Classical Conditioning

  • Learning through association


  • First described this type of learning on his dog experiment.
  • He looked at the salvation dogs have before food and how much they salvited. 
  • The dogs salviated as soon as they heard the door open - because they knew that food was on it's way.
  • So they associated the sound of the door with food.

For infants:

  • Food produces a sense of pleasure so the person who feeds the infant becomes associated with the food.
  • This association between the individual and a sense of pleasure s the attachment bond.
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Operant Conditioning

  • Learning through punishment/reward
  • Get rewarded = more likely to do it again
  • Get punished = less likely to do it again

Dollard and Miller

  • When an infant is hungry it feels uncomfortable and so the infant wants to get rid of this discomfort
  • When the infant is fed, this drive is reduced and it produces pleasure (which is rewarding).
  • Food = primary reinforcer
  • Person who feeds = secondary reinforcer
  • Attachment occurs because the child seeks the person who can supply the reward.
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Learning Theory - Evaluation


Harry Harlow

  • Harlow investigated the hypothesis as to whether comfort was more important than food in attachment.
  • He got 2 different wire mothers (one comforting and one feeding)
  • According to learning theory, the monkey should have spent most it's time with the feeding mother. Howeever, this wasn't the case.
  • The monkey spent the large majority of it's time with the comfort mother.

Schaffer and Emerson

  • Observed 60 babies from working class families in Glasgow.
  • They found that infants were most attached to the person who was most responsive and interacted with them the most, not the ones who fed them.
  • These studies suggest that learning theory is not likely to be the best explanation for attachment.But it may play a part.

Learning theory is based on animals!!! People may argue this isn't the same for humans

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Bowlby's Theory

1. Innate Drive - Bowlby believed that all infants had an innate drive to attach to a caregiver because of the benefits it gives. For example - food and protection.

2. Monotropy - This means that an infant has one main attachment figure who responds most sensitively to the child's social releasers (big eyes, chubby cheeks).

3. Secure Base - Because attachment is important for protection, infants use it as a secure base to explore the world as they know they are safe.

4. Sensitive/Critical Period - Limited windown for attachment to occur. It is most likely to take place in the critical period but can do so as well in the sensitive.

5. Internal Working Model - Relationship between mother and infant, reflects how the baby views relationships when it''s older. E.G/ Loving relationship - expects relationships to be loving

6. Continuity Hypothesis - link between early attachment relationship and later emotional behaviour. E.G/ securely attached infants are likely to be socially and emotionnaly conpetent.

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Bowlby Theory - Attachment



  • Supports the view that attachment is innate. The goslings imprinted on the first moving object they saw (Lorenz). They followed him around wherever he went. This process is most likely to have evolved into other species in order for survival.

2. Hodges and Tizard: Importance of sensitive period

3. Tronick et al: Shows how attachment is universal because it evolved & supports monotropy

4. Minnesota Longitudinal Study:

  • Followed participants from infancy to adolesence.
  • Found continuity between early attachment and later emotional/social behaviour.
  • Securely attached = more popular, had better social skills and were less isolated.
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Cultural Varitations in Attachment


1. Tronick et al - Efe Tribe, Zaire. Infants looked after and breast-fed by different women but slept with mother at night. Despite these differen't child rearing practices, infants still showed one primary attachment figure which was their mother.


1. Grossman and Grossman - German Kids

  • Tend to be insecure-avoidant - may be due to their childrearing practices. 
  • German culture involves keeping distance away from parent and infant.
  • So in the Strange Situation, German infants do not engage in proximity seeking behaviours and get the tag of insecure-avoidant.

2. Takahashi - Japanese Kids

  • Used strange situation on 60 Japanese middle-class infants.
  • High rates of insecure-resistant.
  • Study had to be stopped many times due to intense crying/stress for the infant.
  • In Japan, the mother and the child are never seperated.
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Cultural Variations in Attachment



  • Compared American and Japanese culture and argues that attachment theory and research (such as the Strange Situation) is too ingrained into American culture.
  • Suggests that psychologists need to produce a set of indigneous theories of different cultures.
  • Found that cultures in Japan are different! Urban areas = more likely to have characteristics of the west     Rural areas = found more insecure-resistant individuals.  E.G/ Takahashi study only involved middle class children! Not very representative of the Japanese population.
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Disruption of Attachment

James Robertson

  • Used a cine camera to observe a 2 year old names Laura in a hospital ward who was there for 8 days.
  • The film shows Laura under periods of calmness and distress. When her parents visit, she begs to go home but as time goes on she tries to cope with the disappointment of having to stay.
  • John - placed in a residential nursery for 9 days while his mother was having a baby.
  • After a couple of days, his behaviour changes as he tries to get attention from nurses (who are polite but busy) but cannot compete with other children wanting the same thing.
  • He finds attention and comfort in an over-sized teddy bear. Over the next few more days he breaks down and refus food/drink, cries a lot and gives up getting attention from nurses.
  • 1st week of father visiting = enthusiatic but 2nd week = doesn't care
  • When his mum came to pick him up, he screams and struggles to get away from her. Months after he continued to have outbursts of anger towards mother.
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Disruption of Attachment (AO1 continued)


