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  • Created on: 06-09-19 11:11

Caregiver-Infant Interactions

  • Reciprocity: The interaction of similar behaviour patterns between the caregiver and infant.

When caregiver does not respond, the infant is confused and upset,                          suggesting reciprocity is important in developing attachment relationships

  • Interactional Synchrony: rhythmic interaction between the infant and caregiver involving mirroring of emotion or behaviour.
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Schaffer’s Stages of Attachment

Stages of Attachment -

  • Asocial: Infants respond to objects and people similarly e.g. smiling. No preference for specific people, but towards the end may show preference to specific stimuli.
  • Indiscriminate: Infants enjoy human company, and are easily comforted by anyone (no stranger anxiety). They can tell people (familiar/unfamiliar) apart.
  • Specific: Infants make a strong attachment to 1 person (usually the mum). Separation and stranger anxiety become more apparent.
  • Multiple: Infants form several attachments to important people (e.g. various family members). They also show separation anxiety for these secondary attachments.

Schaffer and Emerson’s Longitudinal study -

Observed 60 infants from Glasgow every 4 weeks for a year (then once at 18 months). Mums would describe levels of separation protest when the infant was in 7 situations (e.g. left alone in a room or with others). The infants’ responses to the interviewer were also assessed (links to stranger anxiety). They found that:
 At 6-8 months, most infants showed sep.protest from their attachment figure.
 31% of infants had 5 or more attachments at 18 months.
 39% of infants’ prime attachments weren’t to the main carer.

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The Role of the Father

Sensitivity is important in the role of strong attachment bonds.

  • Hrdy (1999) investigated father sensitivity, and concluded that fathers are less able than mothers to detect low levels of infant distress, which suggests males as less suitable as primary caregivers.

But, Father’s and Mother’s roles complement each other; both are important. Fathers have their own role to play.

  • Geiger (1996) showed that fathers’ play interactions are more exciting and pleasurable than mothers’, while mothers are more nurturing and affectionate which supports the idea of fathers being playmates rather than caregivers.


At present, fathers have a larger role in parenting than previously, e.g. males comprise nearly 10% of those who care for their children whilst their partner works.

Research has methodological criticisms (e.g. ethnocentrism) but it may have helped recognise the importance of fathers in parenting, hence introducing shared parental leave.

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Aim: To investigate imprinting (young animals attaching to the first large moving object they see)

Procedure: Lorenz took a clutch of goose eggs and split them into 2 groups. Half were put with their goose mother, and Lorenz kept the other half in an incubator (he was the first large moving thing they saw). The goslings were then marked according to their group, and placed under an upturned box. After mixing, they were released from the box. Lorenz observed their behaviour.


  • The incubated geese immediately followed Lorenz. The others followed goose mother.
  • 4…………………25………32 + (hours) Critical Sensitive (period). Critical=more likely+easy attachment. Sensitive=less
  • Geese who followed Lorenz tried to mate with humans as adults

Conclusion: Imprinting = irreversible and biologically triggered (not learnt). The concept of a critical period has been applied to theories of human attachment. It’s also long term (hence adult geese advancing towards humans).

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Aim: To see if attachment is based on food (learning theory) or comfort.

Procedure: 8 monkeys were separated from their mother after birth and put in a cage with 2 surrogate mothers- a wire + cloth one. The monkeys were in 1 of 2 conditions:

1*wire mum produced milk, cloth mum didn’t                                                                            2*cloth mum produced milk, wire mum didn’t

Amount of time spent with each mum, and feeding time, was recorded. Also, the monkeys were frightened with a loud noise to test mother preference when stressed.


  • 1hr spent with wire mum, 15hrs spent with cloth mum
  • All monkeys ran to the cloth mum when frightened
  • Condition 1 monkeys only went to wire mum for food, then back to cloth mum

Conclusion: Evolutionary theory supported (sensitive response + security of caregiver is important). Learning theory refuted.

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Explanations of Attachment 1: Learning Theory

Attachment is based on food

Classical Conditioning:

UCS (food) = UCR (happiness)
NS (mother) = No response
NS (mother) + UCS (food) = UCR (happiness)
CS (mother) = CR (happiness) — after many pairings.

Oprerant Conditioning:

. Food = primary reinforcer (fulfilling a biological need). Mother = secondary reinforcer (providing the primary reinforcer), so, the child will try to stay close to her (proximity seeking).
. When the mother feeds the child, it’s negative reinforcement (removing something unpleasant - crying). Consequently, the baby is happy, which is positive reinforcement (adding something pleasant).
. In the future, the mother will comfort the child in the same way.

