Slides in this set
A strong, reciprocal emotion and enduring bond between 2
people. Attachments in infancy are important because they
can affect future relationships and emotional health. Infants
display attachment through their behaviour around their
primary caregiver. It is characterised by a desire to
maintain proximity. Indicators include the degree of
separation distress, pleasure at reunion and stranger
anxiety. Attachment style is categorised as being secure or
The learning theory/cupboard love theory
Proposes all behaviour is learned through one out of two types of conditioning.
1) Classical conditioning Learning through association:
Pavlov's dogs were used to explain attachment. Food (UCS) produces a sense of
pleasure (UCR). The person who feeds (CS) becomes associated with food,
causing the feeder to eventually produce the pleasure associated with food, so the
pleasure becomes the CR (little albert).
2) Operant conditioning Learning through reinforcement:
Learning also occurs when we're rewarded for doing something with praise or a
material reward, so each time you do something good, it will result in positive
reinforcement, which means you're likely to do it again, and visa versa with
Dollard and Miller (1950) came up with the theory that hungry infants feel
uncomfortable producing a drive to reduce the discomfort. When the infant is fed,
the feeling of hunger is replaced with a feeling of pleasure, so food becomes the
primary reinforcer, and the feeder is the secondary reinforcer.…read more
Strengths and weaknesses
Provides an adequate explanation of how attachments form as we know we
do learn through association and reinforcement.
Main weakness is the role of food, as people still seem to believe it plays an
integral role in developing a close relationship, which has been undermined
by a study conducted by Harlow. He used monkeys who had became
distressed when cages were cleaned, as the sanitary pads which lined the
bottom, had become a `security blanket'. Harlow created two wire mothers,
one made of cloth, and one with milk. According to the learning theory, they
should have attached to the lactating mother, but they didn't, and would cling
to the cloth mother, especially when scared. (May not be generalised to
Additionally another study was conducted by Schaffer & Emerson in which
60 babies were observed, and it was found that they were most attached to the
person who was most responsive with them, not the feeder.…read more
Bowlby's theory of attachment
Adaptive & innate: Children have an innate drive to become attached to the caregiver (like
imprinting) because attachment has long term benefits. Therefore attachment is adaptive because
they increase the likelihood of survival.
Sensitive period: Since attachment is innate there is a limited window for development
(sensitive period). He suggests this is the 2nd quarter of the first year, when infants are most
sensitive to development of attachments. If you miss this window, he says you wont form
Care giving is innate: It's an adaptive behaviour which increases the offspring's chance of
survival, infants are born with social releasers such as smiling or crying, which causes a care giving
A secure base: Attachment is protection and acts as a secure base for children.
Monotropy & Hierarchy: One of the many attachments infants will form will be a primary
attachment with the person who responds best to their social releasers (usually the mother) and this
is known as the monotropy. The child will attach to the most sensitively responding caregiver and
he calls this the sensitivity hypothesis. The rest fall into ranking.
Internal working model: Cluster of concepts about relationships and what to expect from
The continuity hypothesis: The view that there is a link between early attachment
relationship and later emotional behaviour.…read more
Strengths and weaknesses
Bowlby's imprinting theory is supported by research by Lorenz who found goslings imprinted on
the first moving object they saw, supporting the idea that there is an innate drive to attach.
Universal concept, proven by many studies, including Tronick et al who studied an African tribe
who had very different childcare patterns, however kids still showed one primary attachment.
Shaffer & Emerson found most of the 60 infants formed many attachments, however they
maintained 1 primary attachment, not necessarily to the person who fed and bathed them, as there
was little correlation, suggesting quality not the quantity of the caregiver.
Bowlby's emphasis on the interaction is supported by study conducted by Harlow, as the monkeys
had difficulties in reproductive relationships and were poor parents, as the relationship they had
with their `wire mothers' was a one way relationship.
Many psychologists say all attachment figures are equally important - this undermines Bowlby as
he said secondary attachments contribute to social development as well as primary ones (siblings).
One key theory Bowlby suggests is that there are continuities between early attachment and later
behaviours, however this can be explained alternatively. Kagan came up with the idea of the
temperament hypothesis certain personality/temperament behaviours of the infant can shape a
mothers responsiveness. Eg/ if a child is born with a trusting behaviour and the mother is friendly,
that could be the cause of secure attachment. Research to support the idea that children are born
with innate temperamental differences was conducted by Thomas + Chess who identified 3 basic
types: Easy, difficult and slow to warm up. Further evidence comes from Bokhorst et al who found
greater temperament similarities between identical twins than non identical.…read more
Studies supporting Bowlby's theory
Bowlby says relationships will be affect by the mothers behaviour, because early
relationships help form the internal working model. Hazen & Shaver put the `love quiz'
in a newspaper which asked questions about early experiences, love involvements
(current) and attitudes towards love. They found:
Secure Adults Resistant adults Avoidant adults
Different love experiences Relationships are positive. Preoccupied by love. Fearful of closeness.
Adults views on Trust others + believe in Fall in love easily hard to Love not durable +
relationships enduring love. fine true love. unnecessary for happiness.
Memories of their mother Positive caring mother. Conflict memories. Cold and rejecting mothers.
Prior & Glanser conducted a longitudinal study which demonstrated a link between
early attachment experiences and later social functioning. They provided the following
Secure attachment is associated with positive outcomes such as less emotional
dependence and higher achievement orientation and interpersonal harmony.
Avoidant attachment is related to later aggressiveness and negative thoughts.
Resistant attachment is associated with great anxiety and with drawn behaviour.
Disorganised attachment is linked to hostile and aggressive behaviour.…read more