Introduction to Attachment: Caregiver-Infant Inter

Interactions - Babies have frequent and important interactions with their caregiver.

Reciprocity - Mothers respond to infant alertness. From 3 months close attenion between mother and infant.

Interactional synchrony - Interactions become co-ordinated. Isabella et al.: quality of attachment related to synchrony.


Hard to know what is happening

  • Observe simple gesture and expression, and assume infant's intentions.

Controlled observations

  • Capture fine details of interaction.

Purpose of synchrony and reciprocity

  • Feldman: just observations, purpose not entirely understood.
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Introduction to Attachment: Attachment Figures

Parent-infant - Traditionally mother-infant, other attachment figures like the father may also be important.

The role of the father - Grossman et al.: attachment to fathers less important but fathers may have a different role - play and stimulation.

Fathers as primary carers - Field: fathers as primary carers adopt attachment behaviour more typical of mothers.


Inconsistent findings - Different research questions overall picture unclear.

Children without fathers aren't different - Suggests the father role isn't important.

Fathers not primary attachments - May be due to traditional gender roles or biological differences.

Evaluation extra

  • Socially sensitve research: working mothers.
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Schaffer's Stages of Attachment: The Study

Aims - To investigate the age of attachment formation and who attachments and formed with.

Method - Mothers of 60 Glasgow babies reported monthly on separation anxiety.

Findings - Most babies showed attachment to a primary caregiver by 32 weeks and devloped multiple attachments soon after this.


Good external validity - Observations were in participants' natural environments.

Longitudinal design - Same participants were observed at each age, elimijnating individual differences as a confound.

Limited sample characteristics - All families were from the same area and over 50 years ago, so may lack generaliability.

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Schaffer's Stages of Attachment: The Stages

Asocial stage - Little observable social behaviour.

Indiscriminate attachment - More observable attachment behaviour, accept cuddles from any adult.

Specific attachments - Stranger anxiety and separation anxiety in regard to one particular adult.

Multiple attachments - Attachment behaviour directed towards more than one adult (secondary attachments).


Asocial stage - Social behaviour is hard to observe in the first few weeks but this doesn't mean the baby is asocial.

Conflicting evidence - van IJendoorn et al.: research in different contexts has found multiple attachments may appear first.

Measuring multiple attachments - Just because a child protests when an adult leaves does not necessarily mean attachment.

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Animal studies of Attachment: Lorenz

Procedure - Goslings saw Lorenz when they hatched.

Findings - Newly hatched chicks attach to the first moving object they see (imprinting).

Sexual imprinting - Adult birds try to mate with whatever species or object they imprint on.



  • Birds and mammels have different attachment systems so Lorenz's results may not be relevant to humans.

Some observation questioned

  • Guiton et al.: birds imprinting on rubber gloves did later prefer their own species.
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Animal studies of Attachment: Harlow

Procedure - Baby monkeys given cloth or wire 'mother' with feeding bottle attached.

Findings - Monkeys clung to cloth surrogate rather than wire one, regardless of which dispensed milk.

Maternally deprived monkeys - Grew up socially dysfunctional.

The critical period - After 90 days attachment wouldn't be formed.


Theoretical value - Demonstrated that attachment depends on more contact comfort than feeding.

Practical value - Howe: informs understanding of risk factors for child abuse.

Ethical Issues - Suffering of the monkeys would be human-like.

Evaluation extra

  • Can Harlow's findings be applied to humans?
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Explanations of Attachment: Learning Theory

Classical conditioning - Caregiver (neutral stimulu) associated with food (unconditioned stimulus). Caregiver becomes conditioned stimulus.

Operant conditioning - Crying behaviour reinforced positively for infant and negatively for caregiver.

Attachment as a secondary drive - Attachment becomes a secondary drive through association with hunger.


Animal studies - Lorenz and Harlow showed that feeding is not the key to attachment.

Human research - Schaffer and Emerson: most primary attachment figures were the mother even when others did most feeding.

Ignores other factors - Cannot account for the importance of sensitivity and interactional synchrony.

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Explanations of Attachment: Bowlby's Theory

Monotropy - One particular attachment is different in quality and importance than others.

