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  • Created on: 10-03-13 10:38


  • Attachment - a strong, long lasting emotional bond that forms between an infant (at 7 months) and its caregiver. Often displayed in their behaviour by mutual affection and the desire to remain in close proximity.

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Learning theory of attachment:

  • - attachment is a learned process (not innate)

  • Classical conditioning:
    (1) food is an unconditioned stimulus for the infant, when eating food, the infant feels pleasure (an unconditioned response)
    (2) the mother (neutral stimulus) providing the food becomes associated with the pleasure that the food brings and soon becomes a conditioned stimulus with the conditioned response of pleasure
    (4) the mother then becomes a source of pleasure regardless on whether she provides the food, the causes the infant to want to be with her, and this forms an attachment

  • Operant conditioning:
    (1) when an infant is hungry, they experience discomfort, this drives them motivated to reduce the discomfort
    (2) the infant makes noise and behaves in a way to encourage the mother to feed it
    (3) the comforting feeling provided by the food is rewarding, so the food is seen as a reward, where it is the primary reinforcer of the child's noisy behaviour
    (4) the mother becomes associated with the food (secondary reinforcer). Seeing the mother as a source of reward, the infant seeks to be with her more often, forming an attachment

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Evaluation: learning theory of attachment:

:( Schaffer and Emerson observed Glaswegian babies and found that 40% of the 60 infants were mostly attached to people other than the person who bathed or fed them. The finding suggest that the formation of attachment is not based solely on food but on sensitivity and responsiveness.


:( Harlow's monkeys: 8 rhesus monkeys were raised in isolation. Each monkey was given the choice of two surrogate mothers. One of which had a feeding bottle fitted, and another coated in terry cloth but no bottle. He found that the monkeys spent most of their time clinging to the cloth-covered mother. The experiment suggests that food is not a crucial factor in the process of forming an attachment, but comfort and security are.

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Bowlby's theory of attachment:

- suggests that attachment formation is a biological process, in which babies are innately programmed to display attachment seeking behaviour for survival.
- babies who engage in proximity seeking behaviour and display social releasers, allows the mother to offer greater protection and safety than those babies that do not. So babies who display such behaviour increase their likelihood of survival. Babies that do survive are then more likely to ultimately reproduce themselves, passing on their "attachment genes" to the next generation ensuring greater chance of continued survival.
- babies will form a hierarchy of attachments with an innate drive to form a special bond to one primary caregiver, often the one who responds in the most sensitive way to the baby's social releasers (monotropy).
- the special formation of attachment between mother and baby must be within 2 1/2 and 3 years of the baby's life called the critical period. After this, an attachment is unlikely to occur, which can have negative consequences on the baby's cognitive and social development later on in life.
- the type of relationship that the baby has with its primary attachment figure will determine the baby's own expectations on what relationships should be like (called the internal working model).
- the early attachment type that the infant experiences will shape their emotional relationships later on in life, called the continuity hypothesis.

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Evaluation: Bowlby's theory of attachment

:) Hazan & Shaver designed a love quiz questionnaire. They found that securely attached infants tend to have a secure relationship in adulthood, whereas insecurely attached infants went on to have more challenging relationships and were more likely to be divorced. This supports Bowlby's continuity hypothesis, suggesting that early attachments have an effect on relationships later on.

:( Schaffer and Emerson carried out a longitudinal study on 60 Glasgow babies over a 2 year period. They found that at about 7 months old, about 30% had formed multiple attachments. By 10 months old, the number of babies who had formed multiple attachments had doubled, and at 18 months about 85% had formed multiple attachments. These findings suggest that babies do not appear to have a preferred attachment figure, this contradicts Bowlby's monotropy theory.

:( Bowlby's theory has been criticised for offering a post-hoc explanation. This is unscientific because the theory is not proven on scientific facts, but on assumptions by looking at the past and selecting facts that would fit and support his theory. This makes it difficult to verify his theory as being valid or invalid.

