Attachment - An attachment is a strong bond that develops over time between an infant and its caregiver or caregivers

Secure Attachment - Through repeated positive experiences with a caregiver, infants develop a secure attachment to that person. Infants who are securely attached have learned to turst that other people will take care of them

Insecure Attachment - Infants whose experiences with a caregiver are negative or unpredictable are more likely to develop an insecure attachment. Infants who are insecurely attached have learned that adults are not reliable, and do not trust easily.

4 Behaviours of Attachment - Maccoby (1980): 

1) Seeking proximity (closeness) especially in times of stress

2) Distress on seperation

3) Pleasure when reunited

4) General orientation towards the caregiver

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Interactional Synchrony & Reciprocy

 Meltzoff and Moore (1997) and Feldman (2007) - Reciprocy:

  • Their research showed that infants as young as a few days old seek to reciprocate the facial or physical gestures of their caregivers
  • This pattern or reciprocity should continue to strengthen over the first fw months of the infant's life (provided that the infant is recieving good quality, consistent care), such than interactional synchrony then develops.


Interactional Synchrony - Where both the infant's and the caregiver's behaviours are harmonised to a high degree, such that each is in tune with the other, and responds accordingly. It is an important feature of secure attachment, and infants that lack interactional synchrony with their caregivers are more insecurely attached

Example: When an infant smiles at its caregiver, the caregiver smiles back. Likewise, if a caregiver smiles at an infant, then the infant will smile back; this occurs from a very young age

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Stages of Attachment

Schaffer & Emerson (1964)Conducted a study in which they observed 60 babies at monthly intervals for the first 18 months of their lives. From their observations, they identified 4 stages/phases of attachment:

1) The Pre-Attachment Phase: Here the infant doesn't form any particular attachment to any particular person; rather they'll respond to any care giving.

2) The Indiscriminate Attachment Phase: From about 6 weeks - 7 months the infant will show a preferance of caregiver; they've learn to distinguish between primary and secondary caregiver

3) The Discriminate Attachment Phase: From about 7-11 months the infant will have a strong preferance to one person and will look to them for comfort and security. Infant may show signs of fear/anxiety when seperated from main caregiver or if with a stranger. It's at this stage where the infant may experience seperation anxiety.

4) The Multiple Attachment Phase: Evident after 9 months, where the infant begins to be more independant and form attachments with others e.g. grandparents, fathers, older silblings, even other caregivers such as nursery staff (if the infant is placed in such an environment).

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Stages of Attachment - Evaluation


+) Shaffers 'stages of attachment' theory gives some idea of how this process can occur during the early stages of life.

-) There are other factors that can have an impact upon the extent to which attachment of this nature can occur.

Example: Some children don't have a primary caregiver, as a child could be raised in an orphanage, so the opportunity for attachment is affected. Also, the quality of care might not be good. Responses of the caregiver to the needs of the infant could be slow, inconsistent or even negligent.

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The Importance of Fathers

The mother is normally focused on as the primary caregiver and the one where attachment theory is applied, but it's possible for an infant to have more than one attachment after the age of 7 months. Both the mother and father can be significant attachment figures.

Bowlby (1988) thinks fathers can be significant in attachment and development. Human evolution theories suggest the key role of the father was to protect and provide, and the role of the mother was to nurture and to give care.

However, gender roles have changed over time and it's become clear that fathers are capable of providing the caregiving role and attaching to children. Generally, mothers are biologically and hormonally programmed to bond, but it's accepted that many fathers are able to replicate behaviours of 'mothering'.

Greenberg & Morris (1974) think fathers who are involved in the pregnancy, delivery and holds the baby after birth are more likely to be actively and postively involved during the attachment phase.

Absent fathers can impact the child's psychological and social development, potentially causing long-term, irreparable damage.

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The Imprinting Theory - Lorenz (1935)

Imprinting - Where a young animal comes to recognise another person, animal or thing as a parent or other object of habitual trust.

Lorenz (1935) - Started from the idea that social bonds in animals are formed by imprinting. He carried out an experiment with geese to demonstrate this.


  • He took a large clutch of goose eggs and kept them until they were about to hatch out
  • Half the eggs were placed with a goose other, and Lorenz kept the other half beside him for several hours
  • When the eggs hatched, he imitated the actions and noises of a mother goose such as making quaking sounds.


  • This resulted in the baby geese regarding him as their mother, following him.
  • The other group followed the mother goose.
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The Imprinting Theory - Lorenz (1935) (CONT.)


  • The geese followed the first moving object they saw after hatching: Lorenz called this process imprinting
  • He suggested that the process of attachment is natural, and imprinting occurs without any feeding taking place


From his findings, he theoriesd that if attachment didn't occur within the first 32 hours then attachment wouldn't develop

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Basis of Attachment - Harlow & Zimmerman (1959)

Behavioural Theory of Attachment - Suggests that infants form attachments with a caregiver that provides food.

Evolutionary Theory of Attachment - Suggests that infants have a biological need for touch and phsyical contact for comfort to form attachment.

