Introduction to attachment


Parent-infant attachment

  • Schaffer and Emerson (1964) found that babies became attached to mother first.
  • Formed secondary attachments within a few weeks or months.
  • 75% of infants had an attachment with father by 18 months.
  • Infants protested when father walked away (a sign of attachment).
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The role of the father

  • Grossman (2002) carried out a longitudinal study looking at both parents' behaviour and its relationship with quality attachment into teens.
  • Quality of infant attachment with mother and not father related with to children's attachment in adolescence. (suggested that father's attachment was less important)
  • Quality of father's play with infants was related to quality of adolescent attachments.
  • Suggests fathers have a different role in attachments (play and stimulation rather than nurturing).
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Fathers as primary carers

  • Some evidence to suggest that fathers adopt maternal behaviours when they take on the role of main caregiver.
  • Field (1978) filmed 4 month old babies in face to face interaction with primary caregiver mothers, secondary caregiver fathers and primary caregiver fathers.
  • Primary caregiver fathers showed more reciprocity than secondary caregiver fathers.
  • Behaviour appears to be important in building attachment.
  • Seems that fathers can be more nurturing attachment figure.
  • Key to attachment is level of responsiveness and not gender.
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Inconsistent findings on fathers

  • Different researchers interested in different research questions.
  • Some psychologists interested in role as primary attachment figures while others interested in role as secondary attachment figures.
  • Some see fathers as behaving differently from mothers and having a distinct role while others find that fathers can take on a maternal role.
  • C- These findings can be applicable for either position of attachment. E.g. distinct role as secondary attachment and maternal role as primary.
  • Psychologists cannot easily answer the simple question 'what is the role of the father?'
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If fathers have a distinct role, why aren't childr

  • Grossman found that fathers as secondary attachment figures had an important role in children's development.
  • Other studies have found children growing up in single or same sex parent families do not develop any differently from those in two parent heterosexual families.
  • C- These studies may not assess these children as adults when they raise their own children.
  • Suggests that father's role as a secondary attachment figure is not important.
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Why don't fathers generally become primary attachm

  • Traditional gender roles
  • Hormones
  • Limitation because research does not incorporate these factors.
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