Psychology - Attachment Key Terms

Key terms from the AS Psychology AQA A specification. 

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  • Created by: Phil
  • Created on: 30-12-12 14:39


  • An emotional bond between two people.
  • A two-way process that endures over time.
  • Leads to certain behaviours such as clinging and proximity-seeking.
  • Serves the function of protecting an infant.
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Classical Conditioning

  • A new response (conditioned response CR) is learned when a neutral stimulus (NS) is aassociated with an unconditioned stimulus (UCS). Initially, the UCS produces an unconditioned response (UCR). After learning, the NS becomes a conditioned stimulus (CS) which produces a CR. 
  • 'Unconditioned' means learning was not required. 
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Learning Theory

  • The name given to a group of explanations i.e. classical and operant conditioning. 
  • Essentially, these explain behaviour in terms of learning rather than any inborn tendancies (the biological/evolutionary approach) or higher order thinking (the cognitive approach). 
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Operant Conditioning

  • Each time you do something and it results in a pleasant consequence, the behaviour is 'stamped in' (reinforcement). It becomes more probable that you will repeat that behaviour in the future. 
  • If you do something and it results in an unpleasant consequence (punishment), it  becomes less likely that you will repeat that behaviour. 
  • A reinforcer in anything that provides reinforcement. A primary reinforcer is an innate reinforcer. A secondary reinforcer is one that is aquired through experience. 
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Continuity hypothesis

  • The view that there is a link between an infant's early attachment relationship and later behaviour. 
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Internal Working Model

  • A cluster of concepts about relationships.
  • In the short-term, it gives the child insight into the caregiver's behaviour. 
  • In the long-term, it acts as a template for future relationships because it generates expectations about how people behave. 
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  • The idea that the one relationship that the infant has with his.her primary attachment figure is of special significance in emotional development. 
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Primary Attachment Figure

  • The person who has formed the closest bond with a child. 
  • Demonstrated by the intensity of the relationship. 
  • Usually, a child's biological mother, but could be an adoptive mother, a father, grandmother, etc. 
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Secondary Attachment Figure

  • Acts as a kind of emotional safety net. 
  • Contributes to social development. 
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Sensitive Period

  • A biologically-determined period of time during which a child is particularly sensitive to a specific form of stimulation.
  • Resulting in the development of a specific response or characteristic. 
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Social Releasers

  • A social behaviour or characteristic which eleicits a caregiving reaction. 
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Temperament Hypothesis

  • The view that attachment type can be explained in terms of an infant's innate temperament rather than caregiver sensitivity. 
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Insecure Attachment

  • Develops as a result of caregiver's lack of sensitive responding to an infant's needs. 
  • May be associated with poor cognitive and emotional development. 
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  • Infants are willing to explore and unresponsive to mother's return; they generally avoid social interaction and intimacy with others.
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Insecure-Resistant (Ambivalent)

  • Infants who are less interested in exploring and show distress on mother's return; generally they both seek and reject intimacy and social interaction. 
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  • Infants who lack consistent patterns of attachment behaviour. 
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  • Infants who display affection to strangers and may be attention-seeking.
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Secure Attachment

  • Willing to explore, easy to soothe, high stranger anxiety. 
  • Infant is comfortable with social interaction and intimacy. 
  • Related to healthy subsequent cognitive and emotional development.
  • Develops as a result of sensitive responding by caregiver to the infant's needs. 
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Separation Anxiety

  • Distress shown by an infant when separated from his/her attachment figure. 
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Strange Situation

  • Method to assess strength of attachment. 
  • Conducted in a novel environment. 
  • Involves eight episodes. 
  • Infant's behaviour observed as mother leaves and returns, and when stranger is present. 
  • Measures attachment in terms of stranger anxiety and separation anxiety. 
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Stranger Anxiety

  • Distress shown by an infant when approached by an unfamiliar person. 
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Collectivist Culture

  • The rules, customs, morals and ways of interacting that bind together members of a society or collection of people. 
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  • Any culture that places more value on the 'collective' rather than the individual. 
  • And on interdependence rather than independence.
  • The opposite is true of individualist culture
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Imposed Etic

  • A technique or theory that is developed in one culture and then used to study the behaviour of people in a different culture. 
  • Such a technique or theory may be meaningless when used with people who have had different experiences or have different values. 
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Institutional Care

  • An 'institution' is a place dedicated to a particular task, such as looking after children awaiting adoption, caring for the mentally ill, or looking after patients in hospital. 
  • A place where people are looked after for a period of time, as opposed to day care or outpatient care where people go home every day. 
  • In the past, such institutions had fairly strict regimes and offered little emotional care. 
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Attachment Disorder

  • A psychiatric disorder characterised by an individual's inability to identify a preferred attachment figure. 
  • Individuals typically show an inability to interact and relate to others, evident before the age of 5. 
  • Individuals may lack a conscience and be unable to trust others or form lasting relationships. 
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Deprivation Dwarfism

  • Children who experience emotional deprivation are often physically smaller.
  • Emotional disturbance (stress) may affect the production of hormones, such as growth hormones, and lead to a kind of 'dwarfism'. 
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  • The failure to develop any attachments during early life. 
  • This is contrasted with 'deprivation' or 'disruption', where attachment bonds have been formed, but may be disrupted. Such disruption may last for weeks or a lifetime (in the case of parental death). 
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Day Care

  • A form of temporary care (i.e. not all day and night).
  • Not provided by parents.
  • Usually takes place outside of the home. 
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