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  • Created on: 31-01-16 14:00

Definition of attachments

An emotional bond between infant and care giver with reciprocal features that are based off interactions with one another. The bond involves a mutal affection for the other and both have a desire to maintain proximity. Both care giver and infant will also be distressed on seperation. The bond resembles imprinting and is said to have an adaptive function. The bond is also part of the internal working model. 

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  • Felmen
  • Responding to the interaction of a caregiver with a similar action
  • Infant is never passive
  • Infant will go through alert phase in which it will want to be interacted with. 
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Interactional synchrony

  • Meltzoff: adult showed facial expression and infant copied
  • Imitating the internaction shown by caregiver
  • Seen in infants as oung as two weeks
  • The higher the synchrony, the better the attachment.
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  • Behaviour intentional- De Young (1991) - gave infants inamiate toys with facial expressions on, 5-12 week old infants did not respond. They do care who interaction is with.
  • Testing infants - they cannot speak therefore results are based off assumptions and observations. Also, infants constantly move and researchers cannot assume that the movment is due to interactions
    • Meltzoff countered this by taping an infant being interacted with and then asked random people what the baby was doing.


  • Failure to replicate - Koepe (1983) not scientific
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Stages of attachment - Asocial Stage

Stage 1:


Behaviour to human and objects will be similar

No social behaviour

Not discrimiating.

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Stages of attachment - Indiscriminate stage

Stage 2:

2-7 months!

Can observe social behaviour

Can differentiate 

Prefer familiar people

No stranger anxiety

No seperation anxiety

Preference for people over objects

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Stages of attachment - Specific stage

Stage 3:

7 months

Seperation and stranger anxiety starts to show

Has primary attachment figure (65% mother)

Cares about attachment

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Stages of attachment - Multiple attachments

Stage 4:

12 months +

Developed secondary attachments

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Evaluation of stages of attachment

  • Unreliable data
    • based on mothers subjective reports
    • won't report bad things 
  • Biased sample
    • Working class, Scotland
    • Zeigesit of time (1960's)
  • Are attachments equal?
    • Bowlby = 1 main attachment + others
    • Rutter = all equal
  • Culture variations
    • stages only represent certain cultures
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Multiple attachments and the role of the father

  • Schaffer and Emerson 
    • 1 month = 29% had an attachment
    • 6 months  = 78% had an attachment 
    • 12 months = 100% had an attachment
  • Multiple attachment can be either father, siblings and grandparents
  • Cohzen
    • Fathers are 4 times more likely to care for infant at home
  • Quality matters, not quantity.
  • Heamen et al 
    • Men are less sensitive
    • Frodie et al
      • opposite thinking
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  • Imprinting on geese
  • Got geese to imprint on him as soon as they were born
  • 1 control group = had mother
  • 1 experimental group = in incubator until birth
  • Critical period was 12-17 hours for geese
  • Guston - got chick to imprint on rubber glove = support
  • Later, some imprinting was reversed. 
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  • Took in infant monkies
  • 1 mother was a cloth mother with no food
  • The other mother was a wire mother with food
  • Monkies spent more time with cloth mother
  • Cared about contact comfort (less anxieties, more security)
  • Measured fear in another experiment
    • went to defend mother
  • Extrapolation
  • Unethical - consent, protection from harm
  • Artifical enviornment - wire mother does not look like mother
  • Supported widely
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Classical Conditioning in attachments

  • Classical conditioning - learning through association

Food (UCS) - Pleasure (UCR)

Mother (NS) + Food (UCS) - Pleasure (UCR)

Mother (CS) - Pleasure (CR)

  • Formed an attachment to mother from association with pleasure during feeding.
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Operant conditioning in attachments

  • Learning through reinforcement

1) HUNGER will make noise ie, crying

2) FOOD rewarding

3) MOTHER source of food, infant is motivated to be with mother. An attachment will form.

