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Form a special bond or relationship with someone. This is shown by:

  • Wanting to be close to the other person
  • Showing distress when away from the person
  • Showing happiness or relief when reunited with the person

Long term benefits:

  • Education into how to survive
  • Relationships
  • Friendships

Short term benefits:

  • Food and Care
  • Friendships
  • Protection
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Responding to the action of another person with a similar actions where the actions of one person elicit a response from the other person. The repsonses are not necessarily similar as in interactional synchrony.

Interactional Synchrony

When 2 people interact they tend to mirror what the other person is doing through facial expressions and body movements. Synchrony is descibed when 2 or more things move in the same pattern.

Meltzoff and Moore 1977


  • Selected 4 different stimuli and observed the behaviour of infants in response ( 3 faces and 3 hand gestures)
  • Observers watched videotapes of infants behaviour in real time, slow motion and frame by frame
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  • Each observer scored the tapes twice so that both intra-observer and inter-observer's reliability could be calculated


All scores were greater than 92


  • Used a Controlled Observation
  • Control over extraneous variables
  • Removed bias by only seeing the infants face
  • Demand characteristics
  • Each infant only observed for a short time
  • Infant's mouths are mostly always moving so difficult to distinguish specific behaviours
  • Variation between infants

The role of the father

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  • Schaffer and Emerson (1964) - 75% of Fathers formed an attachment by 18 months. This shows a Secondry Attachment figure
  • Grossman (2002) - found that the Father's role was one to do more with playing and less to do with nurturing
  • Field (1978) - Primary caregiver Fathers spent more time smiling, imitating and holding infants than Secondry caregiver Fathers

Development of Attachment - Schaffer and Emerson 1964


  • 60 infants from 5 to 23 weeks old from working class homes in Glasgow
  • Studied until 1 year old
  • Mothers were visited every 4 weeks and reported their infants' response to seperation in 7 everyday situations.
  • Also asked to describe the intensity of any protest
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Asocial Stage (1-3 months old)Similar response to all objects, inanimate or not. Reciprocity and Interactional Synchrony start and they start to establish relationships with humans

Indiscriminate Attachment (3-7 months) More social and prefer more human company. Discrimination against unfamiliar people begins however no stranger anxiety

Specific Attachment (7-10 months) - Want to be close to primary attachment figure and stranger anxiety no kicks in

Multiple Attachment (10 - 12 months)Develops a wider circle of attachments with secondry figures such as other parent, siblings and grandparents


  • Validity - mothers required to make thier own observations
  • Biased Sample - Families were working class, cannot be generalised as other groups can be different
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  • Plotting development in stages suggests that devopment is fixed yet development can vary due to individual differences
  • Ethnocentric - based on one type of culture, might not apply to other cultures
  • Sample size was good considering the large volume of data that was gathered (representative)

Types of Attachment - Ainsworth's 'Strange Situation'


  • Takes place in a 'strange environment' - a room scattered with toys and a two way mirror
  • Several episodes lasting 3 minutes each
  • Recorded behaviour on
    • Proximity Seeking
    • Exploration and Secure base behaviour
    • Stranger Anxiety and Seperation Anxiety
    • Reponse to Reunion
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  • Stage 1 - Child encouraged to explore
  • Stage 2 - Stranger enters and tries to interact with the child
  • Stage 3 - Caregiver leaves the room with the Child and Stranger left
  • Stage 4 - Caregiver returns and Stranger leaves the room
  • Stage 5 - Caregiver leaves the Child alone
  • Stage 6 - Stranger Returns
  • Stage 7 - Caregiver is reunited with the Child


  • Secure Attachment (60-75% of toddlers classified as this) Explored the unfamiliar room and cried when thier mother left and greeted her when she returned. Wary of Stranger although was friendly when mother was present
  • Insecure - Avoidant Attachment (20-25%) - Subdued when mother left but showed little interest when she returned. Avoided the Stranger but not as much as mother on return
  • Insecure - Resistant Attachment (3%) - Distressed when mother left. Showed Ambivelent behaviour towards Stranger and alternated between wanting closeness and wanting distance
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  • Low internal validity - only measures one particular relationship
  • High Reliability - Ainsworth found agreement between observers
  • Etnocentric - Cannot be applied to all cultures

Cross Cultural Variations - Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg 1988


  • Conducted a Meta-Analysis to compare data from 32 world-wide studies involving 8 countries and over 200 children


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  • Attachment varied more within cultures than between cultures
  • Overall, Securely Attached was the most common type
  • Israel had the highest proportion of Resistant
  • Germany had the highest proportion of Avoidant.