Harlow & Zimmerman (1959) gave evidence that food isn't the main reason for attachment. They worked with infant monkeys who relied on their mothers for food, protection, socialisation and comfort. They wanted to see what the basis of attachment was & if these food theories were correct: to see if the monkeys would attach to the 'surrogate mother' that provided food, or the one providing comfort.


  • Infant monkeys were taken from their mothers shortly after birth and raised in a cage with 2 'surrogate mothers'.
  • The 'surrogate mothers' weren't living mamals; they were made of wire, with one having a feeding bottle attached and one covered in a soft blanket.
  • The experimenters then observed their actions.
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Basis of Attachment - Harlow & Zimmerman (1959) (


  • All monkeys preferred the soft towl covered mother and spent hours clinging to it, only briefly leaving to feed from the wire other.
  • They became very distressed if the soft mother was removed from the cage.
  • They'd only explore new toys if the soft mother was in the room.
  • They ran to the soft mother and hid their face when a clockword teddy was put in the room.


  • Study suggests that rather than food being the centre of attachment, the need to keep proximity to a comforting mother figure seems to be the main factor.
  • Supports the evolutionary explanations of attachment.
  • Findings suggest clinging was a natural response and the need for physical interaction was critical during the first months of life.


-) Study was carried out on primates and therefore can't be directly generalised to humans.

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The Learning Theory/Cupboard Love Theory

The learning theory of attachment is an explanation that suggests that attachments develop through operant and/or classical conditioning.

It is sometimes referred to a the 'cupboard love theory', as the infant attaches to the caregiver who offers the greatest pleasure to the infant; most likely this will be the person who feeds it.

There are two types of learning:

1) Operant Conditioning

2) Classical Conditioning

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Operant Conditioning - BF Skinner

Skinner worked on learned behaviour in animals

Positive Reinforcement - Action + Reward = Action to be Repeated. It is the process of encouraging or establishing a pattern of behaviour by offering a reward when the behaviour is exhibited.

Example: We experience positive reinforcement in real life, e.g. we work and get paid, or we try hard at a sport and get a trophy.

Positive Reinforcement Method:

  • Skinner designed a piece of apparatus which consisted of a special cage called a 'Skinner Box'.
  • The cage had a lever on one wall which released a pellet of food when accidentally pressed by the animal (usually a rat) during its exploration of the cage.
  • The animal leared to voluntarily press the lever in order to gain a food reward.
  • This is an example of positive reinforcement.
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Operant Conditioning - BF Skinner (CONT.)

Negative Reinforcement - Warning + Action = Avoidance. It involves the removal of unfavourabl events or outcomes after the display of behaviour.

Example: A real life example is smoking. The reduction in nicotine causes cravings which are satisfied by having another cigarette. The cigarette switches off the unpleasant feeling of the craving and so smoking behaviour is likely to be repeated.

Negative Reinforcement Method:

  • Skinner electrified one half of the grid in the bottom of the animal's cage and administered a buzzer just before he administered a shock to the animals feet.
  • The animal soon learned to move to the non-electified side of the cage on hearing the buzzer.

Learning Theory & Operant Conditioning can be applied to attachment:

Example: A baby cries because it's hungry. This is negatively reinfocing to the parents as the sound of the baby crying makes them feel uncomfortable. Therefore, the parents will feed and cuddle the baby. The baby stops crying, reducing th feeling of discomfort in the parent. From the baby's point of view, crying produces a reward or positive reinforcement, which makes crying likely to be chosen again the next time the baby experiences discomfort.

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Classical Conditioning - Pavlov

Classical conditioning is based on an involuntary association between two stimuli.

Pavlov noticed that dogs in his lab salivated in response to the owner's footsteps as they approached with their food. Since dog's don't normally salivate to the sound of footsteps, it was clear that they had assocaited the sound with the anticipation of the food that was to come.

Important terms in classical conditioning:

  • Unconditioned Stimulus (US)
  • Unconditioned Response (UR)
  • Conditioned Stimulus (CS)
  • Conditioned Response (CR)

Using these terms to explain Pavlov's observations would give:

1) Food (US) = Salivation (UR) (normal reflex)

2) Food (US) + Sound of footsteps (CS) = Salivation (start of conditioning)

3) Sound of footsteps (CS = Salivation (CR) (classical conditioning)

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Classical Conditioning - Pavlov (CONT.)

Learning Theory and classical conditioning can also be applied to attachment.

Example: The stimulus of milk (US) produces pleasure (UR). The person that feeds the baby becomes associated (CS) with the milk since they alwats seem to be present when the milk is given. Therefore, eventually, the baby feels secondary pleasure in the company of the person who normally feeds it (CR), even on the occasions when food is not offered.

According to learning theory, this is the bias of the attachment bond.

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Learning Theory - Evaluation

The learning theory predicts that the strongest attachment will be with the person who offers the most pleasure to the infant most likely the person who feeds it.

-) Shaffer & Emerson (1964) found that this wasn't always true. They found that less than half of the infants they observed had a primary attachment to the person who fed them and took care of their physical needs.

