Bowbly's theory of attachment

Covers Bowlby's theory of attachment and the key studies  involved along with Ainsworth's work on attachment and evaulation of attachment.

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Features of Bowlby's theory of attachment

  • Monotrophy:

This is attachment to one person. Bowlby believed that infants need to become strongly attachment to one individual and that multiple attachments would be weaker.

  • Importance of mothering:

Bowlby believed the best person to attach to is the mother however this may not mean there natural mother this meant that he believed women make better attachment objects than women.

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  • Critical Period:

Bowlby believed that individual attachments have survival value. Proximity-maintaining behaviour increases just as children become able to crawl & walk.

Proximity-maintaining behaviour means that children keep close to their parent or care giver which reduces the  risk of them wandering off and reduces the risk of accidents.

As children get older however they begin to learn about sources of danger and act to avoid them, even when out of contact with parents. Bowlby believed the period that children are most at risk from dangers such as wandering off is thecritical period of attachment.

 He believed children should form attachments within the first 2 years of life, if attachment happened later than this they may not occur or not as satisfactory as they would have been.

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Features of Bowlby's theory of attachment

  • Family care:

According to Bowlby, the family is the best arrangement for child-rearing. Alternative arrangements such as residential care are not as satisfactory.

  • The effect of maternal deprivation:

Maternal deprivation is where: children will suffer psychological affects in they are seperate from the person they are attached too for more than a few days or prevented from attaching.

Bowlby described the short term effects of seperation in 3 stages:

Protest: the child cries for a long period and cannot be consoled by strangers.

-Despair: the child becomes quiet and apathetic.

-Detachment: when reunited with parent or carer the child is attached to, he shows less proximity-maintaining behaviour than before and may resist contact.

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The long term effects Bowlby thought were caused by maternal deprivation are:

-Depression 

-Affectionless psychopathy

-Deliquency

-Retardation of cognitive development.

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Features of Bowlby's theory of attachment

  • Parent-substitute arrangements:

When children are seperated from parents permanently or temporarily, a number of parent-substitute arrangements are used.  

Permanent seperation arrangements include:

-Residential home or residential care (children's home)

-A foster family 

Fostering is used in situations where children might be returned to parents at a later date.

-Adoption

Adoption is a more permanent arrangement because it involves the parental rights being transferred legally from the natural parents to the adopting parents.

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Key Study

  • Key study: Barbara Tizard carried out a longitudinal study of adopted children, with a number of different collaborators.

Tizard and Tizard (1971) first studied a group of 65, 2-year old children who were in care in children's homes.

They found out that, on average, each child had been looked after by 24 different caregivers. This was partly because of rapid staff turnover in the home and also because of a policy to avoid children becoming strongly attached to caregivers.

The children showed no strong specific attachments, but they were more fearful of strangers than a control group of family-reared 2 year olds.

Tizard and Rees (1974) reported a follow up study of the same children. By this time the children were 4 years old. Some of the children had left their residential home. 24 had been adopted and 15 returned to their natural mothers.

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Tizard and Rees found that the adopted children were friendlier, more talkative and more cooperative than the children who remained in the child's home.

They also found that most of the 65 children originally in care were more attention-seeking and over friendly than the control group of family reared children.

Tizard and Hodges (1978) reported a further follow-up study of the children when they were 8 years old. They found that most of the adopted children hadformed close attachments to their adoptive parents. 

Some of the children who had returned to their natural mothers had alsoformed close attachments. 

Parents of the adopted children reported no more problems than those parents of the controlled group of children, but teachers who were questioned had observed more attention-seeking behaviour, restlessness, disobedience and poor relationships with peers among the children who had originally been in care.  

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Hodges & Tizard (1969) observed the same children at age 16. They found that the family relationships of most of the adopted children weresatisfactory, whereas relationship difficulties remained in the children who had returned to their natural mothers

The over-friendliness observed among many of the ex-institutional children between 4 and 8 years old had declined

Hodges and Tizard concluded that children can form satisfactory attachments at the age of 4 or even later. Their evidence suggests that the outcome for adopted children is usually better than for children whoreturned to their natural parents.

