• Created by: AHammond
  • Created on: 14-03-16 11:46

What is attachment

Attachment is the closemail emotional bond between both a caregiver and an infant. It is a two way process that endures over time. It is characterised by behavioursome such as proximity seeking, sepration anxiety and distress.

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Types of attachments

Babies with a secure attachment to their caregiver have a high willingness to explore. They have high stranger anxiety levels and and when separated with caregiver, but are easily soothed. They are enthusiastic when reunited with caregiver. 66% of infants have this type of attachment.

66% of infants have an insecure-avoidant attachment with their caregiver. They have a high willingness to explore and low stranger anxiety levels. When separated with caregiver they are indifferent and when reunited with caregiver they avoid contact.

12% of infants have an insecure-resistant attachment with their caregiver. They have a low willingness to explore and high levels of stranger anxiety. When separated with caregiver they become distressed and when the caregiver returns they seek and reject attention.

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The strange situation

Episodes (about 3 mins)

1. parent and infant play

2. parent sits while infant plays- use of parent as a secure based 

3.stranger enters and talks to parent- stranger anxiety 

4. parent leaves infants plays, stranger offers comfort for needed- separation anxiety 

5. parent returns, greets infant, offers comfort if needed; stranger needed- reunion behaviour 

6. parent leaves, infant alone - separation anxiety 

7. stranger enters and offers comfort- stranger anxiety 

8. parent returns, greets infant, offers comfort- reunion behaviour

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The strange situation 2

The child's behaviour is recorded every 15 seconds

The type of behavior and intensity on a scale of 1 to 7 is noted.

Behaviours are:

  • Proximity and contact seeking 
  • Contact maintaining 
  • Proximity and interacting avoiding behaviours 
  • Contact interaction resisting behaviours 
  • Search behaviours 
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The strange situation- results

106 middle-class infants were observed 

  • Secure attachment 66%
  • Insecure-avoidant 22%
  • Insecure-resistant 12%
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Cross-cultural variation

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis to compare findings from 32 studies using strange situation. They looked at 8 nations including the western and non-western countries.


  • Japan has the highest amount of insecure-resistance
  • Germany has the highest amount of insecure-avoidant 
  • Britain has the highest amount of secure attachments 
  • Usa had the most studies
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Cross-cultural similarities

An African tribe lives in an extended family groups, the children are looked after by and breastfed by other. However, they slept with their mothers at night. At 6 months the children still showed one primary attachment. 

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Cross-cultural differences


  • Takahasi- studied 60 middle class Japanese infants and their mothers, infants showed high rates of insecure-resistant behaviours. They were extremely distressed  at being left alone. In Japan children are not left by their mothers for 2 years.


  • Grossman and Grossman- insecure-avoidant attachment type seen commonly in Germany independence is encouraged and clingy behaviour is not, so interpersonal distance is encouraged. 
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Bowlby's theory of maternal deprivation

Bowlby thought that if a child was deprived from care (especially maternal care) this could have long term negative effects.

44 juvenile thieves

  • 44 juvenile thieves 
  • He thought that continually disruption of attachment between infant and primary caregiver could result in long term cognitive,social and emotional difficulties. He thought long term effects could be: aggression, delinquency, dwarfism and intellectual retardation 
  • He studied the case studies of 88 of his emotionally maladjusted children, where 44 had been caught stealing
  • He thought that the thieves were affectionless psychopaths lacking shame, affection or guilt
  • He thought this could be because of childhood experiences of disruption of attachment 

Affectionless thieves 86% frequently separated before the age of 2 14% no separation

Other thieves 17% frequently separated before the age of 2 83% no separation 

Controls 4% frequently separated before the age of 2 96% no separation

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Bowlby's theory of maternal deprivation

This research showed that emotional was just as important as physical care and lead to real world application, like the changing of visiting arrangements in hospitals and earlier adoption and fostering. 

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Privation- to never have formed an attachment

The effects of institutionalisation 

  • Physical under development- lack of emotion care rather than physical nourishment causes deprivation dwarfism 
  • Intellectual under functioning- cognitive development is reduced by lack of emotional care and environment stimulus
  • Disinherited attachments- no stranger anxiety, trouble making friends and being around peers 
  • Poor parenting- research shows that woman who grew up in children's homes experienced extreme difficulty acting as parents and their children spent a lot on  time in care 
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Harlow's monkeys

He removed baby monkeys away from their mothers and offered them a choice between 2 motherso one a cloth monkey the other a wire monkey. When given the choice the baby monkeys would always choose the cloth monkey whether it had food or not. When the monkeys were scared they would run to the cloth monkey and the same would happen when they were moved to a new environment. They had separation anxiety when the cloth mother was removed.

Harlow showed that the monkeys need for comfort was stronger than their need for food or to explore.

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Internal working model

An infant learns about a relationship from experience- the infant learns what relationships are and how partners in a relationship respond to each other. This experience can help predict behaviour in relation to relationships in the future.

Behavior influenced:

  • Childhood friendships- those rated highly insecure attached in infancy went on to be the most socially competent in adulthood 
  • Poor parenting- a lack of iwmy means they have no preference point for relationships with their children
  • Romantic relationships- those with secure attachments have longer lasting romantic relationships
  • Mental health- lack of I'm can lead to attachment disorders with an inability to interact or related to other people
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