Affectional Bonds and Attachments

Attachment - Deep, enduring, emotional bond but not necessarily reciprocal. Individual desires closeness and feels comfort and security (safe base).

Affectional Bond - Relatively long-enduring bond where the partner is important as a unique individual, and desire closeness.

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Caregiver-Infant Interactions in Humans

Precocial - More mature, independent, and mobile e.g. precocial birds find food.

Altricial - Require nourishment, pattern of growth and development, dependent, so attachment important.

Characterised by desire for close proximity, and separation anxiety. Interactions between carer and infant develop and maintain bonds.

Bodily contact - Physical contact between infant and carer, especially important straight after birth.

Caregiverese - Vocal language (high pitch, slow, repetitive) that helps communication and strengthens bond.

Interactional synchrony - Infants move body in rhythm with carers' language and voice, and mirrors facial expressions/body movements.

Reciprocity - Interactions between infant and carer that prompt a response from the other like a conversation.


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Brazelton (1979) suggested basic rhythm is important for later communications. Infant's signals allow caregiver to predict infant's behaviour and respond appropriately . Sensitivity to infant behaviour lays foundation for later attachment.


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Interactional Synchrony

Interactional synchrony Key study:

Meltzoff and Moore (1977) investigated interactional synchrony. Study conducted using adult model who displayed three facial/hand gestures. Dummy placed in mouth during initial display to prevent any response. Then dummies were removed and child's expression filmed. Found infants at 2-3 weeks old imitateed face/hand gestures. Follow up study found same results in infants as young as 3 days old, suggests interactional synchrony must be innate.

Condon and Sander (1974) used frame-by-frame video as research evidence. Found infacts coordinated actions with adult speech, supporting interactional synchrony.

Isabella et al. (1989) showed interactional synchrony strengthens attachment bonds. Found that infants with secure attachments showed more interactional synchrony in first year of life.

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Caregiver-Infant Interactions Evaluation

(+) Klaus and Kennel (1976) compared mums who had more bodily contact with infants, with mums who only had bodily contact during feeding during first three days of birth. Found that mothers with more contant cuddled babies more and made more eye contact. Suggests bodily contact leads to stronger bond. 

(+) Behaviour demonstrated was intentional. Abravanel nd DeYoung (1991) observed infants interacting with objects with human-like movements (tongue movements, mouth opening/closing). Found that infants made little response to objects. Shows infants don't imitate everything they see so supports role in formation of attachments.

(-) Interactional synchrony not found in all cultures. Le Vine et al. (1994) found Kenyan mothers have little physical contact, but still high proportion of secure attachments. Undermines idea that interactional synchrony necessary for attachment

(-) "Caregiverese" seen to be used by all adults to infants, not just ones they have an attachment with. Suggests although it helps communication, can't claim to form attachments

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Stages of Attachment

Schaffer (1996) showed how common pattern in development of infant's attachments cold be divided it into stages.

Preattachment (0-3 months) - From 6 weeks, infants prefer humans to objects and events and smile at faces.

Indiscriminate (3-7/8 months) - Begin to discriminate between familiar and unfamiliar people, smiling more at known people, still allow strangers to handle and look at them.

Discriminate (7/8 months +) - Begin to develop specific attachments, stays close to particular people (primary attachment figure), develops stranger and separation anxiety.

Multiple Attachments (9 months +) - Strong bonds with other major caregiver (i.e. grandparents/non caregivers/other children), stranger anxiety weakens, attachment to mother figure remains strongest.

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Key Study

Schaffer and Emerson (1964)

Investigated patterns of attachment in infants.

60 newborns and mothers from working class Glasgow studied regularly for first year, then again at 18 months. Babies observed and mothers interviewed about questions involing who infant responds to and who causes distress. Separation protest measured by leaving infant alone, and stranger anxiety measured by researcher approaching chuld at each visit and see if infant becomes distressed.

Separation protest shown at 6-8 months, and stranger anxiety shown 7-9 months. Strongly attached infants had mothers who responded quickly so had more opportunities for interaction. At 18 months, 87% had at least two attachments, and 31% had at least five. Infants behaved same to each attachment figure and 39% had prime attachment that was not main carer. Concludes pattern of attachment is common and suggests that process is biological. Attachment easier with parents who displayed more sensitive responses. Multiple attachments are normal and of similar quality which opposes Bowlby.

