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  • Created on: 16-02-15 21:36

Learning Theory

ATTACHMENT - An emotional bond between two people, two-way process that endures over time

Learning Theory:

  • Put forward by behaviourists (focus explanations on behaviour), suggest that all behaviour is learned through CLASSICAL OR OPERANT CONDITIONING
  • CLASSICAL CONDITIONING - learning through association, Pavlov'dogs, food = unconditioned stimulus, sense of pleasure = unconditioned response, feeder = conditioned stimulus, sense of pleasure = conditioned response
  • OPERANT CONDITIONING - learning occurs through reinforcement and punishment (rewarded for doing something), (PLEASANT CONSEQUENCE - behaviour reinforced = more likely to repeat behaviour in future) (UNPLEASANT CONSEQUENCE - less likely to repeat behaviour in future), Dollard and Miller - food = primary reinforcer, feeder = secondary reinforcer
  • EVALUATION - provides adequate explanation of how attachments are formed, Harlow's monkeys - contact comfort is more important than food, Schaffer and Emerson - 60 Glasgow babies -> not most attached to feeder but comforter = 'CUPCBOARD LOVE' not likely to be best explanation for attachment
  • VALIDITY - Learniny theory largely based on animals, human behaviour more complexed 
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Bowlby's Theory

  • ATTACHMENT IS ADAPTIVE AND INNATE - evolutionary theory = attachment is a behavioural system that has evolved because of its survival and reproductive value, children have innate drive to become attached to caregiver (like imprinting - Lorenz
  • SENSITIVE PERIOD - a limited window for attachment to develop, 2/4 of first year of child's life is when they are most sensitive to attachment developments, after that is is harder to form.
  • CAREGIVING IS ADAPTIVE - the drive to provide caregiving is innate because it is adaptive, infants born with SOCIAL RELEASERS to elicit caregiving and enhance survival.
  • A SECURE BASE - attachment is important for protection = acts as a secure base for a child to explore the world and provides a safe haven to return to when threatened, attachment fosters independence.
  • MONOTROPY AND HIERARCHY - (bias towards primary attachment figure (usually mother) = monotropy), infants have other secondary attachment figures that form a hierarchy of attachments, infant becomes more strongly attached to person who responds most sensitively to social releasers  (SENSITIVITY HYPOTHESIS) = main foundation for emotional development, self-esteem and later relationships, secondary attachment figures important for emotional and social development.
  • INTERNAL WORKING MODEL - type of relationship between caregiver and infant provides expectations for future relationships, infant develops model about emotional relationships
  • THE CONTINUITY HYPOTHESIS - view that there is a link between early attachment relationship and later emotional behaviour
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Evaluation of Bowlby's Theory

  • INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES - not all children form the same type of attachment
  • CULTURAL VARIARTIONS - attachment subject to cultural influences
  • REAL-WORLD APPLICATIONS - Bowlby's theory has had an influence on many aspects of everyday life
  • STRENGTHS Lorenz (imprinting proven - similar mechanisms in other organisms), Hodges and Tizard (sensitive period - children that didn't form attachments =later difficulties with peers), Tronick et al (Efe tribe - attachment and caregiving is universal & not influenced by cultural practises), Tronick et al, Schaffer and Emerson, Harlow (monotropy and hierarchy exists), Schaffer and Emerson, Harlow (caregiver sensitivity is important), Sroufe et al (followed pps from infancy to late adolescence  - found continuity between early attachment and later emotional/social behaviour) 
  • LIMITATIONS - Rutter (all attachments are equally important, in MULTIPLE ATTACHMENT MODEL no primary or secondary attachements), Kagan (TEMPERAMENT HYPOTHESIS - children form secure attachments because they have a more 'easy' temperament from birth, innately difficult children are more likely to form insecure attachments and later relationships (Thomas and Chess, found 3 unfant personality types: easy, difficult and slow-to-warm-up) 
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Types of Attachment (Ainsworth - strange situation