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Dollard and Miller

    • Innate, biological instincts 
    • eg, hunger
    • reducing primary drive
    • eg, food for hunger
    • food, a reward itself
    • Mother
    • Person who provides the primary reinforcer
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  • Outline the key features of the learning theory explaination of attachment

The key assumption of the learning theory is that attachments are formed to these in our enviornment. Behaviourists Dollard and Miller believe that all behaviour - including attachments - are learnt and developed through classical or operant conditioning. 

Classical conditioning is where the infant will develop an attachment after associating the food (UCS) with the provider (NS) ie, mother or father, and therefore links the proivder with pleasure, forming a new attachment. 

Operant conditioning is where an infant's attachment forms because the stimuli (eg mother) reinforces attachments related behaviour. For example, if an infant is hungry (primary inforcer) both the food (primary reinforcement) and the provider of the food (secondary reinforcer) are then associated with each other as a type of pleasure, consequently an attachment is formed.

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The Monotropic Theory (1)

  • Adaptive and innate
    • evolutionary theory
    • adaptive instinct - attachments are long term
    • children have an innate driver to become attached to a caregiver because attachment has long term benefits
    • the caregiver will protect and deed their young.
  • Sensitive/critical period
    • a window for speech, walking and talking
    • once it is gone, it's gone
    • 6 months is most important time
    • harder to form bonds if missed
  • Caregiving is adaptive
    • born to care for others
    • infants have social releasers (crying and smiling) that gain care givers attention but also lets the infant express its feelings.
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The Monotropic Theory (2)

  • A secure base
    • attachments are important for protection
    • confidence to explore is gained from caregiver
  • Monotropy and hierarchy
    • One main attachment
    • there is then a hierarchy of attachments 
    • most strongly attached to the most sensitive to the infant
    • provides a strong social development
  • Internal working model
    • Template for adult relationships
    • Good infant-caregiver relationship = strong love relationship
  • The continuity hypothesis
    • first relationship will be the same for all relationships later on
    • self esteem and insecurities based off of this
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  • Outline Bolwby's theory of attachment (6)

Bowlby identified 5 main features of attachment when researching his monotropic theory. A monotropy is the main attachment the infant develops during its first few months. 65% of the time, it will be the mother. He found that infants develop attachemtns as an adaptive function for survival. He believed infants would imprint as part of an innate drive. Also, he discovered social releasers such as smiling and crying as forms of interaction with the monotropy. Infants use these to comminucate with the caregiver as they are unable to speak yet.The critical period involved rapid development biologically and emotionally for the infant and of this time window is missed, the infant will struggle in later relationships. Finally, Bowlby found the internal working model which acted as a template for all future relationships. If the infant has a secure base, the later relationships in adulthood will be secure, and vice versa.  

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Evaluation of The Monotropic Theory

  • Impriniting
    • Found in animals, we know it is innate in them (Lorenz)
  • Sensitive period
    • Hodgers and Tizard - support. Missing it causes social and emotional issues
    • Miss it and it is gone forever
  • Universal - Tronick et al (1992)
    • Tribes in Africa, different mothers look after different children. They feed them and spend time with them but infant will still attach to biological mother.
  • Continuity hypothesis
    • Attachment is lifelong
    • Minnosota parent-child study
      • found children who had a secure attachment as infant were rated high for social competence.
  • Role of fathers
    • Ignored completely by Bowlbly
    • All attachments make up internal working model
    • Gravesmen -fathers are an important secondary attachment figure for social development
  • Temperament hypothesis
    • an infant is born with a temperament therefore caregiver does not decide attachment type as it is hard to attach if the infant is constantly crying
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Ainsworth - The Strange Situation (1978)

  • 56 white middle class 18-21 month old infants
  • Study looks for: 
    • Stranger anxiety
    • Seperation anxiety
    • Reunion behaviour
    • The infant's willingness to explore
  • Controlled observation
  • Care giver and infant are in a room playing
  • A stranger sits down in the room
  • The caregiver leaves - MEASURES SEPERATION ANXIETY
  • The stranger will try to interact with the infant - MEASURES STRANGER ANXIETY
  • The stranger will then leave
  • The caregiver will return - MEASURE REUNION BEHAVIOUR
  • Willingness to explore is measured throughout the whole of the study.
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Types of attachment in The Strange Situation

