AS Psychology Attachment (Jan 2012 Exam)

Revision notes on attachment for the jan2012 exam 

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Definition: A close emotional bond between two people that binds them together over time, its a two way process.

Why is it important? : It helps the childs social development, emotional development and cognitive development.


Characteristic behaviours: 

  • Seeking proximity to primary caregiver
  • Distress on separation
  • Joy and pleasure when re-united
  • Orientation of behavior towards primary caregiver
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Explanations of attachment formation

Classical Conditioning Explanation:

The infant learns to associate the mother with pleasure obtained from receiving food, Due to repeated pairings the mother becomes associated with food, therefore after repeated pairings the mother alone can elict the response (Pleasure) 

Unconditioned Stimulus: Food

Conditioned Stimulus: Mother

Conditioned Response: Pleasure

Unconditioned Response: Pleasure from food

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Learning theory (Behavioral explanation)

  • Behaviorists propose that all our behaviors except a few innate reflexes, are learnt.
  • Behavioral exp of attachment therefore propose that attachments develop because of learning.

There are two different behavioral explanations of attachment...

  • Classical conditioning explanation
  • operant conditioning explanation
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Operant conditioning explanation of attachment for

  • When an infant feels hunger they are motivated to relieve the discomfort.
  • The infant cries and is fed and cuddled
  • Feeding/Cuddling behaviors are reinforcing.
  • The mother who provides the food becomes a second reinforcer.
  • Infant seeks the mother as she is seen as rewarding.
  • Mother displays attachment behaviors as she is rewarded by the crying stopping.

In other words: The crying causes the mother to cuddle and feed the infant. This stops the baby from crying and therefore cuddling and feeding behavior is negatively reinforced (she is rewarded by something she doesnt want to be taken away)

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Bowlbys evoloutionary explanation of attachment (1

Innate programming VS learning

  • It has been suggested that attachments may be something we are programmed with from birth to develop.

- Attachment is important for survival

- Born with an innate tendency to form attachments

- Adults also likely to be innately programmed to form attachments to their infants

- Provides a template for future relationships.

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Bowlbys Theory

Bowlbys theory suggests that attachment is an Innate biological process important for survival. Infants are born with social releases(smiling,crying). Caregivers also have an innate predisposition to respond to the infants social releases.

Infants are born with an innate tendency to maintain proximity to ones caregiver. This concept is called monotropy. Bowlby also proposed that there is a sensitive period (2nd quarter of first year of childs life) during which attachments can be easily formed. Bowlby suggested that as the months pass it becomes seemingly difficult to form infant-caregiver attachments.

An additional proposal made by bowlbys evoloutionary theory of attachment is that the babys experience with their primary caregiver forms a template for future relationships through an internal working model. The primary caregivers behavior is a model for future relationships and provides for continuity in development.

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Disruption Of Attachment

What is it? : You have formed an attachment and become separated from your primary attachment figure, what are the likely effects?

Maternal deprivation hypothesis (1951) Bowlbys Theory:

  • Suggests that attachment is essential for healthy social living and emotional development.
  • A disruption of attachment might have a negative effet on social and emotional development.
  • A disruption will occur when an infant is attached but is separated from his/her attachment figure.

Obviously, some degree of physical separation is unavoidable. E.g. When children left with a babysitter/childminder, in a day care, nursery, as a patient in hospital etc.

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Protest, Despair, Denial + Detachment

Protest: The child cries, screams and protests angrily when the caregiver leaves, the are likely to try and cling to the caregiver and may struggle to escape from others who pick them up.

Despair: After a while the childs angry protest begins to subside and they appear calmer although still upset. The child is likely to refuse others attempts to comfort them.

Denial and Deprivation: If the separation continues, the child may begin to engage with other people again although they will be wary. They are likely to reject the caregiver when they return and also show signs of anger.

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thanks this really helped as i have my psychology exam soon thanks again!! :D

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