  • Jane, Lucy, Thomas and Kate under the age of 3 were placed in foster care with the Robertsons for a few weeks while mothers were in hospital.
  • The Robertsons maintained a high level of consistent and sensitive care, as well trying to keep routine similar to that of home.
  • Father vists were regularly arranged.
  • Despite some signs of distress (Thomas rejected to cuddle), all children seemed to adjust quite well with it as they slept well and did not reject mothers when reunitied.
  • Some children were reluctant to part with their foster carers!!!
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Disruption of Attachment - Evaluation


1. Validity - Good external validity (real setting and naturalistic) and bad (lacks population validty as they were all British)

2. Negative effects of attachment can be sorted - Bohman and Sigvardsson

  • Studied over 600 adopted children in Sweden. 26% of them at the age of 11 were regarded as 'problem' children.
  • In a follow-up study 10 years later, none of the children were any worse off than the rest of the population.
  • This suggests that disruption does have negative effects but these can be reversed when emotional care is given.

3. Bowlby - Not all children are affected by disruption

  • 60 children under the age of 4 who had TB and were in hospital.
  • Nurses couldn't provide the genuine care and they were only visited once a week.
  • When these children were assessed in adolescence, 63% were more maladjusted than normal children, but there were no differences in intellectual development.
  • Bowlby suggests that those children who coped better may have been more securely attached.

4. Real World Applications - Nursery Times (1952) - 25% didn't allow daily visiting and 12% didn't allow visiting at all..... How that has changed from then till now - nowadays much nicer

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Key Study: Hodges and Tizard

  • Followed a group of 65 British children from infancy to adolescence.
  • These children had been placed in an institution before they were 4 months old.
  • By this age they were unlikely to have formed an attachment, and there was a strict policy to against the people in the institution forming attachments
  • An early study said 70% of the infants couldn't care deeply about anyone.

Children were assessed at regular intervals till the age of 16. Some had move back to their biological parents, some had been adopted and other have remained there.

The children who had went back with their biological parents were less likely to have formed attachments than children who went with adopted parents. Suggests that adopted parents were workng hard to form an attachment on their behalf.

Both ex-institutional groups had problems with peer relations - didn't have a best friend and were more likely to be bullies. 

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Case Studies of Isolated Children


  • Found at 13 1/2 - dad thought she was retarted and so was locked in a room.
  • When she was found she couldn't stand properly nor talk.
  • She showed disinterest in other people.
  • She never fully recovered socially (because she was found so late)

Czech Twins

  • Found at the age of 7 - locked up by their step mother (mother died when they were infants)
  • When first discovered, they couldn't talk
  • Put under care of two loving sisters and by the age of 14 were nearly back to normal in terms of social functioning and intellectual development.
  • By 20 they were above average intelligence and had excellent relationship with family members.
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Privation - Evaluation

1. Quinton et al:

  • Compared a group of 50 women who had grown up in institutions (childrens homes) with a contral group of 50 women who had been reared at home.
  • When the ex-institutional women had children, they experienced difficulties acting as parents. 
  • For example - more ex-institutional women had children spend more time in day care.

2. Gardner:

  • Children is institutional care are on average physically smaller.
  • Case study of a girl with a malformation that meant she had to be fed from a tube.
  • Her mother was fearful of dislodging the tube so never picked her up or cuddled her.
  • At 8 months, the child was severely withdrawn and physically stunted.
  • She thrived on the attention given at the hospital and despite no change in diet, she returned to normal.
  • Gardner suggests that emotional disturbance can stunt the production of hormones.

3. Case study:
Was Genie actually retarded? Did the Czech Twins recover because they formed an attachment with one other? Have they ever had some sort of attachment? Even if Hodges and Tizard's experiment we presume they didn't. They might have.

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Day Care - Aggression

1. NICHD Study - USA - Longitudinal - 1991

  • Studied 1000 children and their mothers from diverse families and 10 different locations
  • When they were assessed at the age of 5, data showed that the more time children spent in day care of any quality, the more aggressive they are most likely to be.
  • Children in full-time day care were 3 times as worse than those cared for at home.

2. EPPE Study - Europe - Longitudinal

  • Studied 3000 children between the ages of 3-7.
  • Collected data on them such as home evironement and day care experiences.
  • A sample of 'home' children were recruitied to be used as a control group.
  • Children who spent longer time in day care, were rated by their teachers as showing more aggressive behaviours.
  • They also found that if the day care was of high quality, then the impact was reduced
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Day Care - Peer Relations

1. Alison Clarke-Stewart

  • Studied 150 children 
  • Found that those who were in day care were more advanced in social development.
  • E.g/ Compliance, independence and interaction with peers.

EPPE study back this up

2. Belsky and Rovine

  • Done the strange situation on infants in day care for over 20 hours a week before the age of 1
  • Found that there more likely to be insecurely attached

3. Field

  • Posititive correlation between time spent in day care and the amount of friends someone has once they go school.

4. Creps and Vernon-Feagans

  • Those who started day care before 6 months were more sociable than those who started after.
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