Note that at least some of the children would have been taken into care because they had been seriously neglected or abused by their parents

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Residential Care

Tizard study and other studies suggest that residential care is not as effective for child-rearing as adoption.

This supports Bowlby's view that the family provides a better social environment. Residential care is now used much less than the other alternatives. 

The study also suggests that attachment can be made after the critical period suggested by Bowlby. 

The different basis of foster care means that children are more likely to be separated from foster parents than happens in the case ofadoption. However despite this disadvantage studies show that foster care is often satisfactory. 

An example, Triseliotis (1980) studied 40 young adults between 7 and 15 years in foster care. Despite having had upsetting experiences and early separations, these adults showed few negative effects of their upbringing.

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Key Study

Kegan et al (1980) reported a longitudinal study into the effects on infants who spent 7 hours per day, 5 days per week in day care from early infancy. 

The children were studied entirely at home. 

Three main variables were measured: 

- Cognitive development 

- Social development 

- Attachment to mother 

The researchers found that, provided the day-care centre was well staffed and well equipped, there were no significant differences between the 2 groups. This study suggests that Bowlby over-emphasised the importance of continuous care within the family. 

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Rutter's work on attachment and separation

  • Rutter clarified Bowlby's term 'maternal deprivation'. Rutter made a distinction between separation and maternal deprivation.

-Maternal deprivation: meaning not having an opportunity to attach

-Seperation: meaning being separated after having attached.

Rutter argued that it was maternal privation that led to long-term ill effects, such as affectionless psycopathy and developmental retardation.

This claim is supported by several different studies of children reared in large institutions, who recieve little stimulation and had few opportunities ton play or form attachments.This evidence suggests that the retardation of cognitive development observed in these infants was mostly the result of deprivation of stimulation and play opportunities, rather than the result of unsatisfactory attachment.

Rutter also suggested that separation might not be as damaging as Bowlby believed.

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Rutter's work on attachment & separation - key stu

Rutter (1981) - reported a study of boys aged 9-12 years on the Isle of Wight and in London. He found out whether the boys had experienced early separations and, if so, under what circumstances. He looked at the correlation between these early separations and some measures of social adjustment.

Rutter found that maladjusted boys were more likely to have experienced separation as a result of a parent's mental disorder or because of a family discord.

In contrast; boys who experienced separations due to holidays, housing problems, or illness and event death of the parents, were much less likely to be maladjusted.

Rutter pointed out separation never occurs unless another factor arises causing the separation. He argued that it is those factors, rather than the actual separation, that lead to the observed ill-effects.

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Ainsworth's work on the types of attachment

Ainsworth studied the quality of attachment between infants and parents and developed the idea that the quality of a child's attachment depends partly on the actions of the parents. Key study: Ainsworth (1971) - carried out an observed study that has become known as the 'strange situation'.

In the study, a mother and her 1-year-old child spent some time in a room with toys in. The room was not familiar to the child. Cameras recorded the child's behaviour. The procedure was repeated with a number of different mothers and children.

First, the mother and child were alone together in the room for 3 minutes, during which the mother encouraged the child to play with the toys. Then a stanger entered the room. After a while, the stranger chatted with the mother and then tried to approach the child.

 After 3 minutes, the mother left the room. At this point many of the infants protested and the mother returned. However, if the infant did not protest, the stranger played with the child for 3 minutes. After this the stranger left and the mother returned for 3 minutes.  

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Results from Ainsworth's key study

Ainsworth noticed different responces to the 'strange situation' test from the infants and the mothers. On the basis of these differences, Ainsworth categoried the quality of attachment she observed.