-) Schaffer (1971) also says that these theories can't explain why many children become attched to abusive or neglectful parents.

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Bowlby's Theory of Attachment (1958) - Monotropy

1) The Monotropy Hypothesis:

Bowlby believed that human infants have a similar survival mechanism to that shown by Lorenz (1935). They have a natural drive to become attached, which makes them want to keep proximity to a preferred attachment figure. He believed that a child may have many attachments, but has the tendency to have one special attachment to his primary attachment figure (usually the mother, but no reason why it couldn't be the father). This idea is called monotropy.

Monotropy - The concept that infants have a natural instinct to attach primarily to a single caregiver or attachment figure. Also, the primary caregiver can only bond with one infant at a time, and having one primary caregiver is how a child attaches.


Refute - Schaffer & Emerson (1964):

-) Found evidence that showed that by 18 months, 87% of babies had multiple attachments. The strongest bond was not always with the mother.

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Bowlby's Theory of Attachment (1958) - Social Rele

Bowlby believed that in order to establish an attachment, babies are more with natural mechanisms called 'social releasers' specifically designed to make their parents want to care for them. Like Lorenz (1935) he believed attachment must happen within an optimal window of developemnt, known as the 'sensitive period'. In humans, this was during the first 3 years of life.

Social Releasers - Natural mechanisms that babies are born with which are designed to make their parents want to care for them e.g. crying and smiling.

The Sensitive Period - A window of time in which attachment must develop. If it doesn't develop during this window of time, it won't develop at all. In humans, this is during the first 3 years of life.


Support - Schaffer & Emerson (1964):

+) Found evidence that showed that babies become sociable at around 6 weeks. By 7 months, they show separation anxiety and a fear of strangers.

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Bowlby's Theory of Attachment (1958) - Continuity

Bowlby believed that the attachment a child has formed with their primary caregiver gives the child an internal working model or blueprint of which all of their future relationships would be based on.

Disruption to/a lack of an attachment bond during the sensitive period could seriosuly impact the child's future mental health. This period is called the 'critical period'. Becuae of this, Bowlby said a child should stay with their caregiver for at least 2 and a half years.

The Critical Period - Is the time when a child's exposure to certain stimuli or experiences encourages and results in proper development. Bowlby believed, in humans, this was during the first 2 and a half years of life.


Support - Hazan & Shaver (1987):

+) Through studying respondents to a newspaper 'Love Quiz' and a group of undergraduates, they found a strong relationshup between childhod attachment type and adult attachment type.

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Bowlby's Theory of Attachment (1958) - Continuity

Evaluation (cont.) :

+) Support - Black & Schutte (2006):

  • A study of 205 young adults found that those who recalled positive relationships with their mothers were more likely to seek comfort from their partners. Those who recalled positive relationships with thier fathers were more likely to rely on their partners.

-) Refute - Zimmerman et al (2000):

  • Assessment of children's attachment type at 12-18 months and again at 16 years suggested that childhood attachment wasn't a hood predictor of adolescent attachment. Major life events such as death and divorce have an important impact on later attachment and continuity may only exist in the absence of such events.

-) Refute - Main & Goldwyn (1984):

  • Think that many people who experience difficult childhoods and insecure attachments go on to develop positive and secure relationships in later life. Positive school experinces and strong adult attachments may be helpful in developing trust and security.
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Multiple Attachments

Bowlby's ideas were created in the 1950's, when society was very different. At this time, most mothers sayed at home to raise children while fathers went out to work. This explains when he believed the mother was the most important attachment figure, and focused on them being the primary caregiver.

Modern research has shown it's desirable for a child to have multiple attachments, with each attachment figure providing nother typ of care or relationship for the child/

Lamb (1983) found that fathers are more likely to be chosen as play mates.

Schaffer (1996) showed that as well as vertical attachments with parents and other authority figures, a child's hoizontal attachments (i.e. with siblings or cousins of a similar age) are very important for their understanding of the world.

Vertical Attachment/Relationship - Attachments to people who have greater knowledge or social power.

Horizontal Attachment/Relationship -  Attachments that are characterised by reciprocating interactions and expectations on an even platfor, e.g. friends that are the same age as each other.

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Internal Working Models

According to Bowlby's Theory, it is the quality of early attachment which determines how an individual interacts and attaches with others in later life. He believes that attachment ay an early age, especially emotional bonds between an infant and the primary caregiver, can impact on how an individual functions on a social, psychological and biological level.

The way the individual functions of these levels is determined from the construction of internal working models (IWM's).

Internal Working Models (IWM's) - Internal representations of the 'self' and 'others' based on a child's interactions with their primary caregiver.

For Bowlby, if the child's primary caregiver was emotionally available and open, supporting and responding to the child's needs, the child is more likely to construc a self-model that mirrors these qualities. However, if their primary caregiver was emotionally unavailable, was detached and rejected the child's needs, the child would construct a self-model where they see themsevles as unworthy, unlovable etc.