  • To see how 106 MC infants (9-18 months) behave under conditions of mild stress & novelty. Stress created by presence of stranger and separtaion from CG (tests STRANGER ANXIETY and SEPARATION ANXIETY)
  • 8 episodes (Behaviour assessed: use of parent as secure base, stranger anxiety, separation anxiety, reunion behaviour): 1) parent and child play, 2) parent sits while child plays, 3) strange enters & talks to parent, 4) Parent leaves, 5) Parent returns & Stranger leaves, 6) Parent leaves & child's alone, 7) stranger enters, 8) Parent returns 
  • Observers recorded activity every 15 secs, noted behaviours & scored intensity of 5 types of behaviour out of 7.(Similarities: exploratory behaviours declined & crying increased after E2, proximity-seeking & contact-maintaining intensified during seperation & stranger appearance)
  • SECURE ATTACHMENT (B) - harmonious & cooperative interactions w/CG, cries when CG leaves & use CG as a secure base to explore from
  • INSECURE-AVOIDMENT (A) - avoid social interaction and intimacy, little response to separation, high levels of anxiousness and aviodant behaviour
  • INSECURE-RESISTANT (C)- seek and reject intimacy and social interaction, respond to separation from CG with intense distress
  • Main and Soloman - DISORGANISED - lack of consistent patterns of social behaviour, lack coherent strategy for dealing w/stress of separation
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Evaluating types of Attachment


  • Behaviour in later childhood - Prior and Glaser (longitudinal studies show continuties based on attachment types: secure- less emotionally dependent, aviodant - later aggressiveness, resistant-greater anxiety & withdrawn behaviour, disorganised-hostile & aggressive behaviour)
  • Adult romantic behaviour - Hazan and Shaver (Love quiz - chracteristic patterns of later romantic behaviour associated with each early attachment type) 


  • Sensitivity - Ainsworth (MATERNAL SENSITIVITY SCALE - rates mothers' behaviours: secure infants: mothers were sensitive, accepting, cooperative & accessible, avoidant: mothers were more rejecting, paid less attention to infant, resistant: mothers were occupied w/routine activities when holding infant
  • Maternal reflective funtioning - Ravel et al (low correlations between measures of maternal sensitivity & strength of attachment), Slade et al ( Maternal reflective funtioning (being able to understand what someone in thinking & feeling) is central mechanism in establishing attachment not sensitivity 
  • Temperament

VALIDITY - Only measured particular relationships not attachment type (Main and Weston different behaviour w/ each parent), monotropy - relationship with primary attachment figure determines attachment type, infant internalises characteristics

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Cultural Variations in Attachment


  • Ainsworth - Uganda, used mothers as secure base for exploration, mothers of securely attached children showed greater sensitivity toward infants than insecurley attached
  • Tronick et al - Efe tribe, infants feed and looked after by various women -> still saw mother as primary attachment figure and slept with her at night
  • Fox - infants raised on Isreali kibbutzim, cared for in communal children's homes by metaplot (nurses), attachment tested using strange situation w? mother and metapelet (nurse) = attached to both CGs but greater attachment to mother during reunion


  • Grossmann and Grossmann - German infants appear more insecurely attached -> difference in childrearing, interpersonal distance kept between parent and infant (proximity-seeking behaviour no engaged)
  • Takahashi - Strange situation on 60 MC Japanese children,no evidence of insecure-avoidant attachment & high rates of insecure-resistant, v. distressed when alone

Van IJzendoorn and Kronnenberg (meta-analysis) - secure attachment most common then inecure aviodant (except in Japan and Israel), CC similarities support view that attachment is an innate and biological process, 

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Evaluating Cultural Variations in Attachment