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(-) Data collected by direct observation or from mothers, both sources prone to bias and inaccuracy

(+) High mundane realism. Conducted under everyday conditions meaning conclusions drawn about formation of attachment can be seen as having high validity.

(-) Large individual differences in when attachment was formed. Casts doubt on process of attachment formation being exclusively biological.

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Multiple Attachments

Bowlby - Believed there is one prime attachment (monotropy), and although multiple attachments to others, those are minor importance compaired to main attachment bond

Rutter - Believed all attachments are of equal importance, combining to form child's internal working model

Different attachments serve different purposes - Multiple attachments for multiple purposes, i.e mother for loving care, father for excited and unpredictable play.

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(+) Research from Schaffer and Emerson supports. However, unreliable as prone to bias, lacks population validity and temporal validity.

(-) Too rigid and suggest development is inflexible. Suggests single attachments come before multiple, but in some cultures multiple attachments may come first. Becomes a standard that families are judged on and may be classified as abnormal if they don't follow.

(-) Cultural variations. Individualistic cultures focus on immediate family but collectivist cultures focus on needs of group. People share possessions and childcare so attachment should be more common. Suggests model is only applicable to individualistic cultures.

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Key Study

Lorenz (1935)

Investigated imprinting on newborns.

Greylag goslings split into two group: one hatched by mother and the other hatched in incubator where Lorenz was first being they met. All goslings marked and put in upturned box.

Found that immediately after birth, naturally hatched goslings followed mother, incubator hatched follows Lorenz. When released from box, naturall hatched went straight to mother and incubator hatched went straight to Lorenz. Bonds proved irreversible and imprinting only occurs between 4 to 25 hours after hatching. After hatching, Lorenz reported how goslings who were imprinting onto humans would attempt to mate with humans as adult birds. Fact that imprinting is irreversible suggests that it's a biological process. Fact that imprinting only occurs within brief time period influenced Bowlby's idea of a critical period. Goslings who imprinted onto humans exhibit sexual advances onto humans when adult birds shows importance of early attachment on future relationships. Bowlby incorported this into his continuity hypothesis.

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(-) Extrapolation issues. Attachment behaviour of geese not necessarily same as attachment behaviour of humans.

(+) Guiton (1966) demonstrated chicks who were exposed to yellow rubber gloves for feeding during the first few weeks became imprinted onto gloves. Shows young animals not born to imprint on specific type of object, but probably any moving thing that is present during critical period.

(-) Dispute over characteristics of imprinting. Originally proposed that imprinting is irreversibe, but now understood that imprinting is more 'plastic and forgiving mechanism' (Hoffman, 1996). Guitton (1966) found that after spending more time with their own species, the chickens were able to engage in normal sexual behviour with other chickens. Suggests imprinting not biological process, but learnt.

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Harlow (1959)

Harlow (1959)

Investigated whether attachment is formed through food or comfort.

16 baby rhesus monkeys used, four in each condition: wire mother with milk and towel mother with no milk, wire mother with milk and towel mother with milk, only wire mother with milk, and only towel mother with milk.

Found monkeys preferred contact with towelling mother regardless whether she produced milk and stretched across wire mother to feed while clinging to towelling mother. Monkeys with only wire surrogate had diarrhoea (sign of stress). When frightnened by loud noise, monkeys clung to towelling mother if available. Monkeys with towel mothers explored more in large cage and visited surrogate mother more often. Shows that infants develop attachments due to confort not food. Motherless monkeys were socially abnormal (froze/fled when approached) and sexually abnormal (abnormal mating behaviour and did not cradle own babies). If monkey spent time with 'peers', seemed to recover but only if before 3 months old, suggests critical period.

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Harlow (1959) Evaluation

(-) Extrapolation issues. Attachment behaviour of monkeys not necessarily same as attachment behaviour of humans.

(-) Ethical issues. Lasting psychological harm as monkeys later struggled forming relationship with peers. However, can be justfied as had significant effect on understanding of attachment which lead to better care for infants.