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The Impact of Childhood Attachment on Adult Relati

Bowlby believed that the experience in terms of early attachment would impact human experiences throughout an individual's lifetime.

Hazan & Shaver (1987) - Explored Bowlby's idea of there being a connection between attachment process and adulthood experiences.

They suggested that in adult romantic relationships, the emotional bond and connection that occurs between the adults is similar to the attachment behaviour seen between infants and their primary caregiver.

Both types of relationship showed that the individuals involved would feel safe and secure when the other person was present, and they'd rely on and look to them in times of emotional challenged such as distress or fear. The other person would be a 'secure base' from which the world could be explored, and communication between them would have an element that is unique to the relationship, sometimes referred to as 'baby talk'.


  • On the basic of their analysis, the infant/caregiver relationship moves from parent, to peers, to romantic partners, turning to these individuals instrad of parents in times of distres, illness, where there is need for comfort, etc.
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The Strange Situation - Ainsworth (1970)


  • Ainsworth set up the 'Strange Situation' lab observation where she observed babies between 1 year and 18 months of age interacting with their mother and a stranger.
  • She also observed the babies to see how they behabed when left alone for a short period of time and how they greeted their mother when she returned.


She measured 4 main behaviours of the infants:

1) General orientation to the mother (did the child use her as a secure base?)

2) Stranger Activity

3) Seperation Activity

4) Behaviour towards mother on reunion

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The Strange Situation - Method

Infants & mothers, were placed in a purpose-built playroom and were observed through a video camera. The room had 2 chairs and a play area with a selection of toys. 

1) The mother and the infant go into the room. The infant is placed near the toys and is free to play with them. The mother sits on one of the chairs.

2) 3 minutes later a stranger enters, sits down in the other chair and speaks to the mother.

3) The stranger approaches the infant, and tries to engage with them.

4) The mother leaves the room, leaving the infant alone with the stranger. The stranger comforts the infant if they're upset.

5) After about 3 minutes, the mother returns and the stranger leaves.

6) 3 minutes later the mother again leaves the room. The infant is briefly alone in the room.

7) The stranger returns and offers to comfort the infant.

8) The mother returns and the stranger leaves.

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The Strange Situation - Findings (3 Attachment Typ

Using this method, Ainsworth identified 3 attachment types in the infants she studied:

Type B Secure (70% of sample) - These children were generally orientated towards the mother, used her as a secure base to explore the room and brought toys to show her. They became distressed when the mother left, then showed joy and were easily comforted when she returned. They were wary of the stranger. These children could therefore be described as securely attached to their primary careigver.

Type A Insecure Avoidant (15% of sample) - These children ignored their mother and played happily with their toys alone. They showed some distress at her departure but didn't want comfort when she returned. They also rejected the stranger when she tried to comfort them.

Type C Insecure Ambivalent/Resistant (15% of sample) - These children clinged to their mother. They showed extreme distress when the mother left but when she returned, although they appeared to want her close (etc. putting out their arms to be picked up), they seemed to be angry and rejected her attempts to comfort them.

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The Strange Situation - Evaluation

+) The study was well controlled and therefore easily replicated, making it a reliable method for studying attachment behaviour.

+) Main & Cassidy (1988) used this method to identify a 4th type - Type D Disorganised: This type tended to come from abusive homes. They had little idea how to cope when their carer left and often became extremely distressed. 

-) Some argue that the method lacks validity as it's unlike anything a baby would go through in real life, although others claim its not unlike the situation a child faced when being left at nursery etc.

-) It'd be unreasonable to make generalisations about all infants based on this research.

-) Only middle class American babies were used, making findings culturally biased. The results only tell us about middle class American children and therefore lack population validity.

-) Other studies also challenge validity. Infants behave differently depending on who they're with and then they're tested e.g. a child may be securely attached to its mother but insecurely attached to its father, so it'd only measure particular relationships and not the characteristics of the child. Implies attachment is more a relationship quality rather than a personality trait.

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The Strange Situation - Ethics


  • Ethical questions have been raised, as the situation was stressful for the babies, but the observers were told to stop if the baby was really distressed.
  • The study raised a question for research ethics: "Under what circumstances must researc be stopped, and how can ethical jdgements be made regarding the limits of research?"
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The Sensitivity Hypothesis - Ainsworth

Ainsworth went on to look for reasons for different types of attachment behaviour; whether is was determined by the caregiver, the child or by something else. After many observations using the 'Strange Situation' method, she made the sensitivity hypothesis.

The Sensitivity Hypothesis - States that sensitive mothers have securely attached infants.

Securely Attached Infants = Tended to have mothers who understood their needs and were consistently good at meeting them (secure types).

Insecurely Attached Infants = Tended to have mothers who ignored them (avoidant types) or who were at times neglectful and at other times overly fussy (ambivalent types).

Support - De Wolff & Ijzendoorn (1997):

+) They found a correlation of 0.24 between the sensitivity of the mother (assuming she's the primary caregiver) and secure attachment.

+) This suggests there is a relationship between the two, but a very weak one.

