Attachment Revision Cards - Completed


Caregiver-infant interactions


  • Babies have periodic 'alert phases' and signal that they are ready for interaction.
  • From around 3 months, this interaction is increasingly frequent & involves close attention to each other's verbal signals & facial expressions. 
  • Interaction is reciprocal - each person responds to the other & elicits a response from them.
  • The baby takes an active role - both mother and child can initiate interactions and they appear to take turns in doing so.


  • 2 people are said to be synchronised when they carry out the same action simultaneously.
  • Interactional synchrony is 'the temporal co-ordination of micro-level social behaviour'.  Takes place when mother & baby interact in a way that their actions & emotions mirror each other.
  • ISABELLA ET AL (1989) - Observed 30 mothers & infants together to assess the degree of synchrony.  Found that high levels of synchrony were associated with better quality mother-infant attachment.
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Evaluation of Caregiver-infant interactions

(+) Controlled observations capture fine detail

Generally well controlled procedures, with both mother & baby filmed from multiple angles - captures fine details of behaviour - recorded & later analysed. NO DEMAND CHARACTERISTICS as babies don't know/care that they are being observed so behaviour doesn't change. VALID.

(-) It is hard to know what is happening when observing infants

We are merely observing hand movements or changes in expression.  It is very difficult to be certain, based on these observations, what is taking place from the infant's perspective - eg is their imitation conscious and deliberate?

(-) Observations don't tell us the purpose of synchrony and reciprocity

Feldman (2012) points out that synchrony simply describes behaviours that occur at the same time - they cannot be reliably observed, so this may not be particularly useful as it doesn't tell us the purpose. However, reciprocal interaction & synchrony have been found to be helpful in the development of mother-infant attachment as well as stress responses, empathy, language & moral development.

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Attachment figures: Parent-infant attachment


Found that the majority of babies became attached to their mother first (around 7 months) and within a few weeks or months formed secondary attachments to other family members, including the father. 

In 75% of the infants studied, an attachment was formed with the father by 18 months - as the infants protested when the father walked away = attachment.

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The Role of the Father

  • Grossman (2002) - carried out a longitudinal study looking at both parents' behaviour and its relationship to the quality of children's attachments into their teens.  Quality of infant attachment with mothers but not fathers was related to children's attachments in adolescence, suggesting that fathers were less important.
  • However, quality of fathers' play with infants was related to the quality of adolescent attachments.  Suggests fathers have a role to do with play & stimulation & less with nurturing.
  • There is evidence to suggest that when fathers don't take on the role of being the main caregiver, they adopt behaviours more typical of mothers. 
  • Tiffany Field (1978) -  filmed 4-month-old babies in face-to-face interaction with primary caregiver mothers, secondary caregiver fathers and primary caregiver fathers.
  •  Primary caregiver fathers, like mothers, spent more time smiling, imitating and holding infants than the secondary caregiver fathers.  This behaviour appears to be important in building an attachment with the infant = fathers can be the more nurturing figure. 
  • Therefore, the key to the attachment relationship is the level of responsiveness, not the gender.
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Evaluation of Attachment Figures

(-) Inconsistent findings on fathers

  • Father as secondary attachment figure - Psychologists saw that fathers behaved differently from mothers & had a distinct role.
  • Father as the primary attachment figure - Fathers can take on a 'maternal' role.

(-) If fathers have a distinct role, why aren't children without fathers different?

Grossman found that fathers as secondary figures had an important role in their children's development.  However, other studies found that children growing up in single/same-sex parent families do not develop any differently from those in 2 parents heterosexual families. Suggests father's role as secondary attachment figure isn't important.

(-) Why don't fathers generally become primary attachments?

  • Could be a result of traditional gender roles - women more nurturing than men.
  • Could be female hormones (eg - oestrogen) which create higher levels of nurturing & therefore women are biologically pre-disposed to be the primary attachment figure.
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STUDY: Schaffer and Emerson, 1964

Investigated the formation of early attachments - the age which they developed, their emotional intensity and to whom they were directed.


  • 60 babies -31 male, 29 female, from Glasgow & majority were skilled working-class families.
  • The babies & their mothers were visited at home every month for 1st year &  at 18 months. 
  • The researchers asked the mothers questions about the kind of protest their babies showed in 7 everday separations, eg - adult leaving the room (separation anxiety). This was designed to measure the infant's attachment. Also looked at Stranger anxiety.


  • 25-32 weeks of age - 50% of the babies showed signs of separation anxiety towards a particular adult, usually mother = specific attachment. 
  • Attachment tended to be to the caregiver who was most interactive & sensitive to infant signals & facial expressions (reciprocity).
  • 40 weeks - 80% of babies had a specific attachment & 30% had multiple attachments.
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Evaluation of Schaffer & Emerson

(+) Good external validity

Was carried out in the families' own homes & most of the observation was actually done by parents during ordinary activities & reported to researchers later.  This means that the behaviour of the babies was unlikely to be affected by the presence of observers - no demand characteristics & good external validity.

(+) Longitudinal design

This means that the same children were followed-up and observed regularly. The quicker alternative would have been to observe different children at each age = cross-sectional design.  Longitudinal designs have better internal validity as they don't have the confounding variable of individual differences between ppts.

(-) Measuring multiple attachment

The fact that all the families involved were from the same district & social class in the same city & at a time over 50 years ago = limitation.  Child-rearing practices vary from one culture to another & one historical period to another.  Cannot generalise results to other social & historical contexts.

