AS Psychology



  • Humans are altricial – born at early stage of development.
  • Need to form attachment bond with adults who will nurture and protect them.
  • Attachment:Enduring, two way, emotional tie to specific other person.
  • Seen to have developed when infant shows stranger anxiety and separation protest.
  • Attachment bonds characterised by infant’s desire to keep close proximity and expression of distress if separated e.g crying 
  • Particular individual gives infant sense of security.
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Attachment Forms

Many complex ways infants are attached: 

BODILY CONTACT: physical interactions help to form attachment bonds, especially in time immediately after birth.

MIMICKING: infants have innate ability to imitate carers facial expressions, biological device to aid formation of attachment.

CAREGIVERESE: modified form of vocal language used by adults – high-pitched, song-like, slow, repetitive. Aids communication, strengthens bond.

INTERACTIONAL SYNCRONY: infants move body in tune with rhythm of carers’ spoken language, kind of turn-taking.

RECIPROCITY: interactions between carers and infants result in mutual behaviour, both able to produce response from each other.

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Klaus & Kennell - 1976

Compared mums who had extended physical contact with babies lasting several hours with those who only did during feeding in first 3 days.

One month later – mums with more made greater eye contact and cuddled babies more.

Effect noticeable a year later.

E: practical application – hospitals placed mothers and babies in same room in days following birth to encourage attachment.

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Papousek et al. - 1991

Caregiverese  - use of rising tone – CROSS-CULTURAL.

American, Chinese and German mothers exhibited behaviour.

Caregiverese – innate, biological device to facilitates the formation of attachment.

E.G: seen to be used by adults to all infants. Although usage aids communication, cannot be claimed to help form attachment.

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Stages of Attachment

Pre-attachment phase

 (birth to 3 minutes) From 6 weeks, infants become attracted to other humans. Prefer them to objects and events. Demonstrated by smiling at peoples faces.

Indiscriminate attachment phase

(3 to 7/8 months) Infants begin to discriminate between familiar and unfamiliar people. Smile more at known people – still allow strangers to handle and look at them.

Discriminate attachment phase

(7/8 months onwards) Begin to develop specific attachments, stay close to particular people and become distressed when separated from them. Avoid unfamiliar people, protest if strangers try to handle them.

Multiple Attachment Stage

(9 months onwards) Fear of strangers weakens but attachment to mother figure remains strongest. Forms other attach

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Multiple Attachments

  • Most children from multiple attachments - emotional bonds with several people.
  • Bowlby believed children had one prime attachment – other attachments were minor in comparison.
  • Rutter saw all attachments of equal importance, attachments combine together to help form child’s internal working model.
  • Multiple attachments often formed to different people for different purposes, e.g. mother for loving care, father for exciting unpredictable play, also formed with grandparents, siblings and child-minders.
  • E: argued that children with multiple attachments are at advantage – more able to form and conduct social relationships, have the experience to do so. If child loses attachment, has several others it can turn too.
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Shaffer & Emerson - 1964


Whether there was a pattern of attachment formation common to all infants. Identify distinct stages in attachment.


Longitudinal study. 60 new-born babies and mothers – working-class area of Glasgow. Studied each month for first year in own homes then again at 18 months. Observations, interviews with mothers. Measure in two ways  Separation protest: left alone in room, left alone with others etc. Stranger anxiety: researcher started each home visit by approach child to see if it distressed.


Most infants show separation protest when parted from attachment figure at 6-8 month, stranger anxiety shown one month later. Strongly attached infants has mothers who responded quickly to needs and gave more opportunities for interactions, weakly attached responded less quickly and less opportunities. Most went on to develop multiple attachments. 18 months – 87% had at least two, 31% had five or more. 39% of prime attachment was not main carer. Attachments to different people of similar nature – infants behave in same way to different attachment figures.


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Role of the Father

  • Traditionally father seen to of played minor role in parenting – biologically unsuitable to raise children.In past – children mainly raised by married couples, father went to work – provide resources, mother stayed home – look after children.
  • Now norm for mother to have job.
  • 9% of British single parents are male.
  • Men now have bigger role in parenting
  • Bowlby – one prime attachment, usually mother but can be father.
  • Some research see fathers as less of a caregiver but more of a playmate – fathers play more physical, unpredictable and exciting.
  • Mothers – nurturing nature, more able to show sensitive responsiveness.
  • actors that affect relationship between father and children:
  • Degree of sensitivity
  • Type of attachment with own parent
  • Supportive co-parenting.
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Geiger - 1996 & Lamb - 1987

Geiger: Showed that fathers play interactions are more exciting and pleasurable than mothers. Supports idea of fathers being playmates rather than caregivers.

