developmental psychology

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  • Created on: 18-04-14 16:05

learning theory of attachment

attachment = emotion bond, 2-way process

learning theory = cupboard love (affection to gain reward)

classical conditioning: baby forms association between neutral stimulus (caregiver) and pleasure of unconditioned response (being fed)

  • ucs (food) --> ucr (pleasure)
  • ucs + ns (caregiver) --> ucr
  • cs (caregiver) --> cr (pleasure)

operant conditioning: reward = being fed, infant associates mother with being fed, food = primary reinforcer, mother = secondary reinforcer

arguments against learning theory

  • Harlows monkey study - monkey more attached to cloth model than feeding model, comfort and security more important
  • schaffer and emmersons babys - babys attached to caregivers who responded more sensitively to childs needs - not necessarily the person who fed them - sensitivity = important
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John Bowlby - learning theory

child has innate need to attach to primary caregiver (monotropy - 1st initial attachment), to form a monotropic bond (secure base to explore world around us whilst maintaining proximity) - this is our 'blue print' for all further relationships: good/secure bond = good adult relationships (continuity hypothesis)

Bowlbys evolutionary theory - during 'sensitive period' - 3 phases

  • birth - 8 weeks: proximity seeking - orientate towards people without discimination
  • 10 weeks - 10 months: contact seeking - generally friendly but more specific behaviour towards one, orientates to 1+ special people
  • 6 months - 1/2 years: sensitive adult - maintenance of closeness to a special person, follows caregiver (seperation anxiety), treats strangers with caution (stranger anxiety)


  • attachment is adaptive and innate - promotes survival through: mainting proximity, assisting cognitive development, providing an opportunity of learning through imitation 
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evaluation of bowlbys theory of attachment

:) bowlby based theory on Lorenz's 'critical period' - first thing geese saw was him - imprinted during critical period

:) Tronick et al - Efe tribe - special attachment - looked after by multiple people but slept with their mother

:) Harlow - insecure attachment = insecure adult relationships 

:( all attachments equally important

:( temperament hypothesis - temperamental behaviour contributes to attachments

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cultural variations in attachment

Tronick at al - Efe tribe Africa - 1 tribe - case study many caregivers but slept with mothers

Fox - Israel - cared for in a communal home but strongest attachment with mother

Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg - meta analysis of strange situation in 8 nations - no control = less reliable, but lots of data 

  • secure most common in all
  • western - dominant insecure type was avoidant
  • non-western - dominant insecure type was resistant (apart from Japan which was 50/50)
  • more variation within cultures than between cultures


  • culture bias
  • western and non-western culture comparison
  • ecological validity
  • population validity
  • one study suggests that Japan had no insecure-avoidant - may be due to sensitivity used to ensure dependency, not independency like other cultures 
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Mary Ainsworth - strange situation

  • used to assess quality of attachment between infant and caregiver
  • 8 situations - mother, infant and stranger
  • assessed by observing: exploration, stranger anxiety, seperation anxiety, reunion behaviour
  • attachment types: secure (66%), insecure avoidant (22%), insecure resistant (12%)
  • - Main indentified 4th type - 'disorganised' - fearful child - linked to divorce, drug use and rejection


  • sensitive mothering - study was controlled observation - Ainsworth couldn't show sensitive mothering caused secure attachment - however further studies have shown a causal link between sensitivity and attachment type, thus increasing validity
  • low ecological validity - only a snapshot of relationship - not representative - Main + Watson - only assesses mum and infant, what about other relationships?
  • reliable - Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg found it was reliable cross-culturally
  • personality - Kagan - temperament - 'inhibition' - some children are more inhibited and withdrawn, making attachment harder
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disruption of attachment

disruption of attachment = seperation from caregiver, eventually reunited, for example if parent is hospitalised for a length of time

PDD Model - effects of disruption of attachment - Robertson and Roberston:

  • 1) Protest - crying, calling out for mother, panic
  • 2) Despair - withdrawal, may affect sleeping/eating habits
  • 3) Detachment - appears to have recovered, may not show interest if caregiver reappears

Robertson/ Robertson and Robertson studies:

  • Laura: 2 years old when hospitalised for 8 days - used observation technique - periods of calm and distress, struggle to control emotions, begs to go home - occassionally visited by parents - concluded PDD model 
  • Little John: looked after in nursery for 9 days while mother was in hospital - went from happy and well adjusted to distressed and withdrawn - when mother went to collect he rejected her
  • Evaluation: validity was high because naturalistic settings - also video recorded everything he saw to prevent observer bias - not generalisable: case studies, young, british children
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disruption of attachment 2

evaluation of disruption of attachment:

