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  • Created on: 19-11-18 12:36

The nature of attachment

Define = an emotional relationship between two people characterised by proximity seeking and resulting in the feeling of security when in the presence of the other.

Reciprocity = 'two way' when the behaviour of either then infant or caregiver triggers a response in the other.

Interactional synchrony = simultaneuos action. The caregiver and infant mirror each other.


Tronick et al = found evidence for reciporcity. They had mothers keep a static unsmiling face when interacting with the infant. This distressed the infant, which shows that reciprocity is expected by them.
Codnon and sander = found evidence for interactional synchrony. They watched infants frame by frame. Found that infants would move once spoken to by the caregiver
Van den Boom =  infant caregiver pairs who lacked interactional synchrony and reciprocity showed insecure attachments. They measured attachment style using the strange situation and found 63% were securely attached from the intervention group, and 22% from the other group.

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Stages of attachment

Schaffer and Emerson = studied on 60 Glaswegian babies and their families. They gathered information while observing them, and found 4 stages of attachment.

1. Asocial stage = distinguish between humans and non-humans, resemble faces.
2. Indiscriminate stage = they become more social, dont yet have stranger anxiety.
3. Discriminate stage = form a main attachment, show seperation anxiety.
4. Multiple attachments = for attachments for different people, for different purposes.


Strength = high in ecological validity, it was carried out in their homes, so would behave normally.
Limitation = subjectivity bias, observer bias as they see what they want to see, social desirability bias, the mother may have lied about how their child behaves to been seen positively.
Limiation = Cohn et al, the theory doesn't apply to modernt times, there are more childcarte availabilities now, and more stay at home fathers which could change the results.
Limitation = cultural bias, different countries have different childrearing practices, so can't assume that every child will go through all of the stages.

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Multiple attachments and the role of the father

The contribution of fathers = schaffer and emerson, one third of infants preffered their father to their mother, which shows that this attachment can be as important as the mothers.

The importance of the quality of attachment = if the father is around, the quality of the relationship has to be good. When the attachment is good it is found by Verissimo et al that their was a positive correlation between the relationship with the father and the number of friends at school.

The link to social skills = Gottman and Katz found that involved fathers had children who were more popular, less agressive and had high quality friendships.

Differences to the 'mother attachment' = Geiger argued that whilst mother attachments were more nurturing, father attachments were more focused around play.

Absent fathers = Gottman, compared adult daughters of both heterosexual and lesbian parents. Found no significance deifference in terms of social adjustment, sexual arientation and gender identity.
Golombok et al = stated as long as it is a high quality attachment there will be no problems.

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Animal studies: Lorenz

Studied geese and there attachment to the mother. He was the first thing they saw when they hatched, and when were mixed with the geese that saw the mother first, the geese that saw lorenze first went back to him.

Imprinting = precocial species believe that the first thing moving they see is their mother and so follow them.
Critical period = imprinting had to occur within a set time or it couldn't happen. It happens between 13-16 hours and believed the cut of was 32 hours.


Kendrick et al = supported imprinting by finding that when goats were 'fostered' by sheep the imprinted onto the 'mother ewe'.
Sluckin = supports the critical period in young birds, once exposed they followed the mother they umprinted on, but believes that it should be called the 'sensitive period' as the time frame seems more rigid.
Guiton = chicks did imprint onto the first thing they saw, but then engaged with their own species.
Limiation = doesnt explain human attachment, as we are immobile at birth.

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Animal studies: Harlow

Food vs comfort = studied rhesus monkeys who had been seperated at birth, they put them in a cage with two mothers, one was covered in cloth, the other was a hard wired monkey with food. They prefer that they prefered the cloth mother, but would cling to the wire monkey for food while still holding into the cloth mother.

Monster mothers = the mothers were wired to do unpleasent things such as cold blasts of air, shaking, and act as a catapault. They found that they became distressed but always went back.

Complete isolation = they were isolated for the first several months of their lives, and found that they didnt interact will when intorduced and were aggressive and couldnt mate.


Ethics = he was very cruel, and some say that they didnt serve an important purpose.
Infuential = it shows us that infants do prefer the warmth and saftey of a mother.
Generalisability = monkeys arent humans so cant be generalised to us.
Methodical issues = the mothers differed in ways other than their lack of cloth or having cloth. They had different faces which could completely change the results.

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Explanations of attachment: learning theory

Classical conditioning = they associate them with food. The UCS of food causes a natural reaction of happiness the UCR. Babies cant feed themselves so begin to associate their caregiver the NS with food. This then causes the mother to become a CS and resulting in happiness the CR.

