Learning Theory, Bowlby's Evolutionary Theory, Ainsworth's Strange Situation & Types of Attachment, Disruption of Attachment, Privation of Attachment , Day Care, Implications of Attachment Research

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  • Created on: 04-11-10 16:25
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Definition of Attachment
Is an emotional bond between two people.
Is a two-way process that endures over time.
Leads to certain behaviours such as clinging and proximity-seeking, and serves the
function of protecting an infant.
Outlining the Learning Theory of Attachment
Main assumptions:
Attachments are formed by classical or operant conditioning; they are not innate.
Attachments are formed on the basis of primary care provision (feeding etc.).
Attachment behaviour should increase steadily from birth.
The strongest attachment is with those who provide most primary care.
Classical conditioning [not necessary to learn but helps understanding of classical
conditioning in attachment]:
Behaviour is learnt by forming responses to stimuli through repetition
Evidence ­ Pavlov's dog:
Aim: To investigate whether a dog can be conditioned to salivate upon hearing a bell
Procedure: A dog heard a bell (neutral stimulus) and did not respond. The same dog
was presented with food (unconditioned stimulus) and the dog salivated
(unconditioned response). The bell was then rung before the food was given; this
was repeated several times.
Findings: The dog salivated (conditioned response) upon hearing the bell
(conditioned stimulus)
Conclusions: Behaviour is learnt by forming responses to stimuli through repetition
Criticisms: The dog's behaviour may not be representative of human behaviour
(which is more complex).
Operant conditioning [not necessary to learn but helps understanding of operant
conditioning in attachment]:
Behaviour is learnt through rewards/reinforcement.
Evidence ­ Skinner's pigeons:
A: To investigate whether a pigeon can be conditioned to follow instructions by using
P: A pigeon was shown a sign that said `peck'. At first when the pigeon pecked the
sign it was rewarded with food every time, then sporadically.
F: The pigeon pecked the sign even when not given food.
C: Behaviour is learnt through rewards/reinforcement.
C: The pigeon's behaviour may not be representative of human behaviour (which is
more complex). Also unethical as pigeon was kept hungry.
Classical conditioning in attachment:
A baby has two main primary drives ­ hunger and comfort.

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Food (unconditioned stimulus) produces a feeling of pleasure (unconditioned
The person providing the food is a neutral stimulus.
The person who feeds the child does this over and over again and becomes
associated with the food ­ the caregiver becomes the conditioned stimulus.
The feeling of pleasure (conditioned response) is associated with the caregiver
(conditioned stimulus).
The association between an individual and feeling of pleasure is the attachment bond.…read more

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Fox (1977)
A: To investigate whether children who are mainly raised away from their parents still
form attachments with their parents.
P: Fox observed children born and raised in an Israeli kibbutz. These children were
raised communally, and spent most of their time in a children's house where they
were cared for by a nurse.
F: Fox observed their separation and reunion behaviour and concluded that they were
strongly attached to their parents, despite spending little time with them.…read more

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Grundl's research supports Bowlby's theory of social releases. He conducted an experiment
where participants were shown faces with different amounts of `childlikeness', e.g. big eyes,
small nose, and were asked to rate them by attractiveness. Only 10% of participants rated
the totally adult face as being the most attractive.
Sroufe's research supports Bowlby's theory of the continuity hypothesis. He observed
participants' behaviour from infancy to adolescence.…read more

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Secure Attachment
Harmonious and cooperative interactions with their caregiver.
When feeling anxious they seek close bodily contact with their caregiver and are
easily soothed, though they may be reluctant to leave their caregiver's side
They seek and are comfortable with social interaction and intimacy.
The securely attached infant uses the caregiver as a secure base from which to
explore and thus is able to function independently.
Insecure ­ Avoidant
Avoid social interaction and intimacy with others.…read more

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C: Case study ­ would be unethical to do experiment, produces rich qualitative data, findings
cannot be generalised
Spitz and Wolf observed 100 normal children who were placed in an institution and found
that they all became severely depressed within months
Bifulco et al studied 249 women who had lost mothers due to separation or death before
the age of 17.
This group was twice as likely to suffer from depressive or anxiety disorders when they
became adults.…read more

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When she was found, she could not stand properly, was unable to speak and was
disinterested in other people
She never recovered socially
The Czech twins were locked up until the age of 7
When they were discovered, they were cared for by two loving sisters
By the age of 20, they had above average intelligence and excellent relationships with
members of their foster family
Poor Parenting
Quinton et al compared a group of 50 women who had been raised in institutions with a
control…read more

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Belskey and Rovine used the `Strange Situation' to assess attachment type in infants who
had been receiving twenty hours or more of day care per week before they were one years
old.…read more

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Clarke-Stewart et al found no difference in attachment between children who spent a
lot of time in day care (>30 hours a week from age 3 months) with children who
spent less time (<10 hours a week)
Implications of Research into Attachment
Quality of Day Care
Research high lists that day care facilities must have a number of factors in order to
provide `good substitute emotional care':
o Low child-to-staff ratios: NICHD study found that its day care staff could
provide sensitive care only if…read more


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