Attachment Case Studies

Case Studies from the Attachment topic in PSYA1.

  • Created by: Charlie
  • Created on: 22-05-12 11:24

Bowlby's Theory Support

Bowlby (1944) 44 Thieves Study

Procedure: Bowlby interviewed 88 children. 44 of them were a control group and 44 of them were 'thieves' that had been sent to a clinic (16 of which were considered 'affectionless psychopaths'). He asked them about their families and built up a record of thier early life experiences.

Findings: 86% of thieves diagnosed as 'psychopaths' had experienced early and prolonged separations from their mothers. Only 17% of the other theives had experiences this. Only 4% of the control group had experienced frequent early separation.

Found that disruption of attachment brings out long-term difficulties.

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Bowlby's Theory Support and Criticism

Schaffer and Emerson (1964)

Procedure: Conducted a longitudinal study of babies, visiting them monthly during first year than again at 18 months, and measuring attachment by 'separation upset'.

Findings: Most babies developed several attachments, in a hierarchy, usually with the mother as the main attachment figure; but nearly a third had their main attachment to their father.

Shows large evidence of monotropy but some babies attach equally to Mother and Father, disproving monotropy in all babies.

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Bowlby's Theory Criticism

Rutter (1981)

Procedure: Studied a large number of boys in London and on the Isle of Wight, aged 9 - 12, who had been separated from their mother for some timing during early childhood.

Findings: He concluded that it was the difficulties that can follow separation that caused attachment problems and not simply the separation (divorce, prison, mental health etc).

Found that maternal separation did not lead to long-term difficulties, it was what recurred after separation.

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Learning Theory Criticism

  • Harlow (1950's and 1960's) - Monkeys that were given a wire mother that dispersed milk and a soft cloth one that didn't. Monkeys ended up spending more time with the cloth 'mother'.
  • Schaffer and Emerson (1964) - Found that infants formed attachments with the adults who were most responsive to them and who provided the most stimulation.
  • Fox (1977) - Israeli children being raised communally were  looked after by nurses. They only spent an hour or so with their parents each evening. The children were strongly attached to their parents and showed relatively weak attachments to the nurses.
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The Strange Situation

Ainsworth (1970)

Procedure: (M = Mother, C = Child, S = Stranger) Video recorded children aged 1 - 18 months in a purpose built lab. 1. M + C enter room. 2. S enters. 3. S approaches C. 4. M leaves. 5. After 3 minutes M comes back and S leaves. 6. After 3 minutes M leaves. 7. S returns. 8. M returns and S leaves.

Findings: Secure attachment - 70%. Insecure-avoidant attachment - 15%. Insecure-ambivalent attachment - 15%.

Research lacks validity, stressed the children.

Useful tool for further research, easy to replicate.

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Attachment Patterns in Different Cultures

Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenburg (1988)

Procedure: Conducted a meta-analysis of 32 studies from different cultures.

Findings: Secure attachments were the most common. Insecure-avoidant attachments were more common in Wetern countries. Insecure-ambivalent attachments were more common in Eastern countries.

Over half of the studies were from the US, only 5 collectivistic cultures; unrepresentative.

No ethical issues as it's just data collection.

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Extreme Privation


She was kept in virtual isolation for her whole life and was treated cruelly. She only ate baby foos and was tied to a 'potty chair' most of the time. They found her at 13 years old.

She was severly retarded, walked awkwardly, was very small and very thin and looked about the age of 7. She made very little sound, as she was beaten for making a noise.

She learned to say and recognise a lot of words; communicated well. Didn't get to grips with grammar. Formed attachments with the family who looked after her, but after 4 years they left her, and she regressed dramatically.

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Extreme Privation

The Koluchova Twins

Their step-mother was excessively cruel to the boys. They were banished to the cellar for five and a half years and were beaten from time to time. They were discovered at the age of 7.

They were dwarfed in structure, suffered from rickets, were predicted a permanent physical handicap and underwent a programme of physical remediation.

After time, they both caught up with their peers and achieved emotional and intellectual normality like the other children their age.

They are now both entirely stable.

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Rutter et al (2007)

Procedure: A longitudinal study. 3 groups. UK adoptees (A), Romanian children adopted within 6 months (B) and Romanian children adopted within 6 - 24 months (C).

Findings: A - 40.4% no disinhibition, 55.8% mild disinhibition, 3.8% marked disinhibition. B - 53.3% no disinhibition, 37.8% mild disinhibition, 8.9% marked disinhibition. C - 29.5% no disinhibition, 44.3% mild disinhibition, 26.1% marked disinhibition.

Difficult to get information on previous day care, sensitive area.

Rich and detailed research.

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Positive Effects of Day Care

  • Clarke Stewart (1994) - Children who had attended nurseries were able to interact better with peers on their first day.
  • Shea (1981) - Children become more sociable when in day care for longer; stood closer together, engaged/played more, moved further away from teachers.
  • Anderson (1989 and 1992) - Children who had attended day care got on better with other children and were more sociable and outgoing.
  • EPPE Project - Children who have attended day care are more likely to show increased independense and peer sociability at the age of 5. An early start in day care was also linked with being more sociable with other children.
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Positive and Negative Effects of Day Care

  • Campbell et al (2000) - Found that impact can be positive or negative depending on the child's age, how long they've been in day care and the quality of the day care.
  • Children who spent long days in day care (8am - 6pm) under the age of £ and a half were less socially competent.
  • Children who attended high quality day care before the age of 3 and a half developed better social abilities.
  • Social competence is stable between ages 3 and a half and 5.
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Negative Effects of Day Care

  • Di Lalla (1988) - carried out a correlational study into time spent in day care and pro-social behaviour.
  • He found that there was a negative correlation between the amount of time spent in day care and pro-social behaviour.
  • Children who spent more time in day care were less cooperative and helpful in their dealings with other children.
  • Day care can harm peer relationships.
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Effects of Day Care on Aggression

  • NICHD Study (1991) - (Over 1000 American children from families with different backgrounds were screened) The more time a child spends in day care, no matter what kind or quality of day care it is, the more the children were rated as disobedient and aggressive. They were also 3 times more likely to show behavioural problems to those children who were cared for at home.
  • EPPE Project (1991) - (Studied over 3000 children in the UK, between 3 and 7 years old) There is a risk of antisocial behaviour when children spend more than 20 hours per week in day care. The level of antisocial behaviour rises with the amount of hours spent weekly in day care.
  • Baker et al (2005) - (Analysed data of 33,000 children of two parent families) Daycare increases the likelihood of aggression. It also decreases the well-being of the parents.
  • Shea et al (1981) - (Video-taped 3 and 4 year old children at playtime during their first 10 weeks at nursery school) Children became more sociable the longer they were at nursery. The amount of aggression towards one another decreased over time.
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Tizard and Hodges (1984 + 1989)

Procedure: Studied 65 children who were bought up in a care home until the age of 4. 24 infants were adopted, 15 were returned to their natural home and 26 stayed at the institution. They had all experienced early privation at the institution.

Findings: The 24 adopted children formed close attachments with their parents whereas the 15 who returned to their natural home didn't. In comparison with 'normal' peers, both of these groups were less successful with peer relationships and often seeked adult attention and approval.

Sensitive area, small sample size.

High ecological validity, pps attrition was allowed (good for the pps).

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komal maqsood


this is exactly what ii was looking for, thank youu x

Guy Avery


brilliant succinct case studies



this is just what i need!!

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