Ainsworth divided the quality of attachment into 3 types of attachment:

- Secure attachment

- Insecure attachment: anxious-resistant

- Insecure attachment: anxious-avoidant

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Results from Ainsworth's key study

- Secure attachment:

Most children showed the expected pattern of bahaviour. In the first 3 minutes, the infants used their mother as a secure base from which to explore the room & toys. The child showed a cautious interest in the stranger as long as the mother was present, but protested as soon as the mother left. The infants greeted their mother on her return and maintained proximity for a while before beginning to explore the room again.

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Results from Ainsworth's key study

- Insecure attachment: anxious-resistant:

Around 10% of the infants seemed anxious in the 'strange situation' and did not explore so much, as though the presence of the mother did not give them all the security they needed. They became distressed when the mother left and could not be comforted bu the stranger. On the mother's return the infants maintained proximity with her but resisted physical contact.

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Results from Ainsworth's key study

- Insecure attachment: anxious-avoidant: These infants also did not explore the room for the first period of the procedure. However, they showed few signs of distress when the mother left the room and avoided contact with her on her return. They showed stranger anxiety, but tended to ignore or avoid the stranger. Around 20% of the infants responded in this way.

Ainsworth believed that these differences in patterns of attachment behaviour resulted from the style of caregiving shown by the mothers. This is known as the caregiving hypothesis.

Ainsworth believed that the mothers of securely attached children showed sensitive responsiveness that the infants from birth onwards. Sensitive responsiveness means that the caregivers pay attention to the childs, use skills of social perception to notice what the infants are doing and how they may be feeling and immediately respond to the infant in the appropriate way. This can often be seen in situations where parents engage in face-to-face contact with infants, responding to their facial expressions and vocalisations. The caregivers' sensitivity to the childs' needs creates trust and security.

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Results from Ainsworth's key study

Ainsworth noticed different responces to the 'strange situation' test from the infants and the mothers. On the basis of these differences, Ainsworth categoried the quality of attachment she observed.

Ainsworth divided the quality of attachment into 3 types of attachment:

- Secure attachment

- Insecure attachment: anxious-resistant

- Insecure attachment: anxious-avoidant

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Results from Ainsworth's key study

- Secure attachment:

Most children showed the expected pattern of bahaviour. In the first 3 minutes, the infants used their mother as a secure base from which to explore the room & toys. The child showed a cautious interest in the stranger as long as the mother was present, but protested as soon as the mother left. The infants greeted their mother on her return and maintained proximity for a while before beginning to explore the room again.

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Results from Ainsworth's key study

- Insecure attachment: anxious-resistant:

Around 10% of the infants seemed anxious in the 'strange situation' and did not explore so much, as though the presence of the mother did not give them all the security they needed. They became distressed when the mother left and could not be comforted bu the stranger. On the mother's return the infants maintained proximity with her but resisted physical contact.

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Results from Ainsworth's key study

- Insecure attachment: anxious-avoidant: These infants also did not explore the room for the first period of the procedure. However, they showed few signs of distress when the mother left the room and avoided contact with her on her return. They showed stranger anxiety, but tended to ignore or avoid the stranger. Around 20% of the infants responded in this way.

Ainsworth believed that these differences in patterns of attachment behaviour resulted from the style of caregiving shown by the mothers. This is known as the caregiving hypothesis.

Ainsworth believed that the mothers of securely attached children showed sensitive responsiveness that the infants from birth onwards. Sensitive responsiveness means that the caregivers pay attention to the childs, use skills of social perception to notice what the infants are doing and how they may be feeling and immediately respond to the infant in the appropriate way. This can often be seen in situations where parents engage in face-to-face contact with infants, responding to their facial expressions and vocalisations. The caregivers' sensitivity to the childs' needs creates trust and security.

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In contrast, Ainsworth believed that mothers of anxious-resistant infants, while giving plenty of attention and contact, tended to misinterpret the infants' behaviour and so were not able to respond appropriately to the infant's needs. These mothers tended to be inconsistent in the way they responded to the infant.