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The Temperament Hypothesis - Kagan (1982)

Kagan (1982) gave an alternative explanation to Ainsworth's sensitivity hypothesis.

The Temperament Hypothesis - States that some infants may form attachments more easily than others because they are naturally more friedly or easier to care for.

Support - Belsky & Rovine (1982):

+) Found that infants who showed signs of behavioural instability (shaking or tremors etc.) were les likely to become attached to their mothers than infants who didn't show these signs.

Support - Fox (1991):

+) Found a strong correlation between the attachment types of the child to both parents (i.e. if a child was securely attached to their mother, they'll most likely have the same attachment to the father). This suggests that attachment types are caused by some characteristics of the infant. This therefore contradicts Ainsworth's sensitivity hypothesis.

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The Sensitivity & Temperament Hypotheses - Conclus


  • There's evidence to support both the sensitivty and the temperament hypothesis, so it's likely that attachment type is determined by an interaction between the temperament of the baby and the sensitivity of the primary caregiver.
  • A difficult infant paired with an anxious or neglectful caregiver will be more likely to have an insecure attachment, rather than if the infant was paired with an consistently attentive careiver.
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Cultural Variations in Attachment

Most research into attachment was carried out in America, so most of the theories are based only on one culture, and it's been assumed that attachment is similar all over the world. To investigate whether these theories are universal, studies have been conducted in other countries using Ainsworth's 'Strange Situation' method:

Ijzendoorn & Kroonenberg (1988): Conducted a meta-analysis where they analysed the results of 32 Strange Situation studies conducted in 8 different countires:


  • Secure Attachment (Type B) was most common overall, however the percentage of instant with secure attachment varied considerable, from 50% in China, to 75% in the UK and Sweden.
  • Avoidant Attachment (Type A) was most common in West Germany (35.5%) and the Nederland's (26.3%). They were rare in Japan (5.2%) and Israel (6.8%).
  • Ambivalent Attachment (Type C) was most common in Israel (28.8%), Japan (27.1%) and China (25%). They were rare in the UK (2.8%) and Sweden (3.9%).
  • Also found differences within cultures were greater than the differences between other cultures. It'd be wrong to assume that a particular culture raises children exactly the same. Individual differences between families in child-raising styles are also important.
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Explaining Cultural Variations

Researchers found the cultural differences were often due to different child-raising styles and the country's economy.

Example: Germany is classed as an individualist culture; parents bring their children up to be independent. German mothers would view 'secure attahcment' as weak, clingy behaviour.

Example: Japanese culutre is collective, so parents tend to have grandparents or other family members they can call on to share child care during the first few years of the infants life. Therefore, Japanses infants have extreme fear of strangers and don't cope well with being left alone in the 'Strange Situation'.

This suggests that attachment is culturally determined; what is secure in one culture is undespirable or 'clingy' in another. What is insecure in one culture is normal and socially acceptable in another.


+) The study used a large sample making findings generalisable.

-) However, 27 of the studies were carried out in individualist cultures and only 5 in collectivist ones, so the sample may not be representative.

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The Maternal Deprivation Theory - Bowlby (1953):

Bowlby looked at th effects on children of disruption to their attachment bonds, e.g. being seperated from their parents whilst they're at work, divorce etc. He looked at privation and the effects of institutionalisation on children in orphanages or children's homes.

Privation - Where a child has never had the oportunity to form an attachment.

Maternal Deprivation - Seperation of a child from their primary caregiver (mother or mother-substitute) during the first 5 years of life.

The Maternal Deprivation Theory - States that a child should form a 'warm, intimate and continuous relationship with their mother'. Bowlby believed that disruption to that relationship could put the child at risk of future mental health problems and make it hard for them to form proper adult relationships.

The theory has 3 main elements which state that the relationship must be:

  • Continuous (with few or no seperation for the first 5 years)
  • Made before the critical period of 2 and a half years (he later accepted this was more flexiable and called it the sensitive period - the first 3 years of life)
  • Should be with one main caregiver (either the natural mother or the mother-substitute)
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The Maternal Deprivation Theory - Evaluation

Evaluation - Rutter (1981):

He believes that Bowlby's view is oversimplified, and it's necessary to look at other factors, such as the strength of the attachment before the child is seperated, the reason for seperation etc.

He also believed that Bowlby failed to distinguish between 'maternal deprivation' and privation'. Privation has much more serious consequences for the child's later emotional, social and cognitive development than maternal deprivation has.

However, not all children are affected in the same way by separation. More recent research has shown that there are a range of factors which affect the child's ability to cope with seperation:

Age of child at time of seperation - Schaffer & Callender (1959): In a study of children in hospital, they found children under 7 months suffered minimal upset; the most severe reaction occured between 12 and 18 months. This may be related to the development of language skills and the ability to understand.

Type of attachment - Barrett (1997): Individuals with secure attachment are best able to tolerate short seperations. This may be because they believe that the caregiver will return.

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The Maternal Deprivation Theory - Evaluation (CON

Evaluation (cont.)