(-) Two independent variables. Different heads of mothers (counfounding variables). Monkeys may prefer one mother to another due to more attractive head, so lacks internal validity.


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Learning Theory Explanation of Attachment

Learning Theory suggests attachment is learnt through association and consequences, as caregivers meet babies' physiological needs.

Classical conditioning :

Food (US) leads to pleasure (UR). Food (US) and caregiver (NS) leads to pleasure (UR). Caregiver (CS) then leads to pleasure (CR).

Operant conditioning:

Dollard and Miller (1950) suggested hungry infant feels discomfort and has a drive to reduce comfort. When fed, the food acts as a primary inforcer and the caregiver acts as a secondary reinforcer (positive reinforcement). Attachment occurs because child seeks person who can supply the reward.

Hay and Vespo (1988) proposed children observe parent's affectionate behaviour and imitate. Parents instruct children about how to behave in relationships and reward appropraite attachment behaviours such as giving hugs and kisses.

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Learning Theory Explanation of Attachment Evaluati

(-) Harlow (1962). Found that monkeys preferred contact comfort rather than food. However, study is criticised by being unethical (long lasting psychological damage), methodological (wire mother without face, cloth monkey with face), and having extrapolation issues (monkeys similar but not same as humans) so can only provide limited criticisms.

(-) Schaffer and Emerson (1964). In 39% of infants, mother was not main attachment figure, suggesting feeding is not primary explanation of attachment.

(+) Dollard and Miller (1950) argued that in first year, babies fed 2000 times, generally by main carer which creates opportunity for infant to learn carer can remove unpleasant feelings of hunger, form of negative reinforcement. Supports idea that attachments are learnt through operant conditioning.

(-) Reductionist. Explains complex ideas in simplist form. Behaviourism does not consider internal cognitive (mental) processes or emotional nature of attachments.

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Bowlby's Theory of Attachment

Proposed attachment is for survival and infant who is not attached is less well protected. Adults thought to be biologically programmed to attach to infants to ensure they're careed for and survive. Only parents who look after offspring are likely to produce subsequent generation.

Key assumptions:

1. Thought that infants born with innate drive to form attachment that increases chances of schema. Adults also thought to be biologically programmed to attach to their infants. Attachment is therefore adaptive (helpful in terms of survival, adaptive behavour passed on).

2. Infants elicit caregiving. There are specific behaviours (social releasers) e.g. crying, smiling, laughing, adopted to promote attachment. Encourage caregiving because if child cried, parent would comfort them as response. However, behaviours aloe don't explain why infant becomes attached to certain people rather than others.

.3. Form one special relationship (monotropy). Infants strongly attached to one persom who responds most sensitively to social releasers. This was expressed in Ainsworth's Caregiver Sensitivity Hypothesis. Supported by research Harlow (1959), Tronick et al (1992), and Schaffer and Emerson (1964).

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Bowlby's Theory of Attachment

4. Attachment thought to be vital for long term emotional development and forms template for future relationships as result of Internal Working Model (schema). Infant uses relationship with primary caregiver to form understanding of relationships that they'll use as template for later relationships. Generates expectations about intimate, loving relationships.

5. Continuity Hypothesis means you would expect securely attached infants to develop secure social and emotional relationships than insecurely attached (who have less trusting internal models). Supported by Hazen and Shaver (1987) love quiz.

6. If attachment is innate and therefore biological, we would expect there to be critical period for its development. Believed if no attachment formed by two and a half years old, then not possible to form attachments after. However, later research shown that concept of sensitive period may be more appropriate where development takes place rapidly and easily during critical period, but can still take place at other times e.g. up to five years old.

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Key Study

Ainsworth and Bell (1970)

Investigated how different mothering styles can affect a child's development. 

Developed strange situation to measure infant's attachment type under mild stress. 106 American infants observed in total as part of study.