  • :) - practical applications: radical changes in hospital policies and nurses shifts designed so that they had regular contact with same children so could form bonds - also visiting hours changed to allow regular contact with family
  • :( - individual differences in response to short term seperation - older children and securely attached children cope better implying that not all children experience distress/detachment
  • :( observer bias - may have only saw what they were looking for - Robertson did use recording methods though
  • age of child: Schaffer and Callender found that children under 7 months showed minimal upset, after this age the strength increased up to about 18 months 
  • gender: boys react more strongly to seperations than girls - although there is wide variations within and between sexes
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Rutter et al - Romanian Orphans

  • ongoing longitudinal study
  • 111 Romanian orphans adopted into British fams, Rutter wanted to see if good care could compensate for the privation the children had suffered before the overthrow of communist dict
  • natural experiment with age of adoption being naturally occuring variable:
  • before 6 months
  • between 6 months and 2 years
  • after the age of 2
  • by the age of 6 the children were making good recoveries, however late adoptees had a much higher level of disinhibited attachment
  • therefore the longer children suffer emotional deprivation the longer it will take them to recover
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Privation = failure to form an attachment

Genie: father thought she had special needs so locked her away, after being locked in a room until she was 13 and half she was unable to stand properly or speak and showed a disinterest in other people. Her lack of recovery could be down to 1) extreme early emotional privation or 2) the late age she was discovered (after bowlbys sensitive period) Czech Twins: twins locked in cellar for 5 years, found aged 7 with no speech, terrified of people an serious health problems - put into schools for children with learning difficulties - by 17 they were happy and sociable with good relationships with adopted parents etc - aged 31 they were married with steady relationship and children. This shows that the effects of privation are reversible unlike Bowlby suggested - however this case is unique as they had each other to from a relationship Effects of privation/institutionalisation:

  • poor parenting - research suggests that ex-institutionalised women had more parenting difficulties for example more of their children had spent time in care than home-reared women
  • deprivation dwarfism - Gardner - girl never picked up or cuddled due to mothers fear of dislodging feeding tube - became physically stunted - returned back to normal in hospital when given attention - emotional disturbance may have affected growth hormones
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Hodges and Tizard - long term privation

Aim: to investigate permanence of long-term privation due to institutionalisation following Bowlbys claim that maternal deprivation would cause permanent emotional damage


  • 65 children taken into care before age of 4 months = opportunity sample
  • natural sample using matched pairs design as institutionalised kids compared with home-reared
  • longitudinal study until they were 16 years old
  • by age of 4 - 24 adopted, 15 restored, rest still insitutionalised
  • children assessed at 4, 8 and 16 using interview and self report questionnaires


  • 4: they had not formed deep attachments and were attention seeking
  • 8: adopted and restored had good relationships with caregivers but were attention seeking at school and had bad peer relationships
  • 16: adopted still close to parents, restored not as close, both less likely to have 'best friend' at school and many showed 'bullying' behaviour

Conclusions: the effects of privation can be reversed as some children formed good attachments but early privation had a negative impact on their ability to form relationships outside of the home

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evaluation of Hodges and Tizard

  • :( longitudinal study - problems of sample drop-off leaving biased sample
  • :( sample may have distorted difference between adopted and restored as adopted were better adjusted at the start of the study - lack vadlidity which reduces generalisability
  • :( natural experiment - cause and effect can't be established - privation can only implicate effects and therefore conclusions are limited - other factors influence the overall result for example how much care they are given when they are restored to their natural home
  • :( individual differences within groups - some adopted had bad family relations and some restored had good family relations - this shows that early attachment experiences are not the only cause of later maladjustment
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the impact of daycare

factors affecting daycare the child receives = quality, age, number of hours, income, availability

implications of research = low child-staff ratios, low staff turnover, sensitive emotional care, highly qualified staff


  • NICHD - over 1000 children - longitudinal - full time daycare = more disobedience + aggression - reassessed at primary school - more hours = more aggression
  • Belsky - compared daycare to home cared children - daycare = more aggressive

Peer Relations 

  • negative by Stroufe = those in daycare less securely attached, securely attached = more sociable - therefore daycare has neg affects on development
  • positive by Shea= 5 days a week daycare vs. 2 days - more daycare = more sociable
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