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Strange Situation Test (Ainsworth):

Aim: to investigate the type and strength of attachment between infants and their caregiver.
Procedure: controlled observation in a purpose built laboratory playroom with 100 American babies between the ages of 12-18 months. 8, 3-minute episodes to assess: secure-base behaviour, separation anxiety, reunion behaviour, stranger anxiety
TYPE B: securely attached (70%)
- baby sees mother as a secure base as baby explores their environment
- baby tends to show some separation anxiety, but is easily comforted upon mother's return
- contact with strangers in the presence of mother is fine, but will display stranger anxiety when left alone with unfamiliar face
TYPE A: insecure-avoidant (20%)
- tends to ignore or avoid interaction with mother and others
- separation anxiety tends to not be an issue, shows little emotional response towards mother
- stranger anxiety not an issue, baby treating unfamiliar people in a similar way to mother
TYPE C: insecure-resistant (10%)
- baby tends to display a degree of anxiousness, the mother is not seen as a secure base.
- remains very close to mother displaying clingy behaviour
- baby shows high levels of separation anxiety, seeks comfort but shows resistance towards mother
- the baby also shows high levels of stranger anxiety even when mother is present

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Evaluation of strange situation test:

:) the strange situation test is reliable as it can easily be repeated by other researchers using the same controlled experimental conditions. This allows them to compare their results to the original and if the results are similar, this will prove that the strange situation is a reliable method of testing attachment types, so generalisations can be made.
:( some regard the study as having low ecological validity, and instead being a highly artificial way of assessing attachment - it is a laboratory based test in which the mother and stranger act according to a script - far removed from what happens in everyday, naturalistic situations.
:( it has been criticised for being culturally biased. It was designed to investigate attachment behaviour in American babies and such a test may not be appropriate to apply to other cultures. For example, a baby classified as having an insecure-attachment type under the strange-situation test may not may not necessarily be true as in some cultures, the mothers never leave their baby alone so the baby will have no experience of separation so the test may be highly distressing to the baby because of the unfamiliarity-not because it is insecurely attached.
:( some question the ethics of any method used in psychological research - including that of Ainsworth, that deliberately exposes children to stress, however some feel that it is short-term and in the long-term, it has lots of benefits which outweigh this.

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Factors influencing attachment types:

- Maternal sensitivity hypothesis:
Mothers who show sensitivity and responsiveness to baby's needs tend to lead to a secure attachment, whereas, mothers - even though some may spend more time with the baby - don't respond promptly or sensitively often leads to insecure attachment.

- Temperament hypothesis:
Kagen argues that the baby's temperament (personality) can also determine attachment types.

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Cultural variations in attachment:

(Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg): carried out a meta-analysis on 32 studies that had used the strange situation to test attachment types and involved 2000 children from 8 countries.
- the pattern of attachment types were similar to those of Ainsworth's findings, however, insecure-avoidant (type A) seemed to be more popular in western countries (especially in western Germany), insecure- resistant (type C) seemed to be more popular in non-western countries (especially in China and Japan)
- 1.5 times more variation within a culture than between different cultures (E.g. In two samples taken from Japan, one study found no type A attachment whereas, other study showed 20% type A attachment, close to Ainsworth's original study)

German infants (highest type A - insecure-avoidant):
- German society's approach to childrearing practices which emphasises interpersonal distance between parent and infant.
- explains why German babies didn't show proximity-seeking behaviour or separation anxiety

Japanese infants (highest type C - insecure-resistant):
- Japanese mothers tend to keep much closer body contact with baby and are rarely separated.
- therefore, a Japanese infant would have found strange situation test extremely distressing.
- their behaviour would have shown an insecure attachment when in fact, it was down to the unfamiliarity of the situation.

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Evaluation: cultural variations in attachment

:) the study was the first to make cultural comparison of attachment types, it provided a better understanding, and opened doors to more research.

:) involved a large sample of 2000 children from 8 countries, therefore, general statements can be made.

:( the sample range between western and non-western countries were not easily matched, and as the results differed a lot, the results would end up being biased (27 studies were from western countries, only 5 were from non-western countries).

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Disruption of attachment: short-term

- Bowlby and Robertson: carried out a number of naturalistic observational studies by filming children aged 1-4 years who were hospitalised or in residential nurseries.
- found that sequence of separation has 3 phases called the protest-despair-detachment model (PDD)

- protest: separation from mother creates immediate reaction in child's emotional behaviour. They appear extremely distressed and look eagerly towards any sight or sound of mother. Can last from a few hours to a week or more.

- despair: child's behaviour is replaced by a sense of helplessness. Child becomes withdrawn and inactive, showing little interest in anything. Self-comforting behaviour may occur.

- detachment: child's behaviour begins to show that they are coping and recovering from the separation, interest in their surroundings and when mother returns, the child appears detached and disinterested. However, found that children did resume their attachment over time.