Lamb: Children often prefer interacting with fathers when in positive emotional state and seek stimulation. Mothers preferred when children are distressed and seek comfort. Supports idea of father being preferred as playmates, but only in certain conditions.


Children with secure attachments to their fathers go on to have better relationships with peers, less behavioural problems and can regulate their emotions more. Shows positive influence fathers have on development. Children who grow up without father have been see to do less well at school and have higher levels of risk taking and aggression, especially in boys. Suggests fathers can help to prevent negative development outcomes. Important to mothers too – supportive fathers reduce stress of mothers, improve self-esteem and improve quality of mothers relationship with child.

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Animal Studies - Lorenz - 1935


•Split large clutch of goose eggs into two batches – one hatched naturally, other in incubator where first moving object was Lorenz. •Following behaviour recorded. •Marked all goslings, placed them under upturned box, removed it and recorded following behaviour.


•Immediately after birth – naturally hatched followed mother, incubator hatched followed Lorenz. •When released from upturned box – naturally hatched went straight to mother, incubator went to Lorenz – showed no bond with natural mother. •Bonds irreversible, natural would only follow mother and incubator would only follow Lorenz. •Imprinting would only occur with a brief set time period of between 4 and 25 hours after hatching. •As adults, goslings that imprinted onto humans would attempt to mate with humans.


•Irreversible – under biological control. Learned behaviours can be modified with experience. •Only occurs within brief set time period – influence Bowlby's idea of critical period. •Goslings imprinted onto humans exhibit sexual advances towards humans – shows importance of the behaviour upon future relationships. Bowlby incorporated this into continuity hypothesis. •Extrapolation issues, attachment behaviour of geese not necessarily that of humans.

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Harlow - 1959


•Two types of surrogate mother – wire mother and soft towelling mother. •16 baby monkeys – 4 in each condition. 1 wire mother producing milk and towelling mother producing no mother. 2 wire mother no milk, towelling mother milk. 3 wire mother producing milk. 4 towelling mother milk. •Amount of time spent with each mother and feeing time recorded. •Frightened with loud noise to test mother preference during stress.


•Preferred contact with soft mother when given choice, regardless of what one produced milk. Reached across to wire mother to feed while clinging to soft mother. •Only wire mother- diarrhoea, sign of stress. •When frightened by noise cling to soft mother. •In large cage conditions, monkeys with soft mother explored more.


•Rhesus monkey have innate, unlearned need for contact comfort – attachment concerns emotional security more than food. •Contact comfort associated with lower levels of stress and willingness to explore – emotional security.


•Cannot necessarily extrapolate/generalise results to humans. •Ethical issues – separation of baby monkeys and stress caused to them.

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Explanations of Attachment - Learning Theory

Classical Conditioning:

  • Response produced naturally by a stimulus becomes associated with another stimulus.
  • Attachments learnt by stimulus of food (unconditional stimulus), which produces natural response of pleasure (unconditioned response) being paired with caregiver (conditioned stimulus.
  • After paired presentations of caregiver and food – infant learns to associate pleasure solely with caregiver without any food.

Operant Conditioning:

  • Action that has pleasurable outcomes will be repeated again in similar circumstances.
  • Known as reinforcements.
  • Positive reinforcement: receiving something pleasurable for performing certain behaviour.
  • Negative  reinforcement: not receiving something non-pleasurable.
  • Attachments form through caregivers becoming associated with reducing unpleasant feeling of hunger (negative reinforcement), caregiver becomes source of reinforcement (reward themselves).
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Learning Theory - Part 2

Schaffer & Emerson: 39% cases, mother was not baby’s main attachment figure. Feeding not the primary explanation for attachment. Goes against learning theory. EVALUATION:

  • Conditioning best explains learning of simple behaviours. However attachments more complex – intense emotional component. Attachments form with people who do not feed babies – casts doubt on learning theory.
  • Schaffer – cupboard love theory puts things wrong way round. Babies eat to live, do not live to eat. Actively seek stimulation, not passively receive nutrition.
  • Bowlby – babies only need food occasionally, but require constant emotional security that closeness to attachment figure provides. Food and learning theory not main reason for formation of attachment – through conditioning and reinforcement do play a part.
  • Reductionist – explain complex behaviours in simplest way. Does not consider internal cognitive processes or emotional nature of attachments.
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Shaffer & Emerson - 1964 Conclusions


•Pattern of attachment formation common to all infants – process biologically controlled. •Attachments more easily made with those who display sensitive responsiveness, recognising and responding appropriate, rather tan who spends most time with child. •Multiple attachments the norm and of similar quality, opposes Bowlby’s one prime attachment.


Data collected by observation and mother – prone to bias and inaccuracy. JMundane realism – conducted under everyday conditions – conclusions drawn have high validity. LLarge individual differences in when attachments formed = casting doubt on process being exclusively biological.

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