AQA A Spec AS level - Developmental psychology

1. formation of attachments

2. why we form attachments

3. types of attachments

4. cultural variations

5. disruption of attachments

6. affect of day care

7. implications of reasearch into attachments


1. formation of attachments

Maccoby (1980) - how we can see two people have an attachment

Seeking proximity - near each other

Distress on seperation - cries etc. when the caregiver leaves

Joy on reunion - clinging to them and hugging them when they come back

General orientation - direct their attention towards each other 

Similar signs can be seen in older people who have an attahcment.  

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1. formation of attachments

Lorenz's Geese 1930's - how do babies develop attachments

Konrad Lorenz - ethologist (studied the first attachments of geese)

Seperated two groups of fertalised eggs, one to a natural birth with mother and the other in an incubator (making sure he was the first thing seen).

the incubatored goslings made an instant attachment to him, they followed him as if he were their mother.he named this process 'imprinting'.

strongest tendecy to form an attachment was between 13 and 16 hours after birth. (critical period).

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1. formation of attachments

Klaus and Kennell (1976) - Formation of bonds between parents and babies 

Tested the idea that early skin-to-skni contact led to closer bonds. studied pregnancies in hospitals.

Previous to there experiment babies were taken shortly after birth and and kept in a nursery!!! they followed the babies and their mothers for a year after birth. 

The control group had routine contact: saw their baby after delivery and then at feeds.

the experimental group had extended contact: extra hour of skin-to-skin contact after the birth. - showed more  soothing behaviours such as cuddling when they were given routine medical examinations and maintained closer proximity to their babies.

The study extended the idea of sensitive period (a period of time attachment is likely to occur.) 

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1. formation of attachments

Schaffer and Emerson 1964 - the formation of attachments

Studied 60 babies in Glasgow using observation and interviews. The collected data on two types of behaviour: 

Separation anxiety - distress when the caregiver left, indicates they have formed attachments.

Stranger Distress - scared when approached by someone who they did not know.

most babies started to show separation anxiety form their attachment at around 25-32 weeks. fear of strangers a month later.

65% first attachment to mother. 

3% to father

27% to both (joint attachment)

40% the person who cared for them did not form an attachment. 

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2. why we form attachments

Learning Theory 

Operant conditioning: Skinner's rats explored their surroundings, when they pressed a lever the would receive food they continued to do this over and over again (positive reinforcement). 

Classical Conditioning: learning through association - Pavlov's dogs. Comfort the person who helps you the most.

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2. why we form attachments

Social Learning Explanations

learn through observation of behaviours and irritation 

1. Role Modelling - parents show child affection

2. Direct Instruction - parents teach the child to reciprocate affection

3.Social Facilitation - Watch and help child to carry out attachments behaviours

evaluation - importance of parent figures

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2. why we form attachments

John Bowlby's - evolutionary theory

1940's. we have evolved through natural selection, and therefore our attachments have changed so we stick to the caregiver. 

he came up with the idea of monotropy - forming attachment to the primary caregiver. 

He developed Freud's idea of mother and child relations and that the the first attachments will determine how you be later on in life (internal working model)

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3. Types of Attachment

Ainsworth 1970 - strange situation

8 stages to the observation

1. mother and child enter 2.stranger enters interacts with them 3. stranger approaches baby 4. mother leaves the room 5. mother returns and stranger leaves 6. mother leaves baby is on its own 7. stranger re-enters 8. mother returns stranger leaves

Secure (Type B) - 70% - used mother as a base

Insecure avoidant (type A) - 15% - did not seek mothers comfort 

Insecure Ambivalent (type C) - 15% - not easily comforted, angry and rejected


stressed the babies and mother

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4. cultural variations in attachments

Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg (1988)

Meta-analysis on 32 separate studies

used Ainsworth's attachment types and found

secure - most common

avoidant - more common in West Germany, rare in Israel and Japan

Ambivalent - Israel, China and Japan


18/32 were studies in USA 

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5. Disruption of attachment

short-term effects:

protest - crying, screaming and anger, try to cling to the attachment.

despair - calmer but still very upset, refuses others attempts at comfort

detachment - engages with other people 

Long-term effects: 

extreme clinginess then detachment - appear to be detached from the parent and refuse comfort. 

Factors affecting the response to separation:

the age - strongest during the ages of 12 and 18 months. 

the type of attachment shared between the caregiver and the infant

sex of the child - boys less affected by separation.

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5. Disruption of attachment

Lack of Attachment - effects of privation 

privation - lack of any attachment at all 

Case Studies - children who have been brought up in complete isolation unable to form an attachment to anyone.

Koluchova twin boys born in 1960 in Czechoslovakia and brought up in care. At 18 months they went to live with their father and stepmother. and suffered privation until they were 7. between the ages of 18 months and 7 years they were locked  up in a cellar away from human activity starved and beaten.

Skuse (1984) 2 sisters who suffered extreme social and emotional privation in childhood. Mother had sever learning difficulties. Children were kept in a small room and tied to the bed. found by social services at 3 and a half years old. 

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5. Disruption of attachment

Research studies - tizard and Hodges 1984 and 89

natural experiment which examined the long-term effects of emotional privation on 65 children brought up in a children's home until they were around 4 years old. run to any adult who went into a room. 25 restored to their biological parents. visited children at 8 and 16 years old. 

this is a very sensitive subject for anyone involved and therefore may not wish to discuss it. also it uses a quite small sample. 

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5. Disruption of attachment

the effects of institutionalisation Rutter 2000 

longitudinal study on Romanian orphans adopted by UK families. found many disinhibited attachments some of these children were followed up at 11 years old. still followed the pattern of disinhibited attachments. 

very sensitive issue.

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6. Affect of day care

main options of day care:

1. nursery based care. 

2. family based care.

Social development 

children at day care usually spend more time with other children of a similar age. Andersson (1989) carried out a variety of studies in Sweden, which found potentially good results. one study found that children who attended day care were able to get along better with other children. Clarke-stewart (1991) compared the progress of 150 children who had experienced day care. found that children who attended nurseries had better social development.DiLalla 1988 found a negative correlation between the amount of time spent in day care , those with more time were less social.  Campbell, Lamb and Hwang (2000) group of children in Sweden between the ages of 8 months and 3 and a half. children who spent longest in day care were less socially capable, however the children who spent more days but less hours were more social.

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7. Implications of research into attachments

Bowlby's theory  has suggested that:

child has to have a secure attachment with an adult. child can have multiple attachments. they have to use their attachment as a safe base. 

What constitutes good quality day care?

low adult to child ratio

Smaller groups

Mixed age groups 

trained staff

Low staff turnover

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