  • CULTURAL BIAS - Rothbaum et al - attachment theory and reserch not relevant to other cultures as it is rooted in American culture, contrast between American (Western) and Japanese culture (Sensitivity hypothesis: has opposite objectives in two cultures, japan - promotes dependence, Continuity hypothesis: US -> securely attached = more socially and emotionall competent, Japan -> securely attached = inhibition of emotional expression and being group-orientated, Secure base: US - secure base for exploration= independence, Japan - keep concept of amae (to depend and presume upon another's love) = dependence)
  • INDIGENOUS THEORIES OF ATTACHMENT - Rothbaum et al - psychologists should produce a set of indigenous theories (examples of attachment rooted in individual cultures), only a small set of universal principles, Posada and Jacobs - a lot of evidence to support universality of attachment from different cultures
  • NATION VS. CULTURE - van IJzendoorn and Kroonenberg - more variation within culture than between cultures (Japan - distribution of attchment types vary from rural to uban areas)
  • EXPLAINATION OF CULTURAL SIMILARITIES - Van IJzendoorn and Kroonenberg - CC similarities due to effects of mass media, western ideas of parenting influence parents 
  • CROSS-CULTURAL RESEARCH - researchers are not always indigenous to culture, tools and techniques used to measure beahaviour are related to cultural assumptions of the test/technique 'designer'  - IMPOSED ETIC
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Disruption of Attachment


  • Spitz and Wolf - 100 'normal' children in institution = became severely depressed 
  • Skeels and Dye - children scored poorly on intelligence tests when put in home for mentally disabled adults
  • Robertson - Laura -> 2 years old, stayed in hospital for 8 days, periods of distress and calm, visited occassionally by parents, begs to go home -> copes w/disappiontment of staying. John -> 17 months old, residential nursery for 9 days, father visited regularly, 2 days - normal behaviour, tries to get attention from nurses = comfort in teddy, breaks down, cries, refuses food & drink, when mother comes -> screams and struggles to get away & has outbursts of anger towards mother for several months
  • Robertson and Robertson - 4 children in foster care while mothers in hospital, sustains high level of substitute emotional care and kept routine similar to those at home, fathers visited regularly = did not reject mothers when reunited
  • EVALUATION - Skeels and Dye (intellectual deficits recovered when children given extra emotional care), Bohman and Sigvardsson (negative effect of disruption can be reversed, adopted 'problem' children showed recovery), Bifulco et al (negative effect of disruption may only resurface if there are 'triggers' later in life, 249 women who lost mothers before they were 17 = 2x more likely to suffer from depression or anxiety during adulthood) 
  • VALIDITY - research has high external validity (films were naturalistic observations), children share some similar traits = results cannot be generalised) 
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Failure to Form Attachment (PRIVATION)


  • Hodges and Tizard - followed group of 65 British children from early life - adolescence, placed in institution when >4 months old (not yet formed attachments), caretakers could not form attachments, early study -> 70% not able to 'care deeply about anyone' = experience of early emotional privation. Assessed at regular intervals until 16, some remained in institution, others 'ex-institutional: adopted -> closely attached to parents, restored to original families -> less likely to form attachment with mother, ex-institu. had problems with peers, no special friend, not liked by other children, wanted more attention from adults. 
  • Rutter et al - 100 Romanian orphans assessed when 4,6 & 11, children adopted before 6 months old = showed normal emotional development compared to UK children adopted at same age, adopted after 6 months old = showed disinhibited attachments and had problems with peers
  • ATTACHMENT DISORDER - recognised on DSM, no preferred attachment figure, experience severe neglect or frequent change of CG, two kinds: reactive (inhibited) - withdrawn, unable to cope in most social situations, disinhibited - over-friendly and attention seeking
  • EVALUATION - Quinton et al (privation during childhood can lead to poor parenting skills in future), Gardner (emotional disturbance may affect production of (growth) hormones = deprivation dwarfism), privation is not the only factor for negative effects, do not know what extent the effects of privation associated with institu. care extend into adult life
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Failure to Form Attachment (PRIVATION) continued