Gender of child - Gross & McIlven (1997): Boys seem to respond more strongly to seperation than girls. There are also significant defferences with, as well as between, genders.

Multiple attachments & quality of care: Children older than 10 months may have multiple attachments and so can be left with another attachment figure with minimal effect.

Experience of previous seperations: If a child is used to brief seperation, then they're likely to respond less strongly to seperation than a child who is not used to seperation.

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44 Juvenile Thieves Study - Bowlby (1944)

Bowlby looked at the cases of 44 juveniles who had been referred to his child guidence clinic for stealing.

40% of the cases had been seperated from their mothers for 6 months before they were 5 years old. He diagnosed these juveniles as suffered from a condition that he called 'affectionless psychopathy'.

Affectionless Psychopathy - A condition termed by Bowlby which he diagnosed to jueniles from his clinic who had been seperated from their mothers for 6 months before the age of 5.

Symptoms: Included showing no remorse for their crimes and no concern for their victims or themselves.

Bowlby concluded that maternal deprivation was a factor contributing to children committing crimes.

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PDD Model - James & Joyce Robertson (1948)

James & Joyce Robertson carried out a study looking into short periods of separation. In the 1940's, children in hospital or other forms of childcare had their physical needs met, but it was 'unnecessary' to do anything about their emotional needs.


  • To convince the medical profession that children suffered emotionally, they went into these hospital and nursieries and filmed the children.
  • One of these children was John, a 17 month old placed in a residential nursery during the birth of his mother's second child.


  • The film showed that John's condition deteriorated at separation continued.
  • What they observed has become known as the 'protest-despair-detachment/PDD Model'.
  • For the first few days, John protested to try and get attention.
  • When this failed, he showed distress.
  • He tried to form attachments with the nurses, but this was difficult as different nurses would look after him at different times of the day.
  • After a few days, John's condition passed from distress to despair.
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PDD Model - James & Joyce Robertson (1948) (CONT.

Findings (cont.):

  • He cried constantly, refused food, and had difficulty sleepimg.
  • His condition changed to detachment when he gave up trying to attract attention.
  • He became less and less interested in nurses and his father when he came to visit.
  • When his mother finally came to collect him, he ignored her and wouldn't allow her to comfort him.


  • The PDD Model outlines the short-term effects of seperation.
  • The Roberton's notes that such effects could persist over months or even years after the separation.
  • When John returned home, he carried out what they referred to a a 'nub of anxiety'; he was worried about his mother going out and wanted to know when she would return (separation anxiety) and he wouldn't sleep without a light on.
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Long-Term Effects of Earlier Separation

Separation Anxiety - A long term effect of earlier separation and may persist long after the separation is over.


  • Extreme clinginess
  • Detachment
  • Being more demanding

Richards (1995):

He believes that other long-term effects include lower levels of academic achievement and self-esteem, a higher incidence of conduct disorder and other problems of psychological adjustment, earlier social maturity, a higher frequence of depression and a more distant relationships in adultood with parents and other relatives.

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Privation - A term used to describe a child who has failed to form a bond with an adult caregiver.

At its extreme, it can happen when young children lose both parents are are brought up in under-staffed, un-stimulating institutions. 

It more commonly occurs when the child is neglected by parents who don't have the ability to care for them, and so no attachment forms.

Privation has much more serious consequences for the child's later emotional, social and cognitive development than maternal deprivation does.

Studies into privation have centered on case studies of children brought up in isolation, and institutional studies in which children have spent much of their early life in orphanages and later adopted.

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Privation Case Studies

Curtiss (1977):

  • She studies the case of Genie, a young girl who suffered extreme privation.
  • Genie was thought to have learning difficulties at birth, so her parents locked her away in an upstairs room.
  • She spent every day alone so had little opportunity to make an attachment.
  • She had no toys to play with and nothing to look at.
  • In the day she was tied to a potty chair and at night tied to a sleeping bag.
  • She was found at the age of 13.
  • She was malnourished, suffered delays in physical development, couldn't chew solid food and wasn't potty trained.
  • She found it difficult to relate to others and had a very low IQ.

Koluchova (1972):

  • He reported a similar case in Czechoslovakia of twin boys who had suffered privation.
  • The difference between them and Genie was that they weren't isolated until they were 18 months old, they had each other to form a bond with and they were removed from their state of privation earlier (at the age of 7).
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Privation Case Studies (CONT.)


Both the twin boys and Genie had attachment experiences that were far from normal and both should have suffered severe consequences in later life. But, there were differences in the recovery rates in the two cases.


  • She learned some language, but her grammar was always below normal.
  • She could make attachment bonds and her IQ improved, but never reached normal levels.
  • However, it was difficult to establish whether this was down to the privation or her learning difficulties, which were possibly present at birth.

The Twin Boys:

  • The twin boys went on to make successful attachment bonds, imrpoved in their intellectual develoment (measured by IQ scores) and went on to lead reasonably normal lives.
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Privation Case Studies - Evaluation


-) Often intrusive: By necessity, researchers have to follow children for many years to gather evidence on the long-term effects of privation.

