Attachment studies

An outline of the studies in attachment (about learning theory, evolutionary theory and types of attachment) needed for the AQA AS Psychology Unit 1, including proceedure, findings, conclusions and criticisms.

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Attachments introduction

Types of attachment:

Secure: children act confidently, explore their environment and want to play and communicate with their main carer.

Insecure avoidant: these children act like they don't care much about their carers.

Insecure resistant: (sometimes called Insecure ambivalent) these children are very clingy and act like they have been abandoned forever if they are left alone.

Insecure and disorganized: these children show an unpredictable mixture of these behaviors.

There are two theories of why we make attachments: Learning Theory (based on operant conditioning e.g we attach to the feeder) and Bowlby's Evolutionary Theory (it is instinct and innate in both babies and parents, and monotropy occurs)

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Ainsworth's strange situation study

Procedure: She recorded 12-18 month old children's behavior during the following sequence of events:

1) Child and mother were introduced to room with toys. 2) Stranger entered then left to test STRANGER ANXIETY. 3) Mother left, testing SEPARATION ANXIETY. 4) Child was alone with stranger. 5) Mother re-entered to test JOY ON REUNION.

Findings: Children's attachments fitted into three categories: SECURE, INSECURE AVOIDANT, INSECURE RESISTANT. She found the following proportions of American children: SECURE 70%, INSECURE AVOIDANT 15%, INSECURE RESISTANT 15%.

Conclusion: Ainsworth revealed that children's behavior reveals distinct differences between types of emotional attachments they develop.


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Learning theory support: Scaffer and Emerson's Gla

Procedure: 60 participant families from Glasgow (low population validity/ high cultural bias)  were interviewed at home in relation to the seperation anxiety and stranger anxiety shown by their babies. The behaviour of the children was also observed.

Findings: Across the first year, 60% OF THE BABIES WERE ATTACHED TO THE FEEDER, whether mother or father. However in 30% OF CASES THE MOTHER AND FATHER RANKED EQUALLY.

Conclusion: Attachment to the feeder is very common, and babies don't just attach to their mothers.

Main Criticism: Quite a lot of the participant babies did not attach to the feeder therefore if attachments were always formed by operant conditioning the evidence should show that the feeder is always the attachment figure.

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Bowlby's Evolutionary Theory support - Harlow's Mo

Procedure: (lab experiment) Harlow brought up macaque monkeys under a range of artificial conditions. After birth they were placed in a room with two artificial mothers, both of which provided warmth, but only one of which was soft and looked like a monkey, the other was made of wire mesh.

Findings: Whichever "mother" contained the feeding bottle, all the monkeys spent more time clinging to the soft mother, despite the fact that four of them did not reward the monkey with its main biological need for food.

Conclusion: Babies of really helpless species, such as monkeys and especially humans, choose to cling to realistic mothers rather than being attracted by food, because they cannot survive independantly.

Main Criticism: USE OF ANIMALS - means low validity and is unethical becuase it inflicts suffering on the animals.

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Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg's META-ANALYSIS (cu

Analysis using 32 of Ainsworth's studies on 8 different cultures showed that:

The culture with the highest number of INSECURE AVOIDANT children was GERMANY (35%), whereas JAPAN had the lowest (5%)

The culture with the highest number of INSECURE RESISTANT children was ISRAEL (29%), whereas the UK had the lowest (3%)

Main Criticisms: HIGH POPULATION VALIDITY (over 2000 children used). But, having being developed in America, some say Ainsworth's study is only suitable for testing attachment in the USA, because other cultures have different practices for raising children.

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