Social releasers and the critical period - Innate cute behaviours in the first two years.

Internal working model - Mental representations of the primary attachment relationships are templates for future relationships.


Mixed evidencefor monotropy - Some babies form multiple attachments without a primary attachment. Suess et al.: other attachments may contribute as much as primary ones.

Support for social releasers - Brazleton et al.: when social releasers ignored babies were upset.

Support for internal working model - Bailey et al.: quality of attachment is passed on through generations in families.

Evaluation extra

  • Monotropy is a socially sensitive idea.
  • Temperament may be as important as attachment.
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Ainsworth's Strange Situation

Procedure - 7-stage controlled observation. Assessed proximity seeking, exploration and secure base, strager and separation anxiety, response to reunion.

Findings - Infants showed consistent patterns of attachment behaviour.

Types of attachment - Secure: enthusiastic greeting, generally content.

Avoidant: avoids reunion, gennerally reduced response.

Resistant: resists reunion, generally more distressed.


Support for validity - Attachment ype predicts later social and poersonal behaviour, e.g bullying.

Good reliability - Different observers agree 90%+ of the time on children's attachment types.

Culture-bound - Attachment behaviour may have different meanings in different cultures so the Strange Situation may be measuring different things.

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Cultural Variations in Attachment

van IJendoorn - Compared rates of attachment types in 8 countries. Found more variation within than between countries.

Simonella et al.: Italian attachment rates have changed, may be due to changing practices.

Jin et al.: Korean attachment rates similar to Japan, could be due to similar child-rearing styles.

Conclusion - It appears that attachment is innate and universal and secure attachment is the norm. However, cultral practises affect rates of attachment types.


Large samples - Reduce the impact of anomalous results so improve internal validity.

Samples unrepresentative of culture - Countries do not equate to cultures nor to culturally specific methods of child rearing so can't make generalisations.

Method of assessment is biased - Research using the Strange Situation imposes a USA test on other cultures (imposed etic).

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Bowlby's Theory of Maternal Deprivation

Separation versus deprivation - Physical separation only lead to deprivation when the child loses emotional care.

Critical period - The first 30 months are critical and deprivation in that time causes damage.

Effects of development - Goldfarb: Deprivation causes low IQ. Bowlby: emotional development, e.g. affectionless psychopathy.

44 thieves study (Bowlby) - Many more affectionless psychopaths than controls had a prolonged separation.


Evidence may be poor - Orphans have experienced other traumas. Bowlby may have been a biased observer.

Counter evidence - Lewis: sample of 500, no link between early separtaion and criminality.

A sensitive period - Bowlby exaggerated the importance of the critical period.

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Romanian Orphan Studies: Effects of Institutionali

Rutter's ERA study - 165 orphans adopted in Britain. Some of tjose adopted later show low IQ and disinhibited attachment.

Bucharest Early Intervention Project - Random allocation to institutional care or fostering. Secure attachment in 19% of institutional group versus 74% of conrols.

Effects of Institutionalisation - Disinhibited attachment and delay in intellectual development if institutionalisation is prolonged.


Real-life appliaction - Both institutional care and adoption practice have been improved using lessons from Romanian orphans.

Fewer extraneous variable - Romanian orphans had fewer negative influences before institutionalisation than e.g. war orphans.

Romanian orphanages not typical - Conditions were so bad that results may not generalise to better institutions.

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Influence of Early Attachments on Later Relationsh

Internal working model - Bowlby's idea that the primary attachment relationship provides a template for later relationships.

Relationships in later childhood - Kerns: securely attached children have better friendships. Myron-Wilson and Smith: securely attached children less likely to be involved in bullying.

Relationships with romantic partners - McCarthy: securely attached adults have better relationships with friends and partners. Hazan and Shaver: secure responders had better and longer-lasting relationships, aviodant responders had fear of intimacy.

Parental relationships - Bailey et al.: mothers' attachment type matched that of their mothers and their babies.


Evidence is mixed - Zimmerman et al.: found little relationship between quality of attachment and later attachment.

Low validity - Most studies assess infant attachment by retrospective self-report which lacks validity.

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