Attachment Theories

Core Theory: Bowlby's Theory

  • Babies formed an attachment with one person known as monotropy
  • Attachment must happen in the first three years of the child's life and this is known as the critical period
  • If no attachments are formed this is known as privation
  • Deprivation occurs when a bond has been made but has been broken later on
  • The attachment as a child has an effect on their relationships as an adult

Secure Attachment - 70%

Insecure Avoidant Attachment - 15%

Insecure Ambivalent Attachment - 15%


  • Bowlby believed in monotropy but children develop multiple attachments
  • The critical period is too extreme - sensitive period instead
  • The effects of deprivation can be reversed
  • Attachment thought as being instinctive whereas it could be learnt
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Alternative Theory: Behaviourist's Theory

Attachment relies on learning and experience

Infants learn attachment through reinforcement

The behaviours they show are either punished or rewarded to reflect the action

The rewards given from the carer creates a bond between them and the infant

There is a relationship between attachment and parenting types

Securely attached: sensitive parents who sees from the child's perspective

Insecure avoidant: uninterested in their child and reject them

Insecure ambivalent: Misunderstanding the child's needs

There is a relationship also between the attachment as a child and as an adult

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Core Study: Hazen and Shaver 1987

Attachment types in infancy affects their adult relationship

A questionnaire was put in a local newspaper and advertised as a 'love quiz'

The questionnaire had 620 questionnaires from people aged 14-82

The questionnaire asked about their infant attachment and their attitiudes towards adult relationships

The infancy type correlated with the length of time in the relationship

This showed that the attachment in infancy did have an effect on adult relationnships


  • The sampling method may have given an unrepresentative sample
  • Questionnaires cannot be sure whether the information given is correct
  • The questionnaire used closed questions which might have not gone into enough depth
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Application of Research: Care of Children


Babies are given to mothers straight after birth to allow bonding to start

Skin to skin contact

Children's wards have longer visiting hours

Parents can stay with the child

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