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Stages of attachment - Schaffer and Emerson

1: Asocial Stage (first few weeks) - Baby is recognising and forming bonds with its carers.  Baby's behaviour towards non-human objects & humans is quite similar. Show some preference for familiar adults in that those individuals find it easier to calm them. Happier when with other humans.

2: Indiscriminate Attachment - 2-7 months - babies display more observable social behaviour.  Show a preference for people rather than inanimate objects & recognise/prefer familiar adults. Babies usually accept cuddles & comfort from any adult, & do not usually show separation/stranger anxiety.  Indiscriminate - not different towards any person.

3: Specific Attachment - 7 months - majority of babies start to display anxiety towards strangers and to become anxious when separated from one particular adult = specific attachment & adult is termed 'primary attachment figure'.  Person is not necessarily who the child spends most time with, but one who offers most interaction & responds to baby's signals.

4: Multiple Attachments - Usually extend this attachment behaviour to multiple attachments with other adults with whom they regularly spend time = secondary attachments.  In Schaffer & Emerson's study, 29% of the children had these attachments within a month of forming a primary specific attachment.  At 1 year, majority of infants developed multiple attachments. 

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Evaluation of Stages of Attachment

(-) Problem studying Asocial Stage - S&E describe the 1st few weeks of life as the 'asocial' stage, although important interactions take place in those weeks.  Problem is that young babies have poor co-ordination and are generally immobile.  It is therefore very difficult to make any judgements about them based on observations of their behaviour. Evidence cannot be relied on.

(-) Conflicting evidence on multiple attachments - It isn't clear when children are capable of multiple attachments. Some research indicates that most babies form attachments to a single main carer before they are capable of developing multiple ones (Bowlby, 1969).  Others believe babies form multiple attachments from the outset (Van Ijzendoorn et al, 1993) - collectivist cultures because families work together jointly in everything - eg producing food & child rearing.

(-) Measuring Multiple Attachment - Just because a baby gets distressed when an individual leaves the room doesn't necesarily mean that the individual is a 'true' attachment figure. Bowlby (1969) pointed out that children have playmates as well as attachment figures & may get distressed when a playmate leaves, but does not signify attachment. This is a problem for S&E's stages because their observation does not leave us a way to distinguish between behaviour shown towards secondary attachment figures & towards playmates.

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Animal Study: Lorenz

IMPRINTING - Set up a classic experiment in which he randomly divided a clutch of goose eggs. 1/2 of them were hatched with the mother goose in their natural environment & the other 1/2 hatched in an incubator where the 1st moving object they saw was Lorenz.  

Findings: Incubator group follwed Lorenz everywhere, whereas control group followed their mother, even when the groups were mixed up. This phenomenon is called imprinting - bird species that are mobile from birth attach to and follow the 1st moving object they see. Lorenz identified a critical period in which imprinting must take place - this depends on the species, so could be a few hours after hatching/birth. If imprinting does not occur within that time, Lorenz  found that chicks did not hatch themselves or to a mother figure.

SEXUAL IMPRINTING - Lorenz also investigated the relationship between imprinting and adult mate preferences. He observed that birds that imprinted on a human would often display courtship behaviour towards humans.  Case study - Lorenz (1952) described a peacock that had been reared in the reptile house of a zoo where the 1st moving objects the peacock saw were giant tortoises.  As an adult, this bird would only direct courtship behaviour towards giant tortoises = sexual imprinting. 

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Evaluation of Lorenz

(-) Can't generalise to humans

The mammalian attachment system is quite different from that in birds.  For example, the mammalian mothers show more emotional attachment to young than do birds, and mammals may be able to form attachments at any time, less easily than infancy. 

(-) Some of Lorenz's observations have been questioned

For example, the idea that imprinting has a permanent effect on mating behaviour - Guiton et al (1966) found that chickens imprinted on yellow washing up gloves would try to mate with them as adults, but with experience, they learned to prefer mating with other chickens. So impact of imprinting on mating behaviour may not have been as permanent as Lorenz believed.

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Animal Study: Harlow (1958)

Observed that newborns kept alone in a bare cage usually died but that they usually survived if given something soft, like a cloth, to cuddle. 

  • Procedure: Harlow tested the idea that a soft object serves some of the functions of a mother. In an experiment he reared 16 monkeys with 2 wire model 'mothers'. In one condition, milk was dispensed by the plain wire mother whereas in a second condition, the milk was dispensed by the cloth-covered mother. 
  • Findings: The baby monkeys cuddled the soft object in preference to the wire one and sought comfort from the cloth one when frightened regardless of which dispensed milk.  Showed that 'contact comfort' was of more importance to the monkeys than food when it came to attachment behaviour.
  • Harlow follwed monkeys who had been deprived of a 'real' mother into adulthood to see if this early maternal deprivation had a permanent effect - they found severe consequences.
  • Monkeys with wire mothers only were the most dysfunctional, however those with a soft toy did not develop normal social behaviour. They were more aggressive and less sociable than other monkeys and they bred less often than is typical for monkeys (unskilled).
  • As mothers, some of the deprived monkeys neglected their young and others attacked their children, even killing them in some cases.
  • Critical period: Harlow concluded that a mother had to be introduced to an infant monkey within 90 days for an attachment to form. After this time, attachment was impossible and the damage done by early deprivation became irreversible.
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Evaluation of Harlow's Monkeys

(+) Theoretical Value

  • Harlow showed that attachment does not develop as the result of being fed by a mother figure, but as a result of contact comfort.  
  • Also showed us the importance of the quality of early relationships for later social development, including the ability to hold down adult relationships and successfully rear children.

