Bowlby's Attachment Theory - Evolutionary


Development of Attachments

Bowlby believed attachment was an innate drive evolved for survival purposes

If you attach to caregiver you're more likely to survive longer and reproduce

Drive to provide care is also innate - increases chance of offspring surving and genes passing on

Infants are therefore born with social releasers to encourage caregiving:

  • Big shiny eyes
  • Smiling
  • Crying
  • Big forehead

Infants most sensitive to attachment between 6-9 months - called the sensitive period. Inspired by Lorenz's investigating into imprinting

Attachment encourages independence in an infant. Primary care giver acts as a secure base for the infant to return to for safety

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Affect of Attachments Later on in Life

Infants form a number of attachments but form a primary attachment usually to the mother, the primary care giver. This is called monotropy

Infants attach most strongly to person who's most sensitive to social releasers. This is the sensitivity hypothesis

The type of attachment and relationship formed between infant and primary caregiver forms an internal working model which the infant bases all future relationships on

An infant who has no primary care giver lacks social skills later on in life

Infants who are securely attached in early life continue to be socially and emotional skilled. Infants who are insecurely attached continue to have social and emotional incapabilities later in life. This is the continuity hypothesis

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Evaluation - Strengths

Hazen and Shaver - Love Quiz

  • Supporting evidence for the internal working model
  • Put quiz in newspaper questioning relationship with parents when young and their current beliefs about romantic relationships
  • Secure attachments - have happy, loving and trusting relationships
  • Insecure resistant - have insecure and obsessive relationships
  • Insecure avoidant - fear intimacy and are happy single
  • Increases validity of  theory

Schaffer and Emerson

  • Supporting evidence for the sensitivity hypothesis
  • Conducted a longitudinal study studying 60 babies
  • Every month interaction between infant and caregiver observed and parents interviewed
  • They found that infants most likely to form attachments with those who responded most sensitively to infant's signals not those who spent most time with infant
  • Increases validity of theory

Bowlby's theory explains why attachment is reciprocal as not just infant with innate drive.

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Evaluation - Limitations

  • - The temperament hypothesis contradicts the internal working model
  • E - An infant may have an innate personality which makes them less sociable and it is not the attachment type in infancy which affects their later relationships
  • C - This limits the validity of the theory
  • - A lot of the supporting evidence is based on retrospective data
  • E - For example Hazen and Shaver's questionnaire asked questions on relationships with parents when they were younger, a difficult task. Some may have flase memories or just guess
  • C - This limits the validity of the supporting evidence and thus the overall validity of theory
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