Strange situation tested stranger anxiety, separation protest, secure base concept, and reunion behaviour. Consists of 8 stages:

  • Parent and infant play
  • Parent sits while infant plays (use of parent as secure bass)7
  • Stranger enters and talks to parent (stranger anxiety)
  • Parent leaves, infant plays, stranger offers comfort if needed (separation anxiety)
  • Parent returns, greets infant, offers comfort if needed, stranger leaves (reunion behaviour)
  • Parent leaves, infant alone (separation anxiety)
  • Stranger enters and offers comfort (stranger anxiety)
  • Parent returns, greets infant, offers comfort (reunion behaviour)
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Key Study Continued

Observers recording infant behaviour according to time sampling and event sampling. Interval between observations (time sampling) was 15 seconds.

Maternal sensitivity - Respond appropriately to infant's signals and communication.

Maternal responsiveness - Proportion of infant's signals and communications that are responded to.

Findings conclude 3 broad categories/types. Sensitive responsiveness is major factor determining quality of attachments and sensitive mothers tend to have securely-attached infants, whereas insensitive tend to have more insecurely-attached.

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Attachment Types

Secure attachment (Type B) - high willingness to explore, moderate stranger anxiety, some discomfort when carer leaves, enthusiastic about reunion with carer. Carer's behaviour is sensitive and supportive, and 66% classified as this.

Insecure-avoidant attachment (Type A) - high willingness to explore, low stranger anxiety, indifferent separation anxiety, avoid contact at reunion with carer. Carer ignores/rejects infants, and 22% classified as this.

Insecure-resistant (Type C) - Low willingness to explore, high stranger anxiety, distressed by separation anxiety, seeks then rejects. Carer is ambivalent and inconsistent, and 12% classified as this.

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(+) Inter-rater reliability. 0.94 agreement between observers when rating exploratory behaviour. Means observers can be accepted as reliable. However, ethical issues as deliberate distress caused to infants for reaction.

(-) Attachment types too restrictive. May display behaviour that relate to more than one attachment type. Main and Cassidy (1988) identified futher group (insecure disorganized/type D). Show inconsistent behaviour, confusion, indecision.

(-) Difficult to determine whether procedure actually measures attachment type of infant or just nature of relationship between carer and infant. Attachments may differ depending on who and type of relationship. Main and Weston (1981) found children behaved differently depending on which parent they were with. Suggests it may not be valid as measuring one relationship rather than personal characteristics lodges in individual.

(-) Lack population validity. Middle class American infants and contains elements unfmilir in some cultures i.e. being left alone

(-) Lacks ecological validity. Artificial assessing attachment, lab based with mother and stranger acting to 'script'. 

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Cross-Cultural Variations in Attachment

Cross-culture variations are differences in child-rearing practices and attachment types between different cultural groupings. 

Key study (Van ljzendoorn and Kroonenberg, 1988):

Meta-analysis of 32 studies using strange situation to asses attachment. Study examined 1,990 strange situation classifications in 8 countries. 

Found small intercultural differences. Secure attachments most common classification in every country. Insecure-avoidant next most common except Japan and Israel (collectivist).

Global pattern similar to US. Secure attachment 'norm', most common attachment. Culture similarities support view that attachment innate and biological process. Research suggests some cultural similarities explained by mass media by spreading ideas about parenting, so exposed to similar influences. Cultural differences may not due to innate biological process, but increasing global culture.

Some intra-cultural differences due to socio-economic differences i.e. some USA samples were of middle class pairings, while other USA samples used pairing from poorer socio-economic backgrounds.

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Cross-Cultural Variations in Attachment

Grossman and Grossman (1991) found German children tended to be insecurely attached. May be due to child-rearing practices as German cultures involve some interpersonal distance. Therefore infants do not engage in proximity-seeking behaviours and appear insecurely attachment. Indicates cross-cultural variations.

Van ljzendoorn and Kroonenberg meta-analysis drew conclusions about countries not cultures. Within countries, many subcultures and different child-rearing practiced.

Imposed etic. In strange situation (designed by US) , assumed wellingness to explore as sign of secure attachment. However in traditional Japanese, dependence sign of secure attachment. Result of imposed etic, may appear insecurely attached to Western culture, but securely attached in Japan. Means research using S.S. may lack validity.

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Key Study

Takahashi (1990)

Aimed to asses whether S.S. is valid procedure when assessing with attachment types of children from other cultures, specifically Japanese. Used 60 middle-class, Japanese mothers and infants aged one year.