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Explanations of Attachment 2: Bowlby’s Monotropic

Attachment is/has the following:

Social releasers: Signals from the baby to elicit a response from the caregiver (e.g. crying/smiling).

Critical period: Window of opportunity where attachment is most readily formed.

Adaptive: important for survival.

Monotropic: Preference for 1 person - the caregiver.

Internal Working Model: An individual’s template for all future relationships based on their first monotropic attachment relationship.

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Ainsworth’s Strange Situation

Aim: Measuring the security of attachment a child displays towards it's primary carer

Procedure (7 3min stages): Observed: proximity seeking, reunion behaviour, exploration + secure-base behaviour, separation anxiety and stranger anxiety, [PRESS]
1) Child and carer placed in an empty room. The child is free to explore
2) A stranger enters the room, talks to the mother, and attempts to play with the child
3) Mother leaves the room and baby is left alone with the stranger
4) Mother returns to the room and the stranger leaves
5) Mother leaves the room and the child is left alone
6) Stranger returns to the room and tries to comfort the child
7) Mother re-enters the room and the stranger leaves

Results (3 types of attachment developed):
A: Insecure avoidant (15%). Won’t seek proximity/display secure base behaviour to the mother. No distress when she leaves + unresponsive when she returns.
B: Secure (70%). Play independently but seek proximity + show secure base behaviour. Moderate separation and stranger anxiety. Require comfort on reunion with mother.
C: Insecure resistant (15%). Explore less and intensely seek proximity. Very distressed when left alone and with a stranger but resist comfort when reunited with caregiver.

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Cultural Variations in Attachment: Van Ijzendoorn

Aim: To investigate the distribution of attachment types in different cultures.

Procedure: A meta-analysis of 32 studies that used the Strange Situation in 8 different countries.


  • Average findings were consistent with Ainsworth’s original research - the highest was Secure 65%, then Avoidant 21%, and Resistant 14%
  • But Japan & Israel revealed a higher occurrence of resistant than avoidant children.
  • China revealed the lowest rate of secure attachments (50%) with the remaining children falling into the other categories equally (25,25).

Conclusion: Secure attachment seems to be the norm in a wide range of cultures, supporting Bowlby’s idea that attachment is innate and universal and this type is the universal norm. However, the research also clearly shows that cultural practices have an influence on attachment type (individualist vs collectivist).

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Bowlby’s Maternal Deprivation theory

Maternal deprivation: loss of maternal care with no substitute caregiver.

The theory proposes that...

1) “Mother love in infancy is just as important for a child’s mental health, as vitamins and minerals are for physical health.”

2) Separation from the mother would severely damage a child’s social, emotional and cognitive development.

3) Maternal deprivation could lead to many long term effects, e.g.
◦ Inability to show affection/concern for others
◦ Developmental retardation
◦ Rebelling (rule breaking/criminal behaviour)
◦ Increased aggression
◦ Depression

4) The effects are irreversible and can’t be sorted by later care

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Rutter (2007) Romanian Orphan Study

Aim: To test the extent to which good care can make up for poor early experiences in institutions.

Procedure: Longitudinal study - followed a group of 165 Romanian orphans who experienced very poor conditions before being adopted into Britain. Assessed physical, cognitive and emotional develpment at ages 4, 6, 11 and 15. Comparisons were made with a control group of 52 adopted British children.

Findings: (and link to effects of institutionalisation)

  • Children adopted before 6 months had a higher IQ (102) than children adopted after 2 years (77). This highlights developmental retardation.
  • When assessed at age 6, 70% of children who were adopted after 6 months showed signs of disinhibited attachment (clinginess, attention seeking + indiscriminate affection to strangers), compared to 47% of those adopted before 6 months.
    45% of these children continued behaving this way at age 11.
  • Over half of the children were physically underdeveloped (developmental dwarfism)

Conclusion: Findings suggest that there is a sensitive period of recovery if children are removed from institutionalisation before 6 months.

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The Influence of Early Attachment

The continuity hypothesis tells us that the type of attachment we have in infancy continues to influence our lives + characterise our later relationships.

This is because it creates our internal working model.

Attachment and childhood relationships

  • Secure attachment = closer + more reciprocal friendships, greater emotional and social competence in adolescence.
  • Insecure attachment = friendship problems. Avoidant = more likely to be bullied. Resistant = more likely to be bullies.

Attachment and adulthood relationships

  • Insecure avoidant: problems with intimacy, invests little in emotional relationships, unwilling to share feelings.
  • Secure: empathetic, able to form meaningful relationships, high self esteem.
  • Insecure resistant: avoids closeness, worries that their partner doesn’t love them, distraught if the relationship ends.
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