    • 70% of infants
    • Okay in new enviornment 
    • Upset when caregiver leaves
    • Has stranger anxiety
    • Attaches to caregiver once back
    • 20% of infants
    • Did not care or react a lot during study
    • No stranger or seperation anxiety
    • 10% of infants
    • Clingy and nervous in new enviornment
    • Distressed when left
    • High stranger anxiety
    • Angry at caregiver once they return
    • Reunion behaviour is difficult
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  • Outline the findings from one piece of research into attachments

In Ainsworth's study, she used 56 middle class children aged 18-21 months old and researched into their reactions upon a caregiver leaving them, entering thr room after the infant was left alone and their reaction with a stranger and a new enviornment. The first attachment type found was secure (70% of infants showed this), in which the infant was happy in a new enviornment with the caregiver present but has stranger anxiety and missed the caregiver. 20% of the infants were avoidant and were oblivious to the caregiver and stranger. Finally, 10% of the infants were resistant meaning they were very stressed upon the caregiver leaving and seeing the stranger but when the caregiver returned, the infant was angry at them.

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Evaluation of The Strange Situation

  • Main, Kaplan and Cassidy (1985)
    • Assessed infant in the strange situation before 18 months. Retested the infant 6 years later, 100% score below. 65% avoidant. 
  • Melhuish (1993)
    • The difference was due to changes in care 
    • eg, parents splitting
  • Sroufe (1983)
    • Infants who were secure at 2 years were later found to be more popilar, have higher self esteem and were social leaders
  • Bates, Maslin and Frankel (1985)
    • Said attachments that start at 12 months did not predict the presence of behaviour problems at 3 years.
  • Sampling issues
    • Small, ethnocentric (white) and middle class - cannot generalise
    • Only mothers in original study- may attach to other parent more
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Culture variations in attachment

Van Ijzendoorn

  • Aim: To compare the findings of studies using the strange situation in different cultures
  • Method: Meta analysis of 32 studies in 8 countries
  • Results:
    • West Germany: 57% Secure, 35% Avoidant, 8% Resistant
    • Great Britian: 75: secure, 22% avoidant, 3% resistant
    • Netherlands: 67% secure, 26% avoidant, 7% resistant
    • Sweden: 74% secure, 22: avoidant, 4% resistant
    • Israel: 64% secure, 7% avoidant, 29% resistant
    • Japan: 68% secure, 5: avoidant, 27% resistant
    • China: 50% secure, 25% avoidant, 25% resistant
    • America: 65% secure, 21% avoidant, 14% resistant
  • Conclusions:
    • Not all representative
    • Very similar to strange situation overall (average matched America's findings)
    • Secure is most common
    • Avoidant and resistant differed a lot.
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Japanese and German child rearing

Child rearing -  how a child is raised

  • Japan
    • Children under 7 were seen as gods
    • Induldged in treats and luxury
    • Encouraged to be sensitive and responsive to the needs of others and to conform social expectations
    • Mother disicpliners
  • Germany
    • Child kept in a state of submission
    • Values extended family
    • Anti-authortarian
    • Made to be more aware of themselves
    • More likely to be independent sooner
    • Taught to respect authority
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Criticisms of the research on cultural variations


  • Attachment theory cannot be generalised
  • Sensitivity hypothesis 
    • Western culture: More autonomy 
    • Japan: collectivist and independent. They are raised to help people to not disrespect them
  • Indepence in Western Culture:
    • Independent is a secure attachment
    • Japan: secure = group orientated.
  • Secure base:
    • Western culture: happy to explore new environment if caregiver is there
    • Japan: dependence and reliance on other people
  • Variation:
    • More similarties across countries rather in countries.


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Maternal Deprivation

Maternal deprivation - having a bond and then having it broken. 