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PDD model factors:

- found that certain factors can minimise distress:
- children made accustomed to new surroundings.
- follow a similar routine as their normal one.
- allow formation of attachment with substitute mother.

- factors that affect child's response to separation:
- age: the younger the child, the more likely they will find the situation distressing (especially those before age of 3)
- gender: boys seem to be less distressed than girls
- attachment type: a securely attached child will find it less distressing
- previous separation: if a child is separated before, thay are able to cope better
- multiple attachments: children with multiple attachments seem to find the situation less distressing

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Disruption of attachment: long-term

Bowlby's maternal deprivation hypothesis (MDH):
- Bowlby carried out a case study over a number of years based on a sample of 88 children from the London Child Guidance Clinic.
- 44 juvenile thieves compared to 44 children (with emotional problems)
- found that 40% juvenile thieves had been separated from their mothers for more than six months before the age of 5, whereas only 4% of the other group had been separated - suggesting a link between early separation and becoming a thief.
- from the 40% of juvenile thieves separated, 86% were diagnosed with having affectionless psychopathy - this suggests a link between early separation and affectionless psychopathy
Spitz and Wolf:
- studied 100 children, whom after staying in hospital, showed signs of depression.
- found that if separation from mother lasted less than 3 months, recovery was very good.
- if separation lasted more than 3 months, recovery was unlikely and emotional affects seemed permanent.

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Evaluation of Disruption of attachment: long-term

:) research from Bowlby and Robertson were based on naturalistic observations, meaning high ecological validity because it was based on people in natural environment, giving truer, more accurate picture of attachment.
:) Bowlby's maternal deprivation hypothesis has real life application, Bowlby's theory led to changes in policies such as child care practises, allowed parents to stay in hospital wit child to not disrupt attachment bond.
:( Bowlby's study of 44 thieves has been criticised because the data collected was retrospective. Study relied on parents and children recalling past events of over 14 years. Memory recall may be inaccurate, or may have distorted information to avoid embarrasment or criticism. Findings could be low in validity or reliability.
:( the maternal deprivation hypothesis only provides correlation evidence. Cannot be certain that maternal deprivation causes emotional problems such as affectionless psychopathy. Other factors could have caused this, for example, children from poor background or broken homes are more prone to emotional problems. Therefore, research may be low in validity.

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Effects of privation:

Case of Genie by Curtiss - a social worker discovered Genie (13 years old), after her mother sought out services.
- Genie's life prior of her discovery was one of total deprivation.
- she spent most of her time tied to a potty chair, only able to move her hands and feet. Her mother, father and brother rarely spoke to her, and when she made a noise, her father would beat her.
- her rehabilitation team was met with a girl who weighed just 59 pounds and moved with a strange 'bunny walk'. She often spat and was unable to move her arms and legs.
- her silence and inability to use language made it difficult to assess her mental abilities, but on tests she scored about the level of a 1 year old.
- she soon began to make rapid progression in certain areas, quickly learning how to use the toilet and dress herself. However, she still remained poor in other areas such as language.
- the study provided evidence for a critical period. Lenneberg suggested that like many other human behaviours, language is subject to a critical period (lasts around the age of 12). After this time, he argued that the organisation of the brain becomes set and can no longer learn such skills. Genie used the right hemisphere of her brain for language (against the norm), and her language was abnormal, providing evidence for critical periods.

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Effects of privation:

Case of the Czech twins:
- Kolochuva' studied 2 Czech twin boys who lost their mother shortly after birth.
- they were cared by a social agency for a year, then fostered by an aunt for a further 6 months.
- their father remarried and his new wife was very cruel to the twins, making them live in a cold cellar at 18 months for the next 5 and a half years.
- on being discovered around the age of 7, the twins were physically and cognitively impaired.
- however, by the age of 20 they were above average in intelligence, and had very good relationships with their foster family.
- this demonstrates that the negative effects of privation can be overcome, and may not necessarily have a permanent damaging effect on the child.

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Evaluation on effects of privation:

 :) a lot of information was gathered for Genie's case study with numerous data, both quantitative and qualitative collected through multiple research methods, so the data was shown to be valid.

:) the researchers took care of Genie and provided her with good quality care

:( the study could not show if Genie would have developed normally, as it was suggested that she may have had developmental problems since infancy, so her inability to later develop normally may have been due to inherent problems, not her privation experiences.

:( there are ethical issues with both studies that Genie and the twins were subjects of a study and was exposed to a great deal of research and observations which may be seen as not treating them properly.