(+) Practical Value

It has helped social workers understand risk factors in child neglect and abuse and so intervene to prevent it.  These findings are also important in the care of captive monkeys - we now understand the importance of proper attachment figures for baby monkeys in zoos & breeding programmes in the wild.

(-) Ethical issues

  • Monkeys suffered greatly as a result of Harlow's procedures - the species is considered similar enough to humans to be able to generalise the findings, which means that their suffering was presumably quite human-like.
  • Harlow was well aware of the suffering he caused - he refered to the wire mothers as 'iron-maidens' (torture device).
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Explanations of Attachment: Learning Theory - Cond

--> Dollard & Miller (1950) proposed caregiver-infant attachment can be explained using the learning theory. Their theory emphasises the importance of the caregiver as a provider of food.
Classical Conditioning

Food is the UCS & being fed gives us pleasure - UCR. 
A caregiver starts as an NS. When the same person provides food over time, they become associated with 'food' - when a baby sees this person there is an immediate expectation of food. The NS becomes a CS, and once conditioning has taken place, the sight of the caregiver produces a CR of pleasure - to D&M, this is love.

Operant Conditioning
Can explain why babies cry for comfort - an important behaviour in building attachment. Crying leads to a response from the caregiver, eg - feeding, as long as the caregiver provides the correct response, crying is reinforced. The baby then directs crying for comfort towards the caregiver who responds with comforting 'social suppressor' behaviour.
At the same time the baby is reinforced for crying, the caregiver receives negative reinforcement because the crying stops - escaping from something unpleasant. Strengthens an attachment. 
Learning theory draws on the concept of drive reduction.  Hunger can be thought of as a primary drive (innate, biological motivator) as we are motivated to eat to reduce hunger drive.  As caregivers provide food, the primary drive of hunger becomes generalised to them - attachment is thus a secondary drive, learned by an association between caregiver & satisfaction of a primary drive. 

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Evaluation of Learning Theory & Attachment

(-) Counter evidence from animal research

Other studies show that young animals do not necessarily attach to/imprint on those who feed them.  Lorenz's geese imprinted before they were fed and maintained these attachments regardless of who fed them. Harlow's monkeys attached to a soft surrogate instead of a wire one that dispensed milk. Therefore, attachment doesn't develop as a result of feeding - however, learning theorists believed that all non-human animals & humans all attached this way & that we were equivalent.

(-) Counter evidence from human research

Research with infants shows that feeding does not appear to be an important factor in humans. In S&E's study, many of the babies developed a primary attachent to their biological mother even though other carers did most of the feeding. Shows no unconditioned stimulus or primary drive is involved.

(-) Ignores other factors associated with forming attachments

Research shows that the quality of attachment is associated with factors like developing reciprocity and good levels of interactional synchrony.  The best quality attachments are with sensitive carers that pick up infant signals and respond appropriately.  

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Explanations of attachment: Bowlby's Monotropic Th

--> Rejected the learning theory because he said 'were it true, an infant of a year or 2 should take readily to whomever feeds him and this is clearly not the case'.  Looked at the work of Lorenz & Harlow for ideas & proposed an evolutionary explanation: attachment was an innate system that gave a survival advantage.  Imprinting & attachment evoled because they ensure that young animals stay close to their caregivers and this protects them from hazards.


  • Theory is described as monotropic - he placed great emphasis on a child's attachment to one particular caregiver (mono) & believed the child's attachment to this one caregiver is different/ more important than others. Bowlby believed that the more time a baby spent with this mother-figure/primary-attachment figure, the better.  2 principles-->
  • Law of continuity - Stated that the more constant and predictable a child's care, the better the quality of their attachment.
  • Law of accumulated separation - The effects of every separation from the mother add up 'and the safest dose is therefore a zero dose'
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Bowlby's Monotropic Theory cont. (1958)


  • Suggested that babies are born with a set of innate 'cute' behaviours like smiling, cooing and gripping that encourage attention from adults - social releasers (their purpose is to activate the adult attachment system. 
  • Bowlby recognised that attachment was a reciprocal process - both adult and baby have an innate predisposition to become attached and social releasers trigger that response in caregivers.
  • Interplay between infant and adult attachment systems gradually builds the relationship between infant and caregiver from the early weeks of life.
  • Bowlby proposed that there is a critical period around 2 yeaars when the infant attachment system is active.  Bowlby viewed this as more of a sensitive period - a child is maximally sensitive at the age of 2 but, if an attachment is not formed in time, a child will find it much harder to form one later.
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Bowlby's Monotropic Theory - Internal Working Mode


  • Bowlby proposed that a child forms a mental representation of their relationship with their primary caregiver = internal working model because it serves as a model for what relationships are like. It therefore has a powerful effect on the nature of the child's future relationships. 
  • A child whose first experience is of a loving relationship with a reliable caregiver will tend to form an expectation that all relationships are as loving & reliable, and they will bring these qualities to future relationships.
  • However, a child whose first relationship involves a poor treatment will tend to form further poor relationships in which they expect such treatment from others or treat others in that way.
  • The Internal Working Model affects the child's later ability to be a parent themselves.  People tend to base their parenting behaviour on their own experiences of being parented = children from functional families tend to have similar families themselves.
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Evaluation of Bowlby's Monotropic Theory

(+/-) Mixed evidence for monotropy

S&E found that most babies did attach to one person first, and found that a significant minority were able to form multiple attachments at the same time - opposite of Bowbly.  It is also unclear whether the first attachment is unique - studies of attachment to mother & father tend to show that attachment to the mother is more important in predicting later behaviour. However, this could mean that attachment to the primary attachment figure is just stronger than other attachments, not that it is different in quality.

