Attachment (Social Development)

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Social Development
Animal studies & Bowlby's theory of attachment
- Originally thought that reward formed the basis of attachment. Freud
believed that infants1 attach to whoever feeds them, and social
learning theorists also explained attachment through feeding.
- Social learning theorists suggested that the `feeder' becomes a
secondary reinforcer through their association with the primary
reinforcement; food.
- These assumptions were challenged in 1958 by a landmark experiment2
by Harlow.
Harlow (1958)
Aim ­ to find out whether baby Rhesus monkeys would show attachment to
something that provided food, or something that provided comfort.
Method ­ provided two wire mesh `mothers', one with a nipple to provide
milk, and one covered in a towelling material. The monkeys were reared
without their mothers. They were observed.
Results ­ the monkeys spent more time on the comforting `mother' rather
than on the food `mother'. They visited the food mother to feed, and then
quickly moved back to the comforting mother once they had finished.
Conclusion ­ reinforcement through the provision of food is not the main
determinant of attachment.
1 Infants- a child below 24 months.
2Experiment ­ a method whereby the researcher manipulates an independent variable,
whilst controlling other extraneous variables, in order to measure an effect on a dependent

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Evaluation ­ the study did provide important findings on attachment, but
raised ethical concerns about the treatment of animals.
- Another study was conducted by Schaffer and Emerson, who followed a
group of Glasweigan infants and found that they often formed
attachments to people who played and interacted with them. This
would not be expected by psychoanalysts and social learning theorists.
John Bowlby's theories
- Drew from findings on imprinting3 . Animals are said to imprint because
it increases their chance of survival.…read more

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­ eg if the child is ill
or tired.
- Bowlby's ideas have been influential for the most part. However his
concept of monotropism5 has been heavily criticized. A study by
Schaffer and Emerson challenged this claim.
Schaffer and Emerson
Aim ­ to test the concept of monotropism
Method ­ 60 infants were observed every month during the first year and
again at 18 months. The mothers were interviewed about the infants'
reactions to separation.…read more

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Age in Stage Characteristics of stage
0­2 Pre-attachment No preference shown for particular
2­7 Attachment in the Preference for particular adults in
making terms of smiling, vocalising and
being soothed.
7 ­ 24 Clear-cut attachment Protest at separation from certain
people, and wariness of strangers.
24+ Reciprocal relationships Understanding that care-givers can
have different motives to
themselves; behaviour organised to
mesh with that of caregiver.…read more

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Episode 6 The caregiver leaves again and infant is alone in the room.
Episode 7 The unfamiliar adult returns.
Episode 8 The caregiver returns in the reunion episode.
Types of attachment
- The strange situation is designed to be complex and stressful.
- Children who take part are usually between 12 and 24 months of age.
- The child's behaviours are coded on the overall pattern of responses
across the different episodes.…read more

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Ambivalent/resistant ­ 12%
Disorganised ­ very rare, and associated with infants at risk of maltreatment.
Sometimes the term `insecure attachment' is used to refer to avoidant or
ambivalent infants.
Evaluation of the strange situation
- It focuses on the relationship with one person and as a result a whole
network of social relationships are ignored.
- It does not work for all cultures. Japanese studies show that 35% of
infants were ambivalent.…read more

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De Welff and Ijzendoorn systematically reviewed research findings
(meta-analysis6). He concluded that infants can have different types of
attachments with each parent. Against Kagan.
- The strange situation is reasonably reliable in the short term. Thompson,
a child at one age is likely to have a similar attachment classification
when tested in later years.
- The strange situation has reasonable short-term reliability7 as a form of
measurement.…read more

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Similar types of attachment have been identified in the strange situation
and the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI)8. This supports the idea
that significant aspects of an individual's character are assessed in the
strange situation. The AAI is a semi-structured one hour interview,
including questions concerning early relationships and how people think
these have affected them.…read more

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Genetics only seem to have a weak role in the development of
attachment types.
- Psychologists have been interested in two issues; the way
caregiver-infant interactions result in attachment to certain people, and
the way caregiver-infant interactions could result in different types of
- Bowlby suggested that the amount of interaction will influence the
strength of attachment, and that response to infant distress also plays
an important role.…read more

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Many psychologists believe that interaction with a limited amount of
people before 8 months is responsible for the type of attachment that
develops. However, it is very difficult to carry out experiments to
identify the key features of interaction that are responsible for
formation of attachment.
- Ainsworth looked at the link between the caregiver-infant interaction
and type of attachment identified in the strange situation.…read more


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