  • EXTREME ISOLATION AND PRIVATION - Genie (locked in room until 13 and a half, couldn't stand erect or talk, never fully recovered socially, lack of recovery due to exterme early emotional privation and late age of 'discovery' (well past sensitive period), Czech twins (Koluchova) (locked up until 7 years old, couldn't talk, cared for by foster family, by 14 had near normal intellectual and social functioning, by 20 were above average intelligence and had v. good relationship with foster family = possible because they were 'discovered' at earlier age) 
  • EVALUATION -  research questionable -> cannot be sure what attachments had been formed and suffcient long-term studies haven't been conducted
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The Impact of Day Care


  • The NICHD study - America, longitudinal study on over 1000 children from diverse families form 10 locations, children and parents assessed at regular intervals, the more time a child spent in day care of any quality, the more adults rated them as aggressive, disobedient and assertive. children in full time day care = 3x more likely to show behavioural problems
  • The EPPE study - longitudinal study of young children's development between 3 -7 years old, 3000 children, looked at background characteristics (home environment and experience of day care), found that children who spent longer in day care were rated by teachers as showing more 'anti-social' behaviour compared to those who spent no or minimal time in day care, if day care of high quality, imapct of duration reduced


  • Attachment - secure attachment = better peer relations, Belsky and Rovine (children receiving 20 hours + of day care per week before 1 = more likely to be insecurely attached), Alison Clarke-Stewart (children in day care consistently more advanced in social development than stay at home children)
  • Social strategies - Field (time in day care positively correlated to number of friends when they start school), Creps and Vernon-Feagans (starting day care before 6 months old = more sociable than whose who start later) 
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Evaluating Research on Day Care


  • Prodromidis et al - childcare arrangements not associated with aggression
  • The NICHD study - 83% of children who spent 10 to 30 hours in daycare didn't show higher levels of aggression
  • Belsky et al - children's development more strongly affected by factors at home than those in day care
  • Research only shows that day care and aggressiveness 'are linked in some way' - results meaningless unless the processes in which aggression is increased are identified


  • Correlation between peer relations and day care do not mean day care causes sociability
  • Day care is not the sole influence on social development (temperament hypothesis) 


  • Other factors can affect the impact of day care: (Quality of care, Lack of commitment and interest from staff, Indivdual differences - Egeland and Hiester -> insecurely attached children did better at day care than securely attached, Child's age and number of hours in day care - Gregg et al -> negative impacts of day care found more in children under 18 months of age) 
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Influence of Research into Attachment and Day Care


  • Improved quality of day care - Soho Family Centre -> day care programme based on attachment theory = ensures close emotional relationships (supported by Bowlby: importance of secondary attachment figures)
  • Caring for children in hospital - children experience physical seperation from primary attachment figures -> visiting arrangements when children in hospital and institutional care (supported by Robertsons: negative effects of disruption can be avoided)
  • Adoption - most babies adopted within first week of life (within sensitive period) = adoptive mothers and children are securely attached (supported by privation studies, failure to form attachments has LT consequences)
  • Improving quality of parenting - disruption of attachment and privation can occur even when no separation has occured (depressed or abusive parent) = programmes to help CGs learn to respond more sensitively to children and promote secure attachment (supported by Quinton et al: poor parenting related to parent's own childhood experiences)
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Influence of Research into Attachment and Day Care


  • Importance of high quality day care - avoids potential negative effects e.g aggression
  • Good staff-to-child ratio - the NICHD study: high quality care if ratio lower than 1:3 
  • Minimal staff turnover - Schaffer: consistent care important factor in good outcomes
  • Qualified and experienced staff - Sylva et al: quality of care positively correlated with qaulification levels of day care staff
  • EVALUATION - importance of sensitive responsiveness supported by Bowlby and Ainsworth, day cares may lack responsiveness - only 23% provide highly sensitive care (NICHD)
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