(+) Support for social releasers

Clear evidence to show that cute infant behaviours are intended to initiate social interaction & that doing so is important to the baby.  Mothers & babies were observed during interactions, reporting the existance of interactional synchrony (Brazleton et al) - primary attachment figures were instructed to ignore the babies' signals (social releasers).  Babies initially showed distress & then responded by curling up and lying motionless. Supports B's ideas about significance of infant social behaviour in eliciting caregiving.

(+) Support for internal working models

Testable as it predicts that patterns of attachment will be passed on from one generation to the next. Bailey et al (2007) tested this - assessed 99 mothers with one-year-old babies on the quality of their attachment to their own mothers using a standard interview procedure & observations.  It was found that the mothers who reported poor attachments to their own parents in the interviews were much more likely to have children classified as poor according to observations. Supports B's idea that an internal working model was passed through families.

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Ainsworth's Strange Situation (1969)

Aim: To be able to observe key attachment behaviours as a means of assessing the quality of a child's attachment to a caregiver.

  • Controlled observation procedure designed to measure the security of attachment a child displays towards a caregiver. Takes place in a room with controlled observations (lab) with a two-way mirror for observing. Behaviours used to judge attachment -->
  • Proximity seeking - good attachment (GA) - infant will stay fairly close to caregiver
  • Exploration & secure-bse behaviour - GA enables child to feel confident to explore using caregiver as a secure base.
  • Stranger anxiety - Will be with GA
  • Separation anxiety - Will be with GA
  • Response to reunion - after short period of time.
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Ainsworth's Strange Situation (1969) - Procedure

7 episodes - Each of which lasted 3 minutes:

  • 1 - Child is encouraged to explore - Tests exploration & secure base.
  • 2 - Stranger comes in & tries to interact with child - Tests stranger anxiety.
  • 3 - The caregiver leaves the child & stranger together - Tests separation & stranger anxiety.
  • 4 - The caregiver returns and the stranger leaves - Tests reuinion behaviour and exploration/secure base.
  • 5 - Caregiver leaves child alone - Tests separation anxiety.
  • 6 - Stranger returns - Tests stranger anxiety.
  • 7 - Caregiver returns and is reunited with the child - Tests reunion behaviour.
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Ainsworth's Strange Situation (1969) - Findings

Found that there were distinct patterns in the way that infants behaved.  Identified three main types of attachment -->

1. Secure attachment (Type B)

  • Explore happily but regularly go back to caregiver (proximity seeking & secure base behaviour)
  • Usually show moderate separation distress & moderate stranger anxiety
  • Require & accept comfort from caregiver in reunion stage
  • 60-75% of British toddlers

2.  Insecure-avoidant attachment (Type A)

  • Explore freely but do not seek proximity or show secure base behaviour
  • Show little or no reaction when their caregiver leaves and they make little effort to make contact when the caregiver reurns
  • Show little stranger anxiety & do not require comfort at the reuinion stage
  • 20-25% of British Toddlers

3. Insecure-resistant attachment (Type C)

  • Seek greater proximity than others & so explore less
  • Show huge stranger & separation distress but they resist comfort when reunited with their carer
  • 3% of British toddlers
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Evaluation of Ainsworth's Strange Situation (1969)

(+) Support for validity

Attachment type = strongly predictive of later development.  Babies assessed as secure typically go on to have better outcomes in many areas, ranging from sucess at school to romantic relationships & friendships in adulthood.  IR attachment is associated with worst outcomes including bullying in later childhood & adult mental health problems.

(+) Good reliability

  • ** shows very good inter-rater reliability - different observers watching the same children in the ** generally agree on their attachment type.  This is because the ** takes place under controlled conditions & because the behavioural categories are easy to observe. 
  • We are therefore confident that the attachment type identified doesn't depend on who is observing them.

(-) The test may be culture-bound

  • Does not have same meaning in countries outside western Europe & USA - 1 - cultural differences in childhood experiences are likely to mean that children respond differently to the **.  2- caregivers from different cultures behave differently in the **. 
  • Takahashi (1990) noted the test doesn't really work in Japan because the mothers are so rarely separated from their babies = high levels of separation anxiety.
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Study: Cultural Variations - Van Ijzendoorn & Kroo

--> Study to look at the proportions of secure, IA & IR attachments across a range of countries.  Also looked at the differences within the same countries to get an idea of variations within culture

PROCEDURE --> Located 32 studies of attachment where the ** had been used to investigate the proportions of infants with different attachment types.  They were conducted in 8 countries - 15 in the USA. The 32 studies yielded results for 1,990 children.  The data was then meta-analysed, results being combined & weighted for sample size.


  • In all countries, secure attachment was the most common classification - 75% in Britain, 50% in China.
  • IR was overall the least common type - 3% in Britain to 30% in Israel.
  • IA were most common in Germany & least common in Japan.
  • Variations between results of studies within the same country were 150% greater than those between countries. (USA - one study was 46% secure and another was 90%).
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Cultural Variations: An Italian Study - Simonella

--> Wanted to see whether the proportions of babies of different attachment types still matches those found in previous studies.

  • Assessed 76 12-month olds using the **. 
  • Found 50% were secure, 36% IA.
  • Lower rate of secure suggests this is because increasing numbers of mothers of very young children work long hours and use professional childcare.
  • Suggests that cultural changes can make a dramatic difference to patterns of secure and insecure attachment.
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Cultural Variations:Korean Study - Jin et al(2012)

--> Wanted to compare the proportions of attachment types in Korea to other studies.  Used the ** to assess 87 children.

