Cultural Variation in Attachment

Van Ijzendoorn - Procedure

  • Researchers located 32 studies of attachment where the Strange Situation had been used to investigate the proportions of attachment types in infants. 
  • Conducted in 8 countries; 15 in the USA.
  • Overall there were 1990 children studied. 
  • Data was meta-analysed and results were combined and weighted for sample size. 
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Van Ijzendoorn - Findings

  • Secure attachment was the most common in all the countries but ranged from 50% in China to 75% in Britain. 
  • In individualist cultures, rates of insecure-resistant attachment were similar to Ainsworth's original study (all under 14%) but this was not true for the collectivist cultures (China, Japan, Israel) where rates were above 25% (and rates of insecure-avoidant attachment was reduced). 
  • This suggests there are cultural differences in the distribution of insecure attachment. 
  • Variations between results of studies within the same county were actually 150% greater than those between countries. 
  • In the USA, one study found 46% securely attached compared to one sample as high as 90%. 
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Strength - Large Samples

P - A strength of research into cultural variations in attachment is that the combining of results means that there is a large sample of participants overall. 

E - In Van Ijzendoorn's meta-analysis there was nearly 2000 babies and their primary attachment figures. 

CA - On the other hand, due to the many replications of the strange situation, investigator effects could be a confounding variable as many different psychologists could have interpreted the method and results in various ways. This causes issues with the internal validity of the method. 

E - However, the overall large sample size is a strength as it increases the validity by reducing the impact of anomalous results caused by bad methodology or very unusual participants. 

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Limitation - Biased Method

P - A limitation is that the method of assessment is biased. 

E - The strange situation was designed by an Amerian researcher (Ainsworth) based on a British theory (Bowlby's). There is a question over whether Anglo-American theories and assessments can be applied to other cultures. Trying to apply a theory or technique designed for one culture to another culture is known as imposed etic which disregards the notion of cultural emic. 

CA - However, it can be argued that Ainsworth was not trying to impose etic with her strange situation research. Ainsworth did not anticipate for the strange situation to be replicated in other countries. 

E - Nevertheless, in order for research to have high levels of generalisability it needs to be replicated in other cultures. If the strange situation can only be applied to certain cultures, it therefore lacks external validity. 

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Limitation - Unrepresentative of Culture

P - A limitation is that samples tend to be under representative of culture. 

E - The meta-analysis by Van Ijzendoorn claimed to study cultural variation whereas, in fact, the comparisions made were between countries and not cultures. 

CA  - However, it wouldn't be economical and would be very time consuming for each culture within each country to be represented in the meta-analysis conducted by Van Ijzendoorn.

E - On the other hand, one sample might, for example, over-represent people living in poverty, teh stress of which might affect caregiving and hence patterns of attachment. 

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