Explanations of Attachment

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  • Created by: Ambrosia
  • Created on: 09-01-13 16:27

Learning Theory

All behaviour is learned rather than innate Classical conditioning-food produces pleasure. mother is associated with food so also produces pleasure. (learning through association) Operant Conditioning-food is primary reinforcer, feeder is secondary reinforcer. both reduce discomfort and are rewarding

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Learning Theory Evaluation

Strengths We do learn through conditioning but food is not the only factor (attention and responsiveness is important) Limitations Harlow showed that food is less important than comfort supported by schaffer and emerson who found that infants not necessarily most attached to the person that fed them.

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Bowlby's Theory

Attachment is adaptive and innate, related to imprinting (for survival) Sensitive period for the development of attachments Caregiving is also innate and adapative and is aided by social releasers secure base provided for exploration primary attachment figure most important (monotropy) but secondary attachments also important Internal working model develops based on primary attachment relationship which predicts future relationships Continuity hypothesis there is a link between early attachment and later emotional development

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Bowlby's Theory Evaluation


  • Sensitive period supported by hodges and tizard (privation study) 
  • Caregiver sensitivity (harlow)
  • Continuity Hypothesis (Sroufe et al) 
  • Universality of attachment (eg tronick et al)
  • Monotropy (schaffer and emerson) 


  • Temperament Hypothesis offers an alternative explanation to the continuity hypothesis it is your temperament and not early attachment experience that determines future relations 
  • Other attachments are important but still may be primary and secondary
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