  • Overall proportions of insecure and secure babies were similar to those in most countries, with most infants being secure.
  • However, most of those classified as IA were resistant and only one child was avoidant.
  • This distribution is similar to the distribution of attachment types in Japan (IJzendoorn & Kroonenberg 1988).
  • Since Japan & Korea have quite similar child-rearing styles this similarity might be explained in terms of child-rearing style.

--> Secure attachment seems to be the norm in a wide range of cultures - supports 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.

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Evaluation of Studies of Cultural Variations

(+) Large samples
Strength because large samples increase internal validity by reducing the impact of anomalous results caused by bad methodology or very unusual participants.

(-) Samples tend to be unrepresentative of culture

The comparisons were between countries not cultures. Within any country there are many different cultures each with different child-rearing practices. Eg - one sample might over-represent people living in poverty, the stress of which might affect caregiving and hence patterns of attachment. IJzendoorn found that distributions of attachment type in Tokyo (urban) were similar to the Western studies, whereas a more rural sample had an over-representation of IR individuals.

Therefore comparisons between countries may have little meaning - cultural characteristics need to be specified.

(-) Method of assessment is biased
Etic - cultural universals, Emic - cultural uniqueness.  ** was designed by Ainsworth (American) based on a British Theory (Bowlby) - can it be applied to other cultures? Trying to apply a theory designed for one culture to another = imposed etic.
Eg of this - idea that a lack of separation anxiety and lack of pleasure on reunion indicate an insecure attachment in the **.  In Germany, this might be seen more as independence than avoidance & so not a sign of insecurity within that cultural context.

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Bowlby's Theory of Maternal Deprivation (1951)

--> Idea that the continual presence of nurture from a mother is essential for normal psychological development of babies and toddlers, emotionally & intellectually. He said that 'mother-love in infancy and childhood is important for mental health as are vitamins & proteins for physical health'.  Being separated from a mother in early childhood = serious consequences (maternal deprivation).

  • Separation - the child is not being in the presence of the primary attachment figure
  • Deprivation - child loses an element of their mothers' care/ extended separation
  • Bowlby saw the 1st 30 months of life as a critical period for psychological development - if a child is separated from their mother in the absence of substitute care & deprived of her emotional care for an extended period - Bowlby believed psychological damage was inevitable.
  • Intellectual development - B believed that if children were deprived of maternal care for too long during the CP, they would suffer mental retardation (low IQ). Showed by adoption studies - Goldfarb (1947) found lower IQ in children who had remained in institutions as opposed to those who were fostered & thus had a higher standard of emotional care.
  • Emotional development - B identified affectionless psychopathy as the inability to experience guilt or strong emotion for others. This prevents the person developing normal relationships and is associated with criminality. Affectionless psychopaths cannot appreciate the feelings of victims and so lack remorse for their actions.
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Maternal Deprivation: Bowlby's 44 Thieves Study

--> Examined the link between affectionless psychopathy and maternal deprivation.


  • 44 teenage criminals accused of stealing were interviewed for signs of affectionless psychopathy: lack of affection, lack of guilt about their actions and lack of empathy for their victims.
  • Their families were also interviewed in order to establish whether the thieves had prolongued early separations from their mothers. A control group of non-criminal but emotionally disturbed young people was set up to seee how often maternal separation/deprivation occurred in the children who weren't thieves.


  • Bowlby (1944) found that 14/44 thieves could be described as affectionless psychopaths - of this 14, 12 had experienced prolongued separation from their mothers in the first 2 years of their lives.  
  • In contrast only 5 of the remaining 30 had experienced separations.  
  • Of the control group, 2/44 had experienced long separations.  It was conclued that prolongued early separation/deprivation caused affectionless psychopathy. 
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Evaluation of Bowlby's Theory of Maternal Deprivat

 (-) The evidence may be poor

  • Eg - Orphan study & 44 thieves study - are flawed as evidence as war-orphans were traumatised & had poor after-care, therefore these factors might have been the causes of later developmental difficulties rather than separation. 44 thieves - had bias as Bowlby himself carried out the assessments for affectionless psychopathy & the family interviews so know what he hoped to find.

(-) Counter-evidence

  • Hilda Lewis partially replicated 44 thieves study on a larger scale, looking at 500 young people.  In her sample, a history of early prolongued separation from the mother did not predict criminality or difficulty forming close relationships.  This is a problem for the theory of maternal deprivation - suggests that other factors may affect the outcome of early MD.

(-) The critical period is actually more of a sensitive period

  • Later research showed damage was not inevitable.  Some cases of very severe deprivation have had good outcomes provided the child has some social interaction & good aftercare.  
  • Eg - 2 twin boys in Czechoslovakia were isolated from the age of 18 months to 7 years old (step-mum locked them in a cupboard). They were then looked after by 2 loving adults & appeared to recover fully - show that critical period may be only a 'sensitive' period.
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Romanian Orphan Studies: Effects of Institutionali

  • Orphan studies can be used as a means of studying the effects of deprivation. 
  • In Romania in the 1990s, Former president Ceaucescu required Romanian women to have five children.  Many could not afford to keep their children and so they ended up in huge orphanages in very poor conditions.  After the 1989 revolution many of the children were adopted.

INSTITUTIONALISATION --> A term for the effects of living in an institutional setting.  The term 'institution' refers to a place like a hospital/orphanage where children live for long, continuous periods of time.  In such places there is often very little emotional care provided.  In attachment reserarch we are interested in the effects of institutional care on children's attachment & subsequent development.