:( it could be argued that the Czech twins was not a case of privation as they had each other for provide emotional, therefore, having some form of attachment.

:( the findings from such small unique samples make it difficult to generalise.

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Effects of institutional care:

Hodges and Tizard: investigated long-term effects of children being in institutional care.
- carried out a longitudinal study, (compared 65 british children in institutional care before age 4 months, to a control group living at home). By the age of 4, 24 of the institutionalised children had been adopted and 15 were restored back with their biological families.
- all children were assessed at age 4,8,16 through interviews and self-report questionnaires.
- adopted children:
- formed a close attachment to the mother
- found difficulty establishing peer relationships
- likely to seek adult affection
- restored children:
- some formed close attachment to mother
displayed 'clingy' behaviour
- less likely to have a special friend, unpopular with peers
- institutional children:
- most children did not form attachment with carer
- argumentative and hostile towards peers and show attention seeking behaviour
- study showed that privation/institutional care can have a negative effect, as the children found greater difficulty in forming healthy relationships, supporting Bowlby's MDH. However, 'ex-institutional' children were able to form an attachment later on which shows that effects are reversible to an extent.

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Effects of institutional care:

Study into Romanian orphanages:
- Rutter investigated effects of institutional care on babies
- carried out a longitudinal study  on 111 Romanian orphans in very deprived orphanages but were later adopted by UK families.
- found that orphans adopted before the age of 6 months showed normal development, however, those adopted after 6 months did not show normal development.

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Evaluation of effects of institutional care:

:) Hodges and Tizard's study questioned Bowlby's critical period. Showed that privation/institutional care can have a negative effect, as the children found greater difficulty in forming healthy relationships, supporting Bowlby's MDH.
- however, finding also do not support MDH because the 'ex-institutional' children were able to form an attachment later on which shows that effects are reversible to an extent.

:( cannot be certain that privation/institutional care is the cause of the damaging effect on the child's development. There could be other factors such as the amount of time, the age of the child, or the quality of the care provided.

:( over a long time, the sample drop out can leave a biased sample. For example, with Hodges and Tizard's study, at the age of 16, only 39 of the original 65 were available which can make it unrepresentative.

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Arguments against day care:

- a longitudinal study by NICHD followed the development of a large sample of over 1000 American children that were placed in day centres during the first 5 years of their lives. It was found that the more time the children spent in day care, the more likely they were rated by mothers and teachers as displaying problem behaviours. They showed more aggressive and disobedient behaviours, regardless of family backgrounds.

- Belsky and Rovine used the strange situation test and found that children in day care for more than 20 hours per week are far more likely to develop an insecure attachment with the mother.

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Arguments for day care:

- an intervention programme for disadvantaged families involved 123 children between the age of 3-4 who were at a high risk of filing school. 65 children were randomly assigned to the Preschool program an 65 were used as a control group. They found that, compared to the control group, those who took part in the program were less likely to be involved in criminal activity. They were more likely to be in employment, have children and own their own property. This shows that daycare can be very beneficial.

- Clarke-Stewart examined 150 children from Chicago aged between 2 and 3 from different social backgrounds and found that children that attended day care showed better peer relationship skills.

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Evaluation: day care

:( there are other factors that can influence whether the experience of day are can have a positive or negative effect on the child's social development, such as the child's temperament.

:( there is a strong possibility that children who were shown to be aggressive may have been so even before attending day care. Mothers are more likely to place children who are proving difficult to control at home into day care as it offers parents respite from their demands of their children.

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Attachment research on child care:

Changes in hospital visiting hours:
- research from attachments such as Bowlby and Robertson, has shown that bond disruption, such as hospitalisation can be emotionally damaging to young children. Prior to this research, visiting hours were tightly controlled with limitations to about 1 hour per week. Visiting hours have now changed to allow regular, often unlimited visiting hours to minimise bond disruption.
Parenting programs:
- research such as Bowlby and Ainsworth's has shown that quality care is based on maternal sensitivity. There are now a number of parenting intervention programs aimed at improving the sensitivity and responsiveness of the caregiver. Example: 'right from the start' is an 8 wee program.
Quality of day care:
- stimulating environment: children should have a stimulating learning environment
- low children to staff ratio
- low staff turnover: to ensure stable and consistent care, so attachment to caregiver can be formed.
- sensitive care and emotional care provided to the child by care staff.
- day carers that are trained and qualified are more likely to enhance the child's social development.

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