Attachment (AS)

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  • Created by: Hope
  • Created on: 18-05-10 08:38


A strong tie that develops over time between and infant and their primary caregiver. (Usually their mother) I.e. the person whom the infants forms their first and most important attachment with. It is a reciprocal tie because each partner is attached to the other.

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Signs of Attachment

· Infant cries whenever the parent leaves the room

· Parent/Caregiver can stop infant from crying

· Infants uses Parent/Caregiver as a secure base.

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Macoby (1980)

Four characteristics of an emotional tie:

· Seeking Proximity – Wanting to be near their caregiver at times of stress (Secure base)

· Distress on Separation - (Separation Anxiety)

· Pleasure when reunited – Distress ends on reunion with the caregiver (Reunion behavior)

· Fear of Strangers – (Stranger Anxiety)

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Explanations of Attachment

Primary attachment figure - The person who has formed the closets bond with an infant

Learning Theory – A group of explanations (Classical and Operant Conditioning) Behaviors in terms of learning rather than inborn tendencies (Cupboard Love Theory)

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Classical Conditioning

Classical Conditioning ( Association)

Ivan Pavlov – Salvation reflex in dogs, how much they salivated when they were fed. Stimulus and response, they learned that to salivate (Response) when they the door opened (Stimulus)

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Operant Conditioning

Operant Conditioning (Reward)

Dollard & Miller (1950) – Hungry infants are uncomfortable this creates a drive to reduce the discomfort (E.g. crying) is satisfied when fed, which is rewarding and associates food as a reward (Primary reinforcer). Person who supplies the food (Secondary reinforcer) is now a source of reward. The infant then becomes attached

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· Schaffer & Emerson (1964) – 60 babies from working class homes

· Harlow & Harlow (1962) - Formation of love with infant Monkeys

· Reductionist

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Bowlby’s Theory (Evolutionary Approach)

Bowlby (1969) – Humans have evolved in ways that infants are born with innate tendencies to form attachments (Increase Survival and Reproduction)

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Survival and Reproduction

  • Infants are more likely to be cared for when young and defenseless
  • Takes place during a critical period of development of not at all
  • Attachments for the basis of later social relationships are key to reproduction
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Short and Long term effects of attachment are similar to the effect of imprinting in animals.

Konrad and Lorenz (1952) – Studied the behavior of Geese who are likely to imprint on the first moving object they see. Both ensure that young animals and infants stay close to their caregiver who will feed and protect them.

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Social Releasers

Infants are born with certain characteristics (Social Releasers). This is any behavior that encourages a caregiver reaction from another person. Smiling, Crying, Cooing and simply looking appealing are common social releasers.

Critical Period – Bowlby believed that if an attachment was not formed before the age of 2 and half years old then it would not be possibly to form one thereafter.

The Continuity Hypothesis – Relationships with one special attachment figure (Monotropy) provides an infant with an internal working model of relationships

Monotropy - Infants have an innate tendency to become attached to one particular person. One single primary attachment was essential for the health psychological development of the child

Internal Working Model – The idea that the first attachment formed between an infant and their primary caregiver will create expectations about what all relationships are like

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Evaluation of Bowlby’s Theory


  • No evidence really shows that attachment is innate
  • Bowlby underestimates the role of attachment process
  • To what extent does Monotropy exist?


  • Improvement on “Cupboard Love Theory”
  • Importance of interactions between caregiver and infant are crucial
  • Evidence to supports Bowlby’s claim that secure attachment is important
  • Scroufe et al (1999) children related as securely attached were rated later on as being popular
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Types of Attachment

Secure Attachment – Strong bond between infants and caregiver. Develops as result of sensitive respoinding to the infants need. Healthy cognitive and emotion development. Trust and confidence.

Insecure Attachment – Attachment that develops as a result of lack of sensitive responding to the infants needs. Poor cognitive and emotional development. Social and emotional difficulties in childhood and in later life

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