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Study: Rutter's ERA (English & Romanian Adoptee St

PROCEDURE - Rutter & colleagues (2011) followed a group of 165 Romanian Orphans adopted in Britain to test to what extent good care could make up for poor early experiences in institutions. Physical, cognitive & emotional development were assessed at ages 4, 6, 11 & 15 years.  A group of 52 British children adopted around the same time = control group.


  • When they first arrived in the UK, 1/2 the adoptees showed signs of mental retardation and the majority were severly undernourished. At 11 yrs - the adopted children showed differential rates of recovery that were related to their age of adoption.  The mean IQ of those children adopted before 6 months = 102, adopted between 6 months & 2 years = 86 & those adopted after 2 years = 77. These differences remained at age 16.
  • There appeared to be a difference in outcome related to whether adoption took place before or after 6 months.  Those children adopted after they were 6 months showed signs of a particular attachment style called disinhibited attachment.
  • Symptoms include - attention seeking, clinginess & social behaviour directed indiscriminately towards all adults, both familiar & unfamiliar. However, those adopted before 6 moths rarely displayed disinhibited attachment.
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Institutionalisation: The Bucharest Early Interven


  • Zeanan et al. (2005) assessed attachment in 95 children aged 12-31 months who had spent most of their lives in institutional care (90% on average). They were compared to a control group of 50 children who had never lived in an institution.
  • Their attachment type was measured using the **.
  • In addition, carers were asked about unusual social behaviour including clingy, attention-seeking behaviour directed inappropriately at all adults (i.e. disinhibited attachment)


  • Found that 74% of the control group came out as securely attached in the **.
  • However, only 19% of the institutional group were securely attached, with 65% being classified with disorganised attachment.
  • The description of disinhibited attachment applied to 44% of institutionalised children as opposed to less than 20% of the controls.
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Effects of Institutionalisation


  • They are equally friendly & affectionate towards people they know well or who are strangers they have just met.  This is highly unusual behaviour - most children in their 2nd year show stranger anxiety.
  • Rutter (2006) explained disinhibited attachment as an adaptation to living with multiple caregivers during the sensitive period for attachment formation.  In poor quality institutions like those in Romania, a child might have 50 carers, none of whom they see enough to form a secure attachment.


  • Most showed signs of this when they arrived in Britain.
  • However, most of those adopted before they were 6 months old caught up with the control group by age 4.
  • Like emotional development, damage to intellectual development as a result of institutionalisation can be recovered provided adoption takes place before the age of 6 months - the age at which attachments form. 
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Evaluation - Romanian Orphan Studies - Effects of

(+) Real-life application

These studies have led to improvements in the way children are cared for in institutions. Eg - orphanages & children's homes now avoid having large numbers of caregivers for each child & instead ensure that a much smaller no. of people (1 or 2), play a central role for the child (key worker). This means that children have the chance to develop normal attachments & helps avoid disinhibited attachment.

(+) Fewer extraneous variables than other orphan studies

It is hard to observe the effects of institutionalisation & isolation when the children are dealing with many factors (confounding participant variables), such as if they experienced neglect, abuse or bereavement. In the case of Romanian Orphans, it is possible to study institutionalisation without these variables = increased internal validity.

(-) The Romanian Orphanages were not typical

  • It is possible that the conditions were so bad that results canno tbe applied to understanding the impact of better quality institutional care/ any situation where the children experience deprivation.
  • Eg - Romanian orphanages had very poor standards of care, especially when it came to forming any relationship with the children, & extremely low levels of intellectual stimulation.
  • Limitation - unusual situational variables mean the studies lack generalisability.
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Attachment & later relationships


  • Bowlby (1969) suggested that a child having their first relationship with their primary attachment figure forms a mental representation of this relationship - the IWM acts as a template for future relationships.
  • The quality of the child's 1st attachment is crucial because this template will powerfully affect the nature of future relationships. A child whose 1st experience if of a loving relationship with a reliable caregiver will tend to assume that this is how relationships are meant to be - will then seek out functional relationships & behave functionally within them - ie won't be too uninvolved/too emotionally close (type A) or controlling/argumentative (type C).
  • Child with bad experiences of attachment - they may struggle to form relationships in the first place/may not behave appropriately when they have them - displaying type A or C behaviour.
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Attachment & later relationships cont.


  • Attachment type is associated with the quality of peer relationships in childhood.
  • Securely attached infants tend to go on to form the best quality childhood friendships, whereas insecurely attached infants later have friendship difficulties (Kerns, 1994).
  • Myron-Wilson & Smith (1998) assessed attachment type & bullying involvement using standard questionnaires in 196 children aged 7-11 from London.
  • Secure children were very unlikely to be involved in bullying. IA children were most likely to be victims & IR weere most likely to be bullies.


  • IWMs also affect the child's ability to parent their own children.  Most people base their parenting style on their IWM = attachment type tends to be passed on through generations of a family.
  • Bailey et al (2007) - they considered the attachments of 99 mothers to their babies & to their own mothers.  Mother-baby attachment was assessed using the ** and mother-own mother attachment was assessed using an adult attachment interview --> majority of women had the same attachment classification both to their babies & their own mothers.
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Relationships in adulthood with romantic partners

--> McCarthy (1999) studied 40 adult women who had been assessed when they were infants to establish their early attachment type.  Those assessed as securely attached infants had the best adult relationships & friendships. IR adults had problems maintaining friendships whilst those classed as IA struggled with intimacy in romantic relationships.



