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Attachment is a two way enduring emotional tie to a specific other person, for example, a parent and child.
The attachment develops in set stages over a rigid timescale.

Lorenz (1952)
Divided a group of goose eggs, one who saw him first and the other group saw the…

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The Learning Theory of Attachment
According to learning theory, infants learn to be attached to their primary caregiver through classical
conditioning and operant conditioning.

Classical Conditioning

1 Conditioning
Food Salivation

Unconditioned Stimulus Unconditioned Response

2 Conditioning
Bell No Salivation

Neutral Stimulus No Condition Response

3 Conditioning

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UCR response
Salivation Pleasure Any natural response
Bell before Feeder before Produces no
NS Neutral stimulus
conditioning conditioning response
Stimulus producing
Feeder after
CS Conditioned stimulus Bell after conditioning
response after
Response that is
CR Conditioned response Salivation Pleasure

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Operant Conditioning

Dollard and Miller (1950)
Learning through reward and punishment
A hungry infant will feel uncomfortable which creates a drive to decrease levels of discomfort
When the infant is fed, it relieves the discomfort and a feeling of pleasure is produced (negative and
positive reinforcement)
Food becomes primary reinforcer…

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Evaluation of the Learning Theory
Babies only periodically need food but continually need protection of emotional security ­ food is
not the main reason for attachment
Attachments can develop with people who do not feed the babies
Learning theory has high face validity
Animal studies have been used which are…

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Positive Negative
Soufre et al Schaffer and Emerson
o Continuity demonstrated in a o Bowlby overlooked the fact that a
longitudinal study of infants throughout child's attachment to the father or
their lives and found correlation other caregiver can be of equal
between early attachment and later importance
social behaviour…

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Types of Attachment
Ainsworth (1978)
Studied mother-child relationships in the Ganda tribe in Uganda
o Carried out a series of observational studies and interviews with the mothers
The Strange Situation Study
o Conducted a study in Baltimore, USA
o Met with 26 child-mother pairs every 3-4 weeks for the babies'…

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Page 10

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Effects of attachment type in later life
o Secure attachment
Associated with positive outcomes
Less emotional dependency
Higher achievement orientation
Interpersonal harmony
o Avoidant attachment
Related to later aggressiveness
Generally negative affects
o Resistant attachment
Associated with greater anxiety
Withdrawn behaviour
o Disorganised attachment
Linked to hostile and aggressive behaviour…


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