Mothers of anxious-avoidant infants tended to be much less responsive to the infant's behaviour, showed more impatience towards the infants and showed resentment when the infants' needs interfered with their own wishes. These mothers gave less physical contact and showed less affection than those in the other two categories. In some cases the mother rejected the infant.

 Ainsworth's caregiving hypothesis focused on the caregiver's behaviour not the childs. However, the parents behaviour is most likely influenced by the childs.

Differences in temperament it can be quite noticeable in infancy, with some infants being much easier to care for and much more fun to be with than others. Impatient or rejecting behaviour is probably more likely if the infant has a difficult temperament.  

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Evaluation of Bowlby's theory of attachment

Evaluation on Montropy: There is no evidence to support the idea that a single strong attachment is better than multiple attachments. Ainsworth pointed out that multiple attachments can be just as strong.

Schaffer & Emerson (1964) - showed most children develop multiple attachments. An advantage of multiple attachment is that the child is less at risk from separation, because there is always likely to be someone present to whom the child is attached in the event of a parent's death.

Importance of mothering: There is no evidence that women are more suitable as attachment objects than men. However in many cultures its the womans role to be the caregiver and there expected to be more caring but attachment does not directly depend on feeding and caring behaviour.

Critical period for attachment: The evidence suggests that children can form satisfactory attachments after the critical period identified by Bowlby. An example: Tizard found children adopted at 4 years old went on to form satisfactory attachments to their adoptive parents.

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Evaluation of Bowlby's theory of attachment

Evaluation on family care: 

Studies of full-time parent-substitute arrangements have found that care within a family is better for children than a children's care home.

Adoption has been shown to be particularly effective, especially if it begins early

Tizard's study showed that children who had spent their infancy in the care of a residential home were more likely than family-reared children to show problem behaviours at school. 

However, Bowlby's view that part-time care outside the family has a negative impact on the child's development of attachment is not well supported. Kagan et al found no problems with well-funded day care and others have found positive benefits for children of day-care provision.  

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Evaluation of Bowlby's theory of attachment

Evaluation of Maternal deprivation:

Bowlby overstated the long-term effects of maternal deprivation and failed to distinguish between separation and privation. 

Overall evaluation of Bowlby's theory of attachment:

Bowlby's theory now seems too simplistic. He tended to overemphasise the role of biological factors (critical period, importance of sex of carer) and under-estimate the resilience and adaptability of most young children. 

His views on the importance of maternal care in the home setting was criticised, especially by feminists, as it supported a traditional female gender role of staying at home to look after children rather than pursuing a career. 

It has also been argued that Bowlby understated the role of men in child rearing. However, Bowlby must be given the credit for pioneering this field, for stimulating later research and for helping to bring about improvements in child care. 

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Evaluation of Bowlby's theory of attachment

Positives of Bowlby's theory:

- Raised awareness of the importance of attachment and the effects of separation 

- Prompted improvements in arrangements for child care (managing separation) 

- Stimulated extensive later research 

- View of importance of family setting supported by evidence 

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Evaluation of Bowlby's theory of attachment

Negatives of Bowlby's theory:


- View of monotropy incorrect

- View of critical period too rigid 

- Overstated importance of mothering

- Tended to support traditional role of mother as home-based carer

- View of day care as inferior not supported by evidence

- Overstated effects of maternal deprivation

- Failed to distinguish between separation & maternal deprivation 

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Implications for child rearing

Implications of Bowlby's theory of attachment:

Bowlby's theory suggests that mothers should maintain close contact with their children for the first 3 years of life, and that even temporary separations and multiple attachments should be avoided. 

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Comments

Megan

Hi,

Some of the text has been cut off on slide 2 and 4.

Thank You,

Megan (moderator)

Lauren

hi it was useful thankyou, just need to spell check it I came across a few mistakes other than that very helpful

Sam Morran

Good resource with a lot of information included in it.  I like the inclusion of other studies in it.

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