Early Social Development.

Chapter four of A1 AQA psychology, looking at the subjects titled Attachment and Attachment in everyday life.

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  • Created by: Leah
  • Created on: 06-06-10 22:42


Attachment is a strong emotional and reciprocal tie that develops over time between an infant and their primary care giver(s). Characteristics include;

* Seeking proximity, especially at times of stress

* distress on separation

* pleasure when reunited

* general orientation of behaviour towards primary caregiver.

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Learning theory

Learning theory is the view put forward by behaviourists to explain how all behaviour is acquired, using the principles of conditioning.

Classical Conditioning We can explain attachment in terms of classical conditioning. An infant is born with reflex responses. The stimulus of food triggers a response of pleasure - an unconditioned stimulus, and respectively an unconditioned response. The person providing the food is then associated with this pleasure and therefore becomes an unconditioned stimulus. The food giver then becomes a source of pleasure whether or not food is supplied.

Operant Conditioning The theory of operant conditioning is based on the idea of classical conditioning but with the inclusion of a mental state. Dollard and Miller suggested that when hungry, the human infant feels uncomfortable and experiences a drive state. This drive motivates the baby to find some way to lessen the discomfort e.g. crying. Being fed satisfies the child’s hunger and so makes them comfortable again. This reduces the drive, which is rewarding, the child then learns that food is a reward (the primary reinforcer) and the person providing the food is the secondary reinforcer.

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Harlows monkeys

A research study by Harlow and Harlow 1962

Infant monkeys were placed in a cage with two wire mesh cylinders.One was bare and provided the monkey with food, the other was covered in a towel which provided only comfort.

If food were the cause of attachment, we would expect the monkey to to spend the majority of their time onto the cylinder that provided food.

In actual fact the monkeys spent most their time on the towel covered cylinder, especially when frightened. (a characteristic of attachment behaviour)

This study showed that simply providing food isn’t a sufficient basis for forming an attachment.Later on in life these monkeys were pretty messed up. Aka they couldn’t provide sufficient love towards other monkeys, found it hard to mate and be good parents.

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The Evolutionary Perspective- Bowlby's theory

John Bowlby (1969) proposed that attachment was important for survival. Infants are physically helpless and need adults to feed, care for, and protect them, they cannot survive without it. Therefore it's likely that humans are born with an innate ability to form these attachments to increase their chances of survival. Since attachment is a reciprocal bond, adults must also be born with this innate tendency.

there are three main features to bowlby's theory.

*Infants and carers are "programmed" to become attached

*As attachment is a biological process, it takes place during a critical period or doesn't develop at all.

* Attachment plays a role in later development.

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The continuity hypothesis

Relationships with one special attachment figure (monotropy) provides an infant with an internal working model of relationships. Secure children develop a positive working model of themselves, based on their feelings of security from their relationship with their supportive primary caregiver. In contrast, avoidant children are assumed to have a primary caregiver who is rejecting, resulting in them having a working model of themselves as unacceptable and unworthy.

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Summary of Bowlby's theory

* Attachment is adaptive and innate; infants are born with a drive to become attached.

* They elicit caregiving through social releasers; adults respond to these.

* Bonds are formed with adults who respond more sensitively

* This must occur within a critical period of development

* Infants form one special relationship - monotropy

* This results in an internal working model (a schema)

*Despite criticisms, its still the major theory of attachment

*generated a great deal of research

* has an enormous impact on the emotional care of young children.

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Types of attachment.

Secure and Insecure attachment-Ainsworth's studies

Strange situations technique...Ainsworth and Bell (1970)

Aim- To produce a method for assessing quality of attachment by placing an infant in a situation of mild stress.

Children were found to be either;

* Securely attached (explored the room, happy when mum returned)

* avoidant-insecure (didnt mind when mum left, not bothered when she returned, explore room)

*resistant- insecure (intense distress on seperation, rejection when she returned)

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Research on monotropy and multiple attachments

Bowlby claimed that infants need one special attachment which is qualitatively different to all others, in order to develop an internal working model and emotional maturity.

In some cultures, children have equivalent bonds with many caregivers and still grow into emotionally mature adults.

Schaffer and Emerson found that even though infants do form multiple attachments they usually appear to have one primary attachment.

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disruption of attachment

Bowlby's maternal deprivation hypothesis.

* the hypothesis focuses on the importance of a continuous relationship between the mother and infant. Relationships that are discontinuous become unstable and less predictable, this disrupts the development of the relationship.

* development of this continuous relationship must take place within a critical period of 2.5 years.

* He did not suggest that the relationship had to be with the mother. He just means one primary care giver.


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Deprivation - Loss of emotional care which results in the breaking of emotional bonds.

Privation- A complete lack of emotional care, especially durning the first few years of life so no attachment is formed.

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There are three main types of evidence regarding Privation -

*Longitudinal studies of children in institutional care

*case studies of children raised in extreme isolation

*studies of reactive attachment disorder, a category of mental disorder attributed to a lack of early attachments.


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Impact of daycare on social development.

* Bowlby raised fears that seperation of children from their mothers would have adverse effects on their development and could cause delinquecy,

* Attachment theory predicts that children who are secure in their relationships with important figures in their lives will later on have more positive relationships with others.

* Opportunities that occur in daycare might promote social development. Eg, children in daycare are more likely to develop negotiation skills and how to interact with others.

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Types of daycare

- Day nurseries. in the uk most provide care for around 23-40 children. children are then usually divided into smaller groups by age. There should be one member of staff to every 8 children aged 3-5 and one for every four children aged 2-3 and one for every three children aged under 2.

-Childminders- In contrast childminders will have a maximum of three children in tehir care at any one time. They usually look after them in a home environment. Not all childminders have childcare qualifications.

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Quality of daycare-

* Staff to children ratio

* staff turnover

* physical provisions

* staff training

* dedication of staff

* type of children recruited

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