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Attachment is Innate and Adaptive

  • Children have an innate drive to become attached to the primary caregiver
  • Because it has similar benefits of imprinting
  • Both attachment and imprinting ensure the young are close to a caregiver who will feed and protect the young animal
  • Thus attachment and imprinting are adaptive behaviours.

Adaptive Behaviours

  • behaviours that increase the chance of survival and ultimately reproduction. The greater the attachment between infant and caregiver, the more likely the infant will go on the reproduce.

Key Terms

  • Inborn characteristics, a product of genetic factors (Innate). 
  • Such characteristics may become apparent at birth or appear later as a result of maturation.
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Sensitive Period

  • Since attachment is innate, Bowlby suggested that there is a certain time length in infancy where a childs need to form and attachment or there is a low chance of the infant ever form an attachment at all.
  • Development of all biological systems involves a critical period.
  • The second quarter of the childs first year of life is the critical period as this is where it is the most sensitive to any form of attachment from a primary caregiver.

Key Terms

  • Sensitive Period- A biologically determined period of time where the child is the most sensitive to a specific form of stimulation. 
  • Contrast to the critical period, which suggests there is a more finite period during which change can take place.
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Caregiving is Adaptive

It isnt just attachment that is innate. But also caring for the child is known to be innate for the caregiver.

  • Caring for the infant is caused by certain characteristics the child holds known as social releasers.

The social releasers include smiling, crying, cooing and the 'baby face' (big eyes, small nose, big forehead)

  • Attachment is the innate for the infant and the caregiver, the caregiving is the innate response in the infant.
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Secure Base

  • Attachment is important for protection, and thus acts as a secure base from which a child can explore the world and have a safe haven.

Example: A child crawls only a certain distance from the caregiver, but always returns back to him. Sign of secure attachment.

Thus attachment forms an independence rather than dependence.

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Monotropy and Hierarchy

  • Bowlby believed that infants form a number of attachments, but one attachment is made to have a special importance.
  • This bias towards one individual, the primary attachment figure, is called monotropy.
  • Infants also have a second attachment figure that forms a hierarchy of attachments.
  • The one special attachment figure is usually, but not always, the infants mother.
  • An infant becomes attached the person who is most sensitive to the infants social releasers.
  • This person becomes the infants primary attachment figure.
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Internal Working Model & The Continuity Hypothesis

  • Attachment starts as the relationship between a care giver and an infant. This relationship may be one of trust or of uncertainty and inconsistency.
  • Gradually the infant develops a model about emotional relationships.
  • This 'model' is a cluster of concepts about relationships and what to expect from others.


  • The continuity hypothesis means there is a consistency between early emotional experiences, and later relationships.
  • The view that there is a link between the early attachment relationship and later emotional behaviour.
  • Infants who are securely attached at infancy continue to be socially and emotional competant.
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