If an attachment figure is broken or disrupted during the 2 year critical period, the child will suffer irriversible long-term consequences. 

Bowlby used the term maternal deprivation to refer to the seperation or loss of the mother as well as failure to develop an attachment.

The continual disruption of the attachemnt between infant and primary caregiver can result in long-term cognitive, social and emotional diificulties.

Some of these consequences can include: delinquency, affectionless psychopathy and reduced intelligence. 

Affectionless psychopathy is the inability to empathise with other people.

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44 Thieves Study - Bowlby (1944)

  • Interviewed 44 children in a child protection programme in London (there for stealing ect)
  • Had 44 control children
  • Asked about maternal deprivation during interviews and for how long it happened
  • Most 'thieves' suffered early seperation (85%) meanwhile the control had a few
  • About 32% of 'thieves' suffered from affectionless psychopathy but the control group had none
  • More than half the 'thieves' were seperated longer than 6 months within 5 years.


  • Gender bias
  • Reflects the zeigeist (thinking) of the time
  • Bowlby only used his patients
  • Interviews
    • lying
    • reterospective recall
  • Corrolation method means no causality
  • Socially sensitive research
    • Makes people feel bad about themselves
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Institutionalisation - Romanian Orphans


  • Longitudinal study
  • Followed the adoption of Romanian orphans who came from poor living conditions
  • Studied 165 orphans at 4,6,11 and 15 years old.
  • 111 children adopted before 2 (CRITICAL PERIOD) then 54 others adopted before 4 years
  • Assessed for developments
    • Physical = walking and capability
    • Cognitive = thoughts, speech, interllect
    • Social = attachments and communication
  • Findings:
    • Those adopted before 6 months showed normal emotional development when compared to British peer control group
    • Those who failed to form attachments appeared to have long term problems
    • Those adopted after 6 months showed more problems with attachments
    • Low stranger anxiety
    • Some effects were able to be reversed
    • The effects of insitiutionalisation lead to problems after 6 months.
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Institutionalisation - Romanian Orphans Evaluation

  • Ecological validity 
    • This actually happened, thousands of children suffered through this and some still do
  • Longitiudinal study 
    • increases validity
  • Provides researchers with evidence about critical period that they would not be able to obtain without being unethical and breaking the law
  • By 11, physical and emotional developments caught up
  • UK orphans
    • cannot generalise
    • living conditions in Romania were massively worse
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Adult relationships and early attachments

  • Secure
    • easy going, trusting, confident, comfortable
  • Avoidant
    • Doesn't care, frustrating, a little self centered
  • Resistant
    • emotionally manipulative, over protective, controlling, no trust
  • SMITH (1998)
    • Used Strange Situation
    • Looked at attachment and bullying
    • Gave out questionnaires to 196 7-11 year olds
    • Found
      • Secure - no involvemnt
      • Avoidant - victims
      • Resistant - bullies
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Internal working model - adult relationships

  • Bowlby's Monotropic theory
  • Template for all later relationships
  • Good relationship as infant
    • Loving, trusting and positive
  • Bad relationship as infant
    • Bring that to future relationship, may struggle to make a relationship or act appropiately in certain situations
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Simpson et al (2007) - adult relationships

  • Longitudinal study of 78 participants
  • Assessed at 12 months with the strange situation
  • Assessed at 6-8 years for social competence using teacher's opinion
  • Assessed at 16 for quality of their behaviours with their close friends with an interview
  • Assessed at 20-23 for their experience and expression of emotions in a romantic relationship under an observation
  • Found that the early attachment at 12 minths predicted child's competence with peers at 6. Competence at 6 predicted closeness of friends at 16 which then predicted emotional experiences in romantic relationships.
    • Small sample, ethnocentric = cannot generalise
    • Subjective teacher opinion
    • Interviews - lying
    • Observation - demand characteristics
    • Might not have a relationship at 20-23
    • Longitundinal study
    • Attachments do affect everything
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