  • Analysed 620 replies to a 'love quiz' in an American local newspaper.
  • Quiz had 3 sections - 1 - assessed respondents' current/most important relationship - 2 - assessed general love experiences (eg - no. of partners) - 3 - assessed attachment type by asking respondents to choose wihch of these statements best described their feelings.


  • 56% were securely attached, 25% were IA and 19% were IR.
  • Those who were secure were most likely to have good & longer lasting romantic experiences. The avoidant ones tended to reveal jealousy and fear of intimacy. These suggest that patterns of attachment behaviour are reflected in romantic relationships.
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Evaluation of Influence of Early Attachment on Lat

(+/-) Evidence on continutity of attachment type is mixed
IWMs predict continuity between the security of an infant's attachment & that of its later relationships - however, evidence for this continuity is mixed.  Some studies, like McCarthy, do appear to support continuity & so provide evidence to support IWMs.
Not all studies support IWM - Zimmerman (2000) assessed infant attachment type & adolescent attachment to parents - there was very little relationship between quality of infant & adolescent attachment = problem as it is not what we would expect if IWM are important in development.

(-) Most studies have issues of validity
Most studies do not make use of the ** but assess infant-parent attachment by means of interview or questionnaire - not in infancy but years later = validity problems.
1 - assessment relies on self-report techniques (interviews/questionnaires) to assess quality of relationships. 2 - Problem concerns the retrospective nature of assessment of infant attachment - looking back in adulthood at one's early realtionships to a primary attachment figure lacks validity as it relise on accurate recollections.

(-) Association does not mean casuality
Alternative explanations for this continuity - a 3rd environmental factor such as parenting style might have a direct effect on both attachment & the child's ability to form relationships with others. Child's temperament may influence infant attachment & the quality of later relationships = Counter to Bowlby's view that the IWM caused these later outcomes.

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Key Terms 1

RECIPROCITY - A description of how 2 people interact.  Mother-infant interaction is reciprocal in that both infant and mother respond to each other's signals & each elicits a response from the other.

INTERACTIONAL SYNCHRONY - Mother & infant reflect both the actions and emotions of the other and do this in a co-ordinated (synchronised) way.

STAGES OF ATTACHMENT - Many developmental theories identify a sequence of qualitatively different behaviours linked to specific ages.  In satges of attachment, some characteristics of the infant's behaviour towards others cahnge as the infant gets older.

MULTIPLE ATTACHMENTS -Attachments to 2 or more people. Most babies appear to develop these once they have formed one true attachment to a main carer.

ANIMAL STUDIES - in psychology are studies carried out on non-human animal species rather than on humans, either for ethical or practical reasons - practical because animals breed faster & researchers are interested in seeing results across more than one generation of animals.

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Key Terms 2

LEARNING THEORY - A set of theories from the behaviourist approach to psychology, that emphasise the role of learning in the acquisition of behaviour. Explanations for learning of behaviour include classical & operant conditioning.

MONOTROPIC - A term sometimes used to describe Bowlby's theory. The mono means 'one' and indicates that one particular attachment is different from all others and of central importance to the child's development.

INTERNAL WORKING MODELS - The mental representations we all carry with us of our attachment to our primary caregiver. They are important in affecting our future relationships because they carry our perception of what relationships are like.

CRITICAL PERIOD - This refers to the time within which an attachment must form if it is to form at all. Lorenz & Harlow noted that attachment in birds & monkeys had critical periods. Bowlby extended the idea to humans, proposing that human infants have a sensitive period after which it will be much more difficult to form an attachment.

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Key Terms 3

STRANGE SITUATION - A controlled observation designed to test attachment security. Infants are assessed on their response to playing in an unfamiliar room, being left alone, left with a stranger and being reunited with a caregiver.

SECURE ATTACHMENT - Generally thought of as the most desirable attachment type, associated with psychologically healthy outcomes. In the **, this is shown by moderate stranger & separation anxiety and ease of comfort at reunion.

INSECURE-AVOIDANT ATTACHMENT - An attachment type characterised by low anxiety but weak attachment. In the **, this is shown by low stranger & separation anxiety and little response to reunion - an avoidance of the caregiver.

INSECURE-RESISTANT ATTACHMENT - An attachment type characterised by strong attachment and high anxiety. In the **, this is shown by high levels of stranger & separation anxiety and by resistance to be comforted at reunion.

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Key Terms 4

CULTURAL VARIATIONS - 'Culture' refers to the norms & values that exist within any group of people. Therefore they are differences in norms & values that exist between people in different groups. In attachment research, we are concerned with the differences in the proportion of children of different attachment types.

MATERNAL DEPRIVATION - The emotional & intellectual consequences of separation between a child & its mother. Bowlby proposed that continuous care form a mother is essential for normal psychological development, and that prolongued separation from this adult causes serious damage to emotional & intellectual development.

INSTITUTIONALISATION - A term for the effects of living in an institutional setting. The term 'institution' refers to a place like a hospital or an orphanage where children live for long, continuous periods of time. In such places there is often very little emotional care provided. In attachment research we are interested in the effects of institutional care on children's attachment & subsequent development.

ORPHAN STUDIES - These concern children placed in care because their parents cannot look after them. An orphan is a child whos parents have either died of have abandoned them permanently.

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Key Terms 5

CHILDHOOD RELATIONSHIPS - Affiliations with other people in childhood, including friends and classmates, and with adults such as teachers.

ADULT RELATIONSHIPS - Those relationships the child goes on to have later in life as an adult. These include friendships and working relationshpis but most critically relationships with romantic partners and the person's own children.

