was to produce a method of assessing quality of attachment by placing an infant in a
situation of mild stress (to encourage the infant to seek comfort) and of novelty (to encourage exploration
behaviour). Both comfort-seeking and exploration behaviour are indicators of quality of attachment.…read more

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It would be unreasonable to make generalisations about all infant behaviour on the basis of this sample. The
study and its findings are restricted to middle-class American infants i.e. are culturally biased
In another study, Main and Cassidy (1988) identified a further group of children; this classification group is
referred to as disorganised (type D). These children show inconsistent behaviour, confusion and indecision. They
also tend to freeze or show stereotyped behaviour such as rocking.…read more

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Half of the children showed their first specific attachment between 25 and 32 weeks (6-8 months). Fear of
strangers occurred about a month later in all the children.
The intensity of attachment peaked in the first month after attachment behaviour first appeared, as
measured by the strength of separation protest. However there were large individual differences.
Intensely attached infants had mothers who responded quickly to their demands (high responsiveness) and
who offered the child the most interaction.…read more

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As always the behaviourist explanation is reductionist because it takes a complex human behaviour and tries to
explain it in the simplest terms possible. It does not consider any internal processes or seek to explain the emotional
nature of attachments simply how they arise as behaviours.
The behaviourist theories of attachments (and Freud's psychodynamic) are sometimes referred to as cupboard love
theories because of their emphasis on food and feeding.…read more

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Presumably infants need a responsive caregiver
and an interactive relationship with this individual for healthy development.
Harlow conducted various further studies to investigate the effects of deprivation. Harlow and Harlow (1962) raised
monkeys for lengthy periods in total isolation. When they were placed with other monkeys they remained
withdrawn and extremely fearful. In comparison, monkeys raised with a cloth "mother" were much more able to
engage in social activity. This shows that the cloth mother was better than nothing.…read more

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Sensitive period
Being innate Bowlby believed there would be a period in which they were most likely to develop, similar to the
critical period for imprinting. Unlike a critical period (the only time in which an attachment may form), a sensitive
period suggests a time when they are most likely to occur. Bowlby believed that for the human infant this was
between the fourth and sixth month. After this it becomes ever more difficult for the child to form a first attachment.…read more

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Bowlby famously claimed that a bad home was better than a good institution because of the poor psychological care
children receive in such places. Skodak & Skeels (1949) compared two groups of mentally retarded children brought
up in an institution. One group were transferred to a home to be cared for, the other group remained in the
institution.…read more


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