Found 68% securely attached, 32% insecure-resistant, and 0% insecure-avoidant. Levels of separation anxiety striking. Distressed on being left alone, so extreme 90% of infants stopped the study which means more children classified as insecurely attached. High levels of separation anxiety explained as rarely experiencing separation from mothers, sleep with parents until over two years, carried on mother's backs, baths with parents. Results suggest not same meaning for Japanese as American, therefore not valid form of assessment for Japanese culture.

(-) Unethical. Research with infants must be careful not to psychologically harm participants. More than 'mild' stress for Japanese infants. Showed sensitivity by stopping observations when infants became too distressed. However, study itself not stopped, eventhough obvious that extreme distress likely.

(-) Culture bias. All middle class Japanese, home reared infants. Therefore may not be appropriate to generalise to all Japanese people

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Bowlby's Theory of Maternal Deprivation

Previously assumed good standard of food and physical care are key importance of good care. Bowlby believed infants and children need 'warm, intimate and continuous relationship' with mother/mother substitute to ensure normal mental health. Believed young child who is denied care because of frequent and/or prolonged separations may become emotionally disturbed.

  • Separation will only have this effect if it happens before age of two and a half years (critical period)
  • Only negative outcomes if there is no substitute attachment figure available

Bowlby suggested children vulnerable to effects of maternal deprivation until age of five. Believed long term effects of maternal deprivation are emotional maladjustment, mental health problems i.e. depression.

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Key Study

Bowlby (1944)

Investigated the materanal deprivation hypothesis.

Interviewed 88 children aged 5-16 and their families. Compared backgrounds of 44 juvenile thieves with background of 44 other non-delinquent children; all were emotionally maladjusted in some way.

16 of 44 thieves identified as 'affectionless psychopaths' showing lack of remorse. Found 86% thieves who diagnosed as 'affectionless psychopaths' had experienced early and prolonged separation from mother. 17% other thieves not classified as 'affectionless psychopaths' also experienced such separations. 4% non-thieves experienced frequently early separations.

Suggests link between early separations and later social/emotional maladjustment. In most severe form, maternal deprivation appears to lead to 'affectionless psychopath'. In less severe, leads to antisocial behaviour (theft). Findings support maternal deprivation hypothesis as it shows those who experienced maternal deprivation at young age later grow up to experience social, mental, and emotional problems

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(-) Data collection retrospective. Looking at past, parents may not recall separations during infancy accurately and may over/underestimate frequency. Suggests data is inaccurate

(-) Some children only separated for short periods so difficult to believe could have caused emotional disturbances. Not sure if it's maternal deprivation, loss of emotional care, or good subsitute emotional care during separations

(-) Results correlational. Something else may have made results correlational e.g. theft may feel normal or social learning theory. Deprivation/separation and affectionless psychopathy linked but no cause and effect established

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Effects of Institutionalisation

Institutionalisation concerns effects upon attachment of care provided by orphanages and residential children's homes.

Many research conducted on children in Romanian orphanages as in 1966, government tried to boost population by encouraging large family and banning abortion, leading to many babies in orphanages as parents couldn't care for them. Children spent days alone in cribs with little stimulation (cognitive or emotional), were malnourished and uncared for. Many adopted by Western families.

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Key Study

Rutter et al. (1998)

Investigated whether loving and nurturing care can

Aimed to find whether loving and nurturing care could overturn effects of privation children suffered in Romanian Orphanages.

Longitudinal quasi study. 111 orphans in 3 conditions; adopted before 6 months, adopted between 6 months and two years and adopted after two years. DV was children's level of cognitive functioning. When arriving in Britain and at age 4, height, head circumference, and cognitive functioning assessed. Control group of 52 adopted British children. 

Found that 50% of Romanian orphans retarded in cognitive functioning at initial assessment and most underweight. Control group didn't show decefits. At 4, Romanian orphans improved greatly in physical and cognitive development. Orphans adopted before 6 months doing  as well as control group.

Shows negative effects of institutionalisation can be overcome by sensitive, nurturing care. Also shows British children separated form mothers did not suffer developmental outcomes. Can be seen that separation from carers didn't cause development effects.