Operant conditioning = learning from consequences. Drive states ,motivate them to elimanate hunger, pain, cold or thirst. By communicating with the caregiver the drive states will be reduced, which positively reinforces that the mother will be there to eliminate drive states.


Strength = Dollard and miller, found that the infant is fed over 2000 within the first year of their live which shows that there are many chances for the mother to be conditioned with food.
Limitation = Some other people may feed them. Schaffwe and emerson found that less then half had attachments to those that fed them, such as an au pair who cares for them daily.
Limiation =  Harlow found that his study on the monkeys showed that they preffered comfort over food, so their attachment for food may actually be for the comfort, which contraditcs this theory.
Limitation = it doesnt explain why babies who are brought up in extreme poverty are still attached to their parents, as they are not as many opportunities for them to be associated with food.

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Explanations of attachment: Bowlbys monotropic tho

Crticical period = can only form an attachment within a certain period of time. The older the infant becomes the harder it is for them to form an attchment, he believes the cut off is 12 months, but can still form attachments up to the age of 3.

Social releasers = the baby will smile, coo and cry to get the caregivers attention and the caregiver will be primed to pick up on these cues, which aid for the survival of the infant.

Monotropy = there is only one attachment which is stronger and more important than the other, believeing that it should be the mother.

Internal working model = it is important to give the infant a blueprint or template of how a relationship should function.

Continuity hypothesis = idea that relationships mirror the attachment patterns shown during infancy. If the attachment is secure with their mother they will have better relationships in adulthood.

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Evaluation of bowlbeys explanation of attachment

Limitation = Does monotropy exist = researchers have found that it is the norm for infants to have multiple attachments. Crittenden and Marlowe studied the Hazda tribe from Tanzania awhich is where the children are looked after by different mothers, so not the same person is looking after the child.

Strength = evidence for the continuity hypothesis = hazan and Shaver published a lov quiz in a local newspaper, which looked at a persons attachment style in infancy and their attachment style during adult relationships. They found a correlation between attachment style and later relationships.

Strength = evidence for the continuity hypothesis = McCarthy studied woman who had their attachment style recorded in infancy. They found a clear link between attachment style in infancy and later relationships.

Limitation = ignores the importance of the father = he minimised the importance of the father. We have already seen that the father can be just as important as the mother in studies such as Rohner and veneziano.

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Ainsworth strange situation + types of attachment

The strange situation: looked at 100 US mothers and their infants.

Stage 1: Caregiver and child are put in a room. The caregiver sits on a chair and the infant is free to play with the toys.
Stage 2: A stranger enters the room and talks to the caregiver.
Stage 3: The stranger approaches the child with a toy and interacts.
Stage 4: The caregiver leaves so the stranger and infant are alone.
Stage 5: The caegiver returns and the stranger leaves.
Stage 6: The caregiver leaves so the infant is alone.
Stage 7: The stranger returns and tries to interact with the infant.
Stage 8: The caregiver returns and the stranger leaves.

Behaviours that were measured = willingness to explore, seperation anxiety, stranger anxiety, reunion behaviour.

Findings: Secure 66%, Insecure avoidant 22%, Insecure resistant 12%.

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Evaluation of Ainsworth and Bell

Strength = methodoligcal points = it was very well controlled as all the children were observed in exactly the same environment with the same procedure. This minimises the extraneous variables that may be influencing the results.

Limitation = methodological points = had low ecological validity. There was an artificial environment which couldve causes the children to act unaturally. The mothers also knew that they were being observed which might have caused them to feel tense (social desirability bias).

Limitation = methodological points = it only measures the attachment style with one parent. Main and Watson found that infants behaved differently in the strange situation depending on the parent they were with.

Strength = implications = the research has been used to develop programmes aimed to develop a secure attachment in infants. It allows them to use techniques to respond to infants accordingly.

Limitation = cultural bias = they only looked at american infants, so this only looks at the american norms, so cant be used as results from other cultures may be different. As in places such as Japan it is unusual for the infant to be left alone so would show secure resistant.

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What makes an infant secure/insecure

Caregiver-sensitivity hypothesis = ainsworth et al argued that mothers of secure children understood their childs needs and responded them. Mother of avoidants were either uninterested in their children or rejecting or giving them attention when they didnt want it.

Supports the theory = De Wolf and Va ijzendoorn carried out a meta analysis on the link between parental sensitivity and security of attachment. They found a positive correlation between parental sensitiviy and security of attachment.