Criticisms: Limited Samples - not representative 

Influence of early Attachment on later relationships

John Bowlby - Internal Working model 

  • Quality of a child's first attachment is crucial to later relationships

Secure ( comforted when Mum returns ) ------>  Trusting and loyal relationship

Insecure Avoidant ( little interest when Mum left ) -----> Difficulty in emotions and getting close

Insecure Resistant ( Very distressed when Mum left ) ------> Not trusting and clingy

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Myron-Wilson and Smith 1998

Method: Questionnaire on 196 children aged from 7-11 years old


  • Secure Children - unlikely to be involved in bullying
  • Insecure Avoidant Children - Most likely to be victims of bullying
  • Insecure Resistant Children - Most likely to be the bullies

Relationships with romantic partners - Hazan and Shaver 1987

Method: Analysed 620 replies to a 'love quiz'


  • Secure (56%) - Happy and trusting and believe in love
  • I.A (25%) - Fear of getting close and less accepting in love
  • I.R (19%) - Jealous and emotional with a desire to 'merge' with their partner
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  • Ethical Issues - Sensitive area and Deterministic
  • Mixed Evidence - Bowlby's Internal Working model
  • Issues of Validity - Questionnaires (demand characteristics)

Animal Studies on Attachment

Lorenz - Imprinting


  • Randomly divided a clutch of goose eggs
  • Half the eggs were hatched with the motor goose in thier natural environment
  • The other half hatched in an incubator where the first moving object they saw was Lorenz


  • Incubator group followed Lorenz everywhere
  • Control group followed thier mother
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  • Imprinting - birds attach to and follow the first moving object they see
  • Lorenz identified that a critical period for this to take place which was a few hours after birth

Harlow's Research


  • Carried out multiple experiements with baby monkeys


  • Baby monkeys cuddled the soft object in preference to the wire one
  • Sought comfort from the cloth one when frightened regardless of which dispensed milk
  • Shows 'contact comfort' - comfort more important than food

Conclussion: Mother figure needed to be introduced within 90 days to form an attachment

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Evaluation of Animal Studies:

  • Generalisability to humans (anthropomorphism) - Humans differ from animals because their decissions are governed by concious decisions
  • Practical application - This research has helped social workers understand the risk factors in child neglect and abuse and so intervene to prevent it from occuring
  • Contradictory research - Lorenz's research has been questioned in that the idea of imprinting has permanent effects on mating behaviour. Other studies have found that chickens imprinted on yellow washing up gloves and would try to mate with them as adults but with that experience, they eventually learned to mate with other chickens.

Explanations for attachment

Learning Theory and Bowlby's Theory

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Learning Theory

  • Comes from Behaviourist approach and suggests all behaviour is learned

Classical Conditioning - Associating two stimuli together and responding to both

Operant Conditioning - Repeating a behaviour depending on the consequence

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Evaluation of Learning Theory

  • Contradictory from animal studies - Shown that young animals do not necessarily attach to those who feed them
  • Contradictory from human studies - Shown that feeding does not appear to be an important factor in humans. Schaffer and Emerson found that many of the babies developed a primary attachment to their biological mother even though other carers did most of the feeding.

Bowlby's Theory of Attachment

Monotropy - The idea that the one relationship that the infant has with his/her primary caregiver is of special significance

Internal Working Model - Enables individuals to predict and control their environment

Critical Period - A time period where characteristics can develop. Outside this time window development will not be possible

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Evaluation of Bowlby's Theory

  • Influential - Bowlby's theory has lead to a great deal of further research and had a positive impact on the way we care for our children.
  • Supporting - It is supported by research and evidence from other experiments

Bowlby's Maternal Deprivation Theory

If an infant was unable to devlop a warm, intimate and continous relationship with their mother, then the child would have difficulty forming relationships with other people and be at risk of emotional and behavioural disorders

Needed to be formed before 2.5 years old

Long term consequences of deprivation could be maladjustment and mental health problems

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Bowlby's 44 theives

Investigate whether maternal deprivation would lead to behavioural problems


  • 88 children between 5 and 16 years old
  • Experimental Group: 44 thieves, 14 classed as affectionless psychopaths
  • Control Group: 44 emotionally maladjusted children
  • Bowlby interviewed the children and their families


  • Of the psychopaths, 12 had experienced early and prolonged seperation from their mothers
  • Of maladjusted children, 2 had experienced early and prolonged seperation

Conclussion: Supports Maternal Deprivation Theory

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Evaluation of 44 theives experiment

  • Sample Bias - Difficult to generalise to the whole population
  • Bowlby confused cause and effect with association - Is the correlation correct?
  • Practical Application - Changed the way hospitals operated
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