AS Psychology, Unit 1, Developmental Psychology - Attachment

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AS Psychology
Attachment ­ a strong emotional bond between infants and their caregivers. Attached
infants will show a desire to be close to their primary caregiver and will show distress when
they're separated.
Learning Theory: a group of explanations which explain behaviour in terms of learning.
Classical Conditioning ­ this is about learning associations between different things in our
environment. Getting food naturally gives the baby pleasure. The baby's desire for food is
fulfilled whenever its mother is around to feed it. So an association is formed between
mother and food. So, whenever its mother is around, the baby will feel pleasure ­ i.e.
Pavlov introduced this type of conditioning. He was conducting research on the salivation
reflex in dogs, recording how much they salivated each time they were fed. He noticed that
they started salivating before they were fed. The dogs salivated as soon as they heard the
door open, signalling the arrival of food. The dogs had come to associate the sound of the
door with food. They had learned a new stimulus response (SR). They learned to salivate
(response) when the door opened (stimulus).
This can be used to explain attachment. Food (UCS) produces a sense of pleasure (UCR). The
person who feeds (CS) the infant becomes associated with the food. The feeder eventually
produces the pleasure associated with the food; pleasure now becomes a conditioned
response (CR). This association between an individual and a sense of pleasure is the
attachment bond.
Operant Conditioning ­ learning also occurs when we are rewarded for doing something.
Each time you do something and it results in a pleasant consequence, the behaviour is
`stamped in' or reinforced. It becomes more probable that you will repeat that behaviour in
the future. If you do something and it results in an unpleasant consequence, it becomes less
likely that you will repeat that behaviour.
Dollard and Miller claimed that babies feel discomfort when they're hungry and so have a
desire to get food to remove the discomfort. They find that if they cry, their mother will
come and feed them ­ so the discomfort is removed (this is `negative reinforcement'). The
mother is therefore associated with food and the baby will want to be close to her. This
produces `attachment behaviour' (distress when separated from the mother, etc.).

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Strengths of the Learning Theory:
It can provide an adequate explanation of how attachments form. We do learn through
association and reinforcement. However, food may not be the main reinforcer; it may be
that attention and responsiveness from a caregiver and important rewards that create the
Weaknesses of the Learning Theory:
The role of food is the main weakness of this theory.…read more

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Bowlby's theory is an evolutionary theory. In his view, attachment is a behavioural system
that has evolved because of its survival value and its reproductive value. He believes children
have an innate drive to become attached to a caregiver.
Social Releasers
Sensitive Period
Internal Working Model
Continuity Hypothesis
Adaptive: infants have an innate desire to attach to their mothers as it increases their
chances of survival.
Social Releasers: include smiling and crying.…read more

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When they're reunited, the child is easily
comforted by the caregiver. Secure attachments are associated with a healthy cognitive and
emotional development.
Insecure Attachments: the bond between the child and caregiver is weaker. There are two
types of insecure attachment:
Insecure avoidant: if they're separated from their caregiver, the child doesn't become
distressed and can usually be comforted by a stranger. These types of children usually avoid
social interaction and intimacy with others.…read more

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Avoidant attachment is related to later aggressiveness and generally negative effects.
Resistant attachment is associated with greater anxiety and withdrawn behaviour.
Disorganised attachment is linked to hostile and aggressive behaviour.
Cultural Variations in Attachment
Cross Cultural Similarities:
Ainsworth did a study in Uganda where she observed carious universals in attachment
behaviour. Infants in Uganda used their mothers as a secure base for exploration and
mothers of securely attached infants showed greater sensitivity towards their infants than
those who were insecurely attached.
Tronick et al.…read more

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They also wanted to found out
whether there were intra-cultural differences (differences within cultures). Variation
between cultures: they found that the differences were small. Secure attachment was the
most common classification in every country. Insecure-avoidant was the next most
common in every country except Israel and Japan. Variation within cultures: they found that
this was 1.5 times greater than the variation between cultures. Conclusion: the global
pattern across cultures is similar to that found in the US.…read more

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Isolated Children
Genie was locked in her room by her father until she was 13½. When she was found, she
could not stand straight and could not speak. Socially, she never fully recovered. She showed
disinterest in other people. Her lack of recovery may be due to her extreme early emotional
privation, or it may be due to the late age at which she was `discovered' (well past Bowlby's
sensitive age for effective attachment), which would mean recovery was not possible.…read more

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However, when children don't form attachments, the consequences are likely to be severe.
Deprivation Dwarfism
Children in institutional care are usually physically small. One suggestion is that lack of
emotional care is the cause of such `dwarfism'. Gardener provided evidence from a case
where a girl was born with a malformation that meant she had to be fed through a tube. Her
mother never picked up or cuddled the girl as she was afraid of moving the tube.…read more

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These advances were in social development, independence, dinnertime obedience and social
interactions with peers.
Peer relations: Field found that the amount of time spent in full-time day care was
positively correlated to the number of friends children had once they went to school. Clarke
Stewart et al. found that those children who attended day care could negotiate better with
peers. Creps and Vernon-Feagans found that children who started day care before the age of
six months were more sociable than those who started later.…read more

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However, Clarke-Stewart et al. found no difference in attachment between children spending
a lot of time in day care (30 hours or more a week since three months) with children who
spent less time (less than 10 hours a week).
These studies show no clear effects of day care on children's development which suggests
that the research serves no purpose. However, the good outcomes such as the quality of
day care and age of child when starting day care are worth looking at.…read more


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