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(+) Ongoing research. Can't currently draw conclusions from study about long-term effects of institutionalisation, research still ongoing and should provide greater understanding as participants grow up

(-) Only some children received detailed clinical investigation, so difficult to generalise

(-) Lack of control. Extraneous variables i.e. 'good' temperament of child with seemingly less problems may be adopted sooner. May explain improvements in child's physical, cognitive, nd social learning functioning rather than care provided

(-) Children not studied while in Romanian orphanages, not possible to establish which aspects of privation/institutionalistion were most influential and detrimental

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Follow Up Research

In 2001, follow ups confirmed significant deficits remain in substantial minority of people who experienced institutional care to beyond age of 6 months. Many orphans adopted after 6 months showed disinhibited attachments and had problems with peer relationships

In 2007, 50% still showed disinhibited attachment at 11. Suggests long-term consequences may be less severe if children have opportunity to form attachments. However, when don't form attachmets, consequences likely to be severe. Relates to Bowlby's MDH and critical period.

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Early Attachment on Relationships

Research indicates link between early attachment syles and quality of childhood relationships. Can be explained in terms of internal working model as securely attached infants have higher expectations that others are friendly and trusting, would enable easier relationships.

Research indicates link between adult attachment types and children with children adopting parent styles of their parents. Also link between early attachment styles and quality of later adult relationships. However those who fail to achieve secure attachments in childhood not necessarily condemned to life of broken relationships, divorce, inadequate parenting, as research indicates possibility for individuals to develop secure adult relationships.This is because not all research supports link between early attachments and later relationships.

Quinton et al (1984) compared group of 50 women raised in institutions with control group of 50 women raised at home. When in 20s, found that the ex-institutionalised were experiencing extreme difficulties as parents e.g. more ex-institutionalised women had children that spent time in care. Suggests link between poor attachment in infancy and later difficulty with parenting.

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Key Study

Hazan and Shaver (1987)

Investigated whether attachment theory creates framework for understanding love, loneliness and grief at different points in life cycle. Hypothesis - correlation between adult's attachment styles and type of parenting received, and adults with different attachment styles display different internal working models of themselves and major social-interaction partners.

620 responses (205 men and 415 women). 108 students analysed and answered additional items focusing on 'self side' of mental mode, and loneliness. Participants asked which of three descriptions fit best applied to inner feelings about romantic relationships. Descriptions relate to secure, insecure-avoidant, and insecure-resistant attachments.


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Key Study Continued

Found attachment styles similar to infancy - 56% secure, 25% avoidant, and 19% resistant. Positive correlation between attachment type and love experienced. Securely attached adults described love experiences as happy, friendly, trusting, and relationships were also more enduring (10 years average rather than 5 or 6 years for insecure). Insecure avoidant doubtful of existence or durability of romantic love and said they didn't need love partners to be happy. Linked to internal working model as early attachment affects individuals view on relationships. Also found link between conception of love and attachment type - securely attached tended to have more positive internal working model. So secure adults more positive and optimistic about themselves and potential love partners, insecure adults more vulnerable to loneliness. Suggests attachment type in infancy affects individual's perception of self, relationships and expectations of others. Individual's experiences of relationships mould different internal working models that inform quality of subsequent relationships.

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(-) Correlational so no cause and effect established. Possible that innate temperament is intervening variable causing attachment and late love relationships. According to temperament hypothesis, imfants temperament affects way parent responds and therefore may determine infant's attachment type. Individual's temperament may also explain issues with subsequent relationships. Reduces internal validity.

(-) Zimmerman et al (2000) found attachment style at 12-18 months didn't predict quality of later relationships, while life events (like divorce) had much larger influence. Suggests there are other factors other than internal working model that may have greater influence on later relationships.

(-) Overly deterministic. Does not consider influences of partner's attachment type or multiple relationships over time that may transform internal working model. Wood et al (2003) believes quality of relationships result from interaction of 2 people's attachment types. Therefore, insecurely attached can have seccure relationships if in relationships with securely attached people. Undermined continuity hypothesis, as suggests childhood attachment style doesn't always translate into adulthood.

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