-) Concerns over informed consent: Children are both too damaged and too young to give their consent to being studied.

-) Researchers must be careful not to exploit the children for their own ends.

Methodological Issues:

+) Researchers can gain very valuable information that's detailed, if case studies are used effectively.

-) It can be hard to unpick cause and effect, since privation also often goes alongside physical neglect or abuse. E.g. is the lack of an attachment or the un-stimulating physical environment the cause of the child's later problems?

-) It may not be accurate and many variables may be unknown. The case study can only begin once privation has been established and the child removed from the neglectful environment. Therefore researchers often have to best guess about the child's past.

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Institutional Study - Tizard & Hodges (1989)

Tizard & Hodges carried out a study to examine the long-term effects of privation. They used a relatively large sample of 65 English working-class children, and had detailed records of the children's early lives, provided from the children's home where they lived. Therefore, fewer variables were unknown.

The children's home provided a good standard of physical care and mental stimulation, but no emotional care. The children had 24 different carers by the age of 2, and 50 by the age of 4. Therefore they could study the effects of emotional privation without the influence of other factors such as physical abuse.

Disinhibited Attachment - An attachment disorder that consists of a pattern of behaviour in which a child actively approaches and interacts with unfamiliar adults.

Natural Expiment - Experiments in which the experimental and control conditions are determined by nature or other factors outide the control of the investigators.


  • At the age of 2, children showed unusual patterns of attachment.
  • They'd run up to any adult who entered the room and demanded their attention.
  • The'd cry when the adult left, even though they'd formed no relationship.


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Institutional Study - Tizard & Hodges (1989) (CON

Findings (cont.)

  • They also had no fear of strangers (disinhibited attachment).
  • At the age of 4, 25 children were returned to their biological parents, 33 were adopted and 7 remained in the home, sometimes being fostered for varying periods of time (this created a natural experiment)
  • The children were again visited when they were 8 and 16.
  • Almost all the adopted children and most who'd been returned to their parents had formed close attachments at age 8.
  • At age 16, more of the adopted children were close to their parents than the returned children.
  • They all had difficulty with peer relationships and siblings, with the adopted having slightly better relationships with their siblings than the returned ones.
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Institutional Study - Conclusion


  • Early care in an institution doesn't have the drastically damaging effects predicted by Bowlby's Maternal Deprivation Theory.
  • In the children's home, the high quality care and stimulation ensured that cognitive development was normal, even without the chance to form attachments.
  • Attachments to adoptive parents were made after the age of 2, which refutes Bowlby's 'Critical Period'.
  • There are some lasting effects which continues to at least 16, but they depend on the individual and their differences.
  • Some effects aren't necessarily due to privation, but down to individual differences.
  • If privation was a cause of damaging effects in later life, all of the children's outcomes would have been the same.
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Institutional Study - Evaluation


-) It's a very sensitive issue as it deals with both privation and children; researchers must not put pressure on the families and the children studied.

-) Researchers must be non-judgemental and treat them equally, despite dealing with a difficult, sensitve and emotive issue.

Methodological Issues:

+) There was a good range of research methods used, including interviews, questionnaires, and self-reporting.

-) 'Drop-outs': There's a rate of 'drop-outs' of particiants in longitudinal studies, which may mean the final sample isn't representative of the original group. This makes it less valid when drawing conclusions about the effects of privation on a child.

-) Bias: This was natural rather than a lab experiment. The researchers had no control over which children got adopted, so there could be a bais in the adopted group. More socialbe children may have been easier to place in families and is why they did so well later.

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Recovering from Privation

The factors which can help children recover from the early effects of privation include:

1) High quality care during privation

2) Removal from privation at a younger age

3) High quality care after privation

4) Positive later life experiences

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Types of Day Care

Different types of day care are usually classified as nursery-based or family-based care.

Nursery-Based Care:

  • Nursery-based care is available to all children aged 3 and above.
  • Nurseries are often attached to primary chools and use their facilities.
  • They're regularly inspected by Ofsted and have trained staff and planned activities.

Family-Based Care:

1) Registered Childminders:

  • Registered childminders are also registered and inspected by Ofsted
  • They provide day care in their own home; the child is taken to their house each day.
  • Usually, the childminder will mind after several children or have children of their own, so it provides opportunities for the child to socialise with others.
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Types of Day Care (CONT.)

Family-Based Care (cont.):

2) Au-Pair/Nanny:

  • Au-Pair's/Nannies are employed by a family to help care for their child.
  • The child will be cared for in their own home.
  • They'll be cared for with their siblings (if they have any) or alone.
  • It's unlikely that there will be any other children present if there are no siblings.

3) Informal Arrangements:

  • Some children are cared for informally by friends, relatives or neighbours, often on an unpaid basis.
  • There's been very little research into the effects of this type of day care.
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Comparing Different Types of Day Care

Melhuish (1990) conducted 'quasi-experimental' research in London comparing different types of day care. It was 'quasi-experimental; as the independant variable (the day care setting) was not set by the investigator.