Temperament hypothesis = according to Kagan some children are just easier the others and this different in temperament is present from birth. Apparently they differ on three dimensions:

  • activity
  • Emotionality
  • Socialbility

Thomas and Chess = found support for this theory, some did not fit into particular temperaments but of those that did, just under half were considered 'easy babies', about 10% got used to the new experiences, and about 15% were difficult babis.

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Cultural variations in attachment

Van Ijzendoorn and Kriinenberg carried out a meta analysis looking at the results of 32 studies which involved over 2000 children in 8 countries. They found that:

  • secure attachment is the dominant attachment type in all countries.
  • differences between attachment styles cross culturally are small.
  • Germany has an unusually large number of insecure avoidants.
  • Japan has an unusally large number of insecure resistants.


Limitation = If attachment style was due to culture then we would expect to see more variation. Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg point out that all countries involved wouldve been exposed to western media and so may have developed similar views on parenting as a result.
Conclusion = Germany has a large percentage of insecure avoidants which is due to the fact that their country values independence, Japan has large percent of insecure resistants, because they are rarely away from their parents.
Limitation = dont look at a wide enough range of cultures, they were all westernised.

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Bowlbeys maternal deprivation theory

If a child is deprived of appropriate meternal care during the critical period emotional problems will develop later in life.

44 Juvenile thieves = looked at 88 children, half of them were in trouble for stealing. He found that those who were seperated from their mothers were more at risk of developing affectionless psychopathy therefore illustrating the meternal deprivation hypothesis.

The PDD model:

  • Stage 1 = protest = extremely upset and confused and want their mum back.
  • Stage 2 = Despair = develop a sense of hopelessness.
  • Stage 3 = Detachment = children appear content but show no interesnt in their return.

Most children do recover but some never do, and it is these children who are at risk of emotional disturbance in later life.

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Evaluation of maternal deprivation hypothesis

It is a too vauger concept = Rutter = it concluded too many scenarios. It is not clear exactly what would cause the child ro dveelop emotional problems.
Rutter = argued that there is a big difference between 'distortion of attachment' and 'disruption of attachment'. he believed that distortion of attachments is far more damaging than disruption of attachments, living in a stressful living environment caused by arguments and tension that leads to later emotional problems.

It might be more important than physical seperation = if the mother isnt physically there emotional problems will develop. Radke-Yarrow et al have suggested that the emotional state of the mother is a more important consideration that her physical presence.

Seperation doesnt always lead to deprivation = Robertson and Robertson studied children who were seperated from their mothers for a short period of time. One group were cared for by the Robertsons home before their stay and were talked to regularly about their mother. They were contrasted with another child, John, who was placed in residential care for 9 days. John was not given the same emotional care and as a result got very distressed and rejected his mother.

Maternal element = as long as the child has an attachment to someone it wont be affected.

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Romanian orphans studies: effects of institutoinal

Morison et al = looked at romanian oprhans who had been adopted to homes in canada> They were compared to a group to a group of Canadian born children who were brought up by their parents. They found that the orphans had lower IQs, they also found that the IQ score of the children was positively correlated to the environment they were in, this highlights how institutions can negatively impact cognitive abilities.

Rutter and Songua-Barke = they looked at a sample of 165 romanian children compared to a control group of 52 british adopted children. They had poor cognitive, social and physical development. Those adopted after 6 months had trouble getting on with peers.

Zeanah et al = The looked at foster home children, they were tested at 30,42 and 54 months then again at age 8. It was found that the foster group fared better in terms of their IQ, which tells us that although institutionalisation has a negative effect on children but that it is possible to recover.

Applications and Implications = It has made us realise how important it is for us to have a continuous attachment. This has made us re-think how we handle things such as adoption.

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Influence of early attachment inclduing the intern

The minnesota longitudinal study

1. at 12-18 months old their attachment style assessed using the strange situation.
2. at 6-8 years old they were assessed by their teachers to assess social competance.
3. at age 16 they were interviewed by researchers to determine the nature of their relationship.
4. at age 20 and 21 they were assessed with their romantic partners to determine how well they respond to conflict in their relationship.~
5. at age 23 they were recordered whether they were with the same romantic partner.

It was found that those children who were rated securely attached as infants were rated as more socially competant by their teachers and had more secure friendships.

Main et al =  interviewed parents of six year old children to uncover their own attachment experiences. It was found that those parents who had children rated as securely attached valued the importance of attachment of autonomy. It shows a clear relationship between the parents childhood experiences and how they interact with their children supporting the internal working model.

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