INTERNAL WORKING MODELS - The mental representations we all carry with us of our attachment to our primary caregiver. They are important in affecting our future relationships because they carry our perception of what relationships are like.

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Practice Questions 1

  • 1) Explain what is meant by interactional synchrony. [2 marks]
  • 2) Outline research into caregiver-infant interactions. [4 marks]
  • 3) Outline the role of the father in attachment. [6 marks]
  • 4) Describe & evaluate research into caregiver-infant interactions. [12 marks]
  • 5) Outline stages of development s identified by Schaffer. [4 marks]
  • 6) Outline one criticism of Schaffer's stages of attachment. [4 marks]
  • 7) Explain what is meant by multiple attachments. [3 marks]
  • 8) Evaluate research into multiple attachments. [4 marks]
  • 9) Describe & evaluate Schaffer's stages of attachment. [12 marks]
  • 10) Outline Lorenz's animal studies of attachment - refer to what he did & found.[4 marks]
  • 11) Describe one study by Harlow related to attachment. [4 marks]
  • 12) Briefly evaluate Harlow's animal studies. [4 marks]
  • 13) Describe & evaluate animal studies of attachment. [12 marks]
  • 14) Outline the learning theory explanation of attachment. [4 marks]
  • 15) Outline 2 criticisms of learning theory as an explanation of attachment. [4 marks]
  • 16) Describe and evaluate learning theory as an explanation of attachment. [12 marks]
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Practice Questions 2

  • 17) Outline Bowlby's theory of attachment. Refer to the critical period and internal working models. [6 marks]
  • 18) Explain what is meant by a monotropic theory. [2 marks]
  • 19) Outline 2 criticisms of Bowlby's theory of attachment. [4 marks]
  • 20) Describe & evaluate Bowlby's monotropic theory of attachment. [12 marks]
  • 21) Describe how Ainsworth studied types of attachment. [6 marks]
  • 22) Outline what is meant by secure attachment. [3 marks]
  • 23) Explain the difference between secure & insecure attachment. [3 marks]
  • 24) Describe and evaluate the Strange Situation. [12 marks]
  • 25) Explain how van IJzendoorn studied cultural variations in attachment. [4 marks]
  • 26) Describe what research has found about cultural variations in attachment.[6 marks]
  • 27) Explain one criticism of research into cultural variation in attachment. [3 marks]
  • 28) Describe and evaluate research into cultural variations. [12 marks]
  • 29) Explain what is meant by maternal deprivation. [3 marks]
  • 30) Outline evidence used to support the theory of maternal deprivation. [4 marks]
  • 31) Explain one criticism of the theory of maternal deprivation. [4 marks]
  • 32) Describe & evaluate Bowlby's theory of maternal deprivation. [12 marks]
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Practice Questions 3

  • 33) Briefly outline what is meant by institutionalisation. [2 marks]
  • 34) Outline what research has found about the effects of institutionalisation on attachment. [6 marks]
  • 35) Describe one study of Romanian orphans. Incluse what the researcher(s) did and what they found in your answer. [4 marks]
  • 36) Describe & evaluate research into Romanian orphans. [12 marks]
  • 37) Explain what is meant by an internal working model. [3 marks]
  • 38) Describe what research has shown about the link between early attachment and adult relationships. [6 marks]
  • 39) Describe & evaluate research into the influence of attachment on childhood & adult relationships. Refer to evidence in your answer. [12 marks]
  • 40) What is 'attachment'?
  • 41) What are the 4 stages of attachment described by S&E (1964)?
  • 42) Give one criticism of S&E's (1964) research into the attachment of children.
  • 43) What did Lorenz (1935) conclude from his study?
  • 44) Why might researchers choose to use animals in their studies?
  • 45) Outline Lorenz's research investigating attachment. [4 marks]
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Practice Questions 4

  • 46) Outline Harlow's study into attachment. [4 marks]
  • 47) Evaluate the methodolgy Harlow used. [4 marks]
  • 48) How can classical conditioning be used to explain attachment?
  • 49) What is monotropy?
  • 50) What is Bowlby's internal working model?
  • 51) How long does Bowlby's critical period for attachment last for?
  • 52) Evaluate Bowlby's theory of attachment. [4 marks]
  • 53) Outline the learning theory of attachment. [6 marks]
  • 54) What is secure attachment?
  • 55) What are the two types of insecure attachment?
  • 56) Who came up with the 'strange situation'?
  • 57) What have cross-cultural studies shown about attachments?
  • 58) Outline & evaluate Ainsworth's (1978) 'strange situation' study. [8 marks]
  • 59) Explain 2 disadvantages of using the ** in a study of attachment. [4 marks]
  • 60) What does Bowlby's maternal deprivation hypothesis propose?
  • 61) Give 1 weakness of Bowlby's maternal deprivation hypothesis.
  • 62) Give one example of when the effects of a disruption of attachment have been reversed. 
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Practice Questions 5

63) Outline one study that supports Bowlby's theory of maternal deprivation. [4 marks]

64) Outline & evaluate Bowlby's theory of maternal deprivation. [12 marks]

65) What is the difference between privation and deprivation?

66) What research method did Rutter et al (2007) use in their Romanian Orphan study?

67) Discuss, with reference to research, the effects of institutionalisation on young children. [8 marks]

68) Give an example of a study which supports Bowlby's internal working model.

69) What useful assessment tool did Main et al (1985) develop?

70) Describe & evaluate Hazan & Shaver's (1987) study.

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