  • He compared 3 groups of children show started day care befoe the age of 9 months.
  • The study included different day care settings, including informal arrangements.
  • These day care settings were private nursery care, childminder care and care by relatives.
  • Care by relatived had the highest adult to child ratio and the least contact with other children.
  • Nursery care had the lowest adult to child ratio, as many children were cared for by fewer adults. It had the greatest contact with other children.


  • At age 18 months, children who'd been cared for by relatives showed the highest levels of language development.
  • At age 18 months, children who'd been cared for in the nursery showed the lowest levels of language development.
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Comparing Different Types of Day Care (CONT.)

Findings (cont.):

  • At age of 3 years, the nursery group were still less skilled in language than the group cared for by relatives, but they showed higher levels of pro-social behaviours, such as sharing and co-operation.


  • Different types of day care may show different types of gain for children.
  • Time spent in day care and length of day can have an effect.
  • Day care settings vary in quality.
  • Individual differences (e.g. type of attachment and home circumstances) will affect the experience of day care.
  • Individual differences in the parents will affect the type of care chosen (e.g. women who chose family care tended to have stronger identities as mothers).
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The Effects of Day Care on Social Development

There are numerous studies which examine whether day care is positive or negative to young children. Many studies show mixed results:

+) Anderson (1989, 1992) looked at nursery care in Sweden and found that children who attended day care were more sociable and better able to get along with peers than those who didn't attend.

+) Schindler, Moely & Frank (1998) found children who spend time in day care play more pro-socially.

-) DiLalla (1988) found that children spending time in day care were less co-operative and this got worse the longer they spent in day care each day,

One suggestion for these mixed results is that most studies examine the quantity rather than the quality of day care. For this reason, Campbell, Lamb & Hwang (2000) carried out a longitudinal study which studied the effects on children on both the quality and quantity of day care.

Longitudinal Study - Is an observational research method in which data is gathered for the same subjects repeatedly over a period of time. They can extend over years or decades.

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Effects of Day Care Study - Campbell, Lamb & Hwang

Campbell, Lamb & Hwang (2000) caried out a longitudinal study of a group of children in Gothenburg, Sweden who attended day care continuously between the ages of 18 months and 3 and a half years.

Of the group, 30 attended nursery-based care, 9 attended family-based care, and 9 switched from nursery-based care to family-based care during the study. 

They were all compared against a group who'd applied for day care places but had been turned down.

Before they started day care at 18 months, the children were observed at home playing with familiar peers. Researchers measured the quality of the children's home environmnt using Caldwell's HOME Inventory.

They were also observed playing with other children in the day care stting for 30 minutes at the age of 18 months (before starting day care), 2 years old and 3 and a half years old. 

At age of 6 their social competence was assessed by their care provider, and again at 8 and a half by their class teacher. They were assessed again at 15 by self-report questionnaires.

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Effects of Day Care Study - Campbell, Lamb & Hwang


  • Children who spent long sessions in day care (e.g. 8am-6pm) were less pro-social than those who spent shorter sessions.
  • Children who experienced high quality care were more socially contempt.
  • Social competence seemed to be stable (i.e. social competence at 3 and a half correlated with that at 15).


  • Short sessions of good quality day care have positive effects on children's social development.
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Effects of Day Care Study - Evaluation



-) Sensitivity required

-) Informed parental consent is essential

Methodological Issues:

+) 'Prospective' approach used to observe long-term effects

+) Baseline taken so later comparison is valid

+) Range of meaures used increases validity

-) Conducted in Sweden where lots of funding is available for childcare, therefore difficult to generalise

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Negative Effects of Day Care

Aggressive Behaviours - Belsky (2006): Carried out a similar longitudinal study to that of Campbell, Lamb & Hwang (2000)

He observed that children in day care have enhanced cognitive abilities but tend to be more aggressive than those who haven't experienced day care. This may be because they have to fight over toys and adult attention.

He believes such children have problems with aggression towards peers as they grow older and are less obedient to authority figures.

Clarke-Stewart (1990-1992) argues that this is simply a sign that children in day care learn to look after themselves from an earlier age and this is an advantage rather than a problem.

Borge et al (2004) found that aggression was higher in home reared children than in those attending day care. This again implies that the quality of care is important.

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Influences of Research on Child Care

James & Joyce Robertson's evidence helped to change hospital practices, so that today parents are able to stay in hospital with their children, often sleeping on a camp bed next to them. Parents also now provice most of their physical care in hospital, such as washing and dressing.

Bowlby's theory has led to places of day care having a 'key worker' approach, so that the child has the same carer (mother-substitute) when possible. This allows the child to develop a secure emotional bond with someone who cares for them outside the home.

Quality of care is also important, and establishments are required by the law to provide:

  • Appropriate adult to child ratios depending on the age of the child
  • Small group sizes
  • Well-trailed staff and incentives to ensure low staff turnover
  • A well-structured day with plenty of activities and time to engage in free play
  • A happy and loving environment where home routines are followed as closely as possilbe
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