Introduction to Attachment


Caregiver-Infant interactions AO1


  • Babies have periodic 'alert phases' to signal that they are ready for interaction
  • Mothers typically pick up and respond to these signals two-thirds of the time
  • from around 3 months, this interaction becomes increasingly frequent, and close attention needs to be paid to each others verbal signals and facial expressionsAn interaction is reciprocal when each person responds to the other and elicits a response from them
  • traditional views have seen the baby taking a more passive role, receiving care from an adult however, it seems that the baby takes an active role.both mother and infant can initiate interactions and it appears like they take turns in doing so.This interaction is described as a dance

Interactional Synchrony

  • Mother and infant both actions and emotions of the other in a co-ordinated way
  • actions mirror each others
  • observed the beginnings of IS in as young as 2 weeks old. Adult displayed 1 of 3 1 of 3 facial expressions and the child’s response was filmd and identified.
  • association was found between the expression the adult displayed and the actions of the babies.
  • high levels of synchrony were associated with better quality mother-infant attachments.
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Caregiver-Infant Interactions AO3

Hard to know whats happening when observing infantsMany studies involving observation of interactions between mothers and infants have shown the same patterns of interaction. However, what is being observed is merely hand movements or changes in expression.It is extremely difficult to to be certain, based on these observations, what is taking place from the infant's perspective, so we question whether the infant's imitation of adult's signals are unconscious or deliberate. Therefore, the validity of Caregiver-infant interactions is lowered as we can't really know whether behaviours seen in mother-infant interaction have any special meaning.

Controlled Observations capture fine detail. Observations of mother-infant are generally well controlled procedures, with both mother and infant being filmed ,often from multiple angles. This ensures that very fine detail of behaviour can be recorded and later analysed. Furthermore, babies dont know or care that they are being observed so their behaviour doesn't change in response to controlled observation which is generally a problem for observational research.Therefore, the validity of Caregiver-infant interaction is increased.

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Caregiver-Infant Interactions AO3

Observations don't tell us the purpose of synchrony and reciprocity Research points out synchrony simply describes behaviours that occur at the same time. These are robust phenomena as they can be reliably observed but isn't particularly useful as it doesn't tell us it's purpose. However, there is some evidence that reciprocal interaction and synchrony are helpful in the development of mother-infant attachment, as welll as helpful in empathy, stress responses, language, and moral development. Therefore, the validity of caregiver-infant interaction is lowered.

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Attachment Figures A01

Parent Infant Attachment

  •  Traditionally, we have thought in terms of mother-infant attachments
  • Schaffer and Emerson found that the majority of babies did become attached to their mothers first and within a few weeks or months formed secondary attachments.  In 75% of the infants studied, an attachment was formed with the father by the age of 18 months.

The Role of the Father

  • Grossman carried out a longitudinal study looking at both parents behaviours and its relationship to the quality of Children’s attachments into their teens.
  • the quality of mothers but not fathers was related to children's attachment in adolescent, suggesting that the fathers role was less important but the quality of fathers play with infant was related to the quality of attachment in adolescent suggesting that fathers have a different role in attachments than mothers do – Play and stimulation.

Fathers as Primary Care givers

  • There is some evidence to suggest that when fathers take the role of primary caregiver, they adopt the role of the “mother”.
  • Field observed 4 moths old with mum as PCG dad as SCG and dad as PCG. PCG dad spent time laughing, holding and imitating. This behavioiur apperas important in building attachments. Dad can be nurturing. 
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Attachment figures AO3

The role of fathers as secondary attachment figures can be explained through biological processes and gender stereotyping.For example, the fact that fathers tend not to become the primary attachment figure could simply be down to the result of traditional gender roles, in which women are expected to be more caring and nurturing than men. On the other hand, it could be that females hormones create higher levels of nurturing and therefore women are biologically pre-disposed to be the primary attachment figure. This is a strength as it confirms that such difference between mothers and fathers in the role of rearing children can be down to an individual's nature but also their experiences of nurture. Therefore, the validity into Attachment figures is increased.

there are inconsistent findings as to the role of the father in attachments  . research into the role of the father in attachment is confusing because different researchers are interested in different research questions. Some researchers are interested in understanding the role fathers have as secondary attachment figures, whereas others are more concerned with the father’s role as a primary attachment figure. The former have tended to see fathers behaving differently from mothers and having a distinct role. The latter have tended to find that fathers can take on a ‘maternal’ role. This is a problem because it means psychologists cannot easily answer the questions ‘what is the role of the father?’ The findings from research being inconsistent means that firm conclusions cannot be drawn, 

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Attachment figures AO3

Research has left unanswered questions such as if fathers have a distinct role then why aren’t children without fathers different.Research found that fathers as a secondary attachment figure have an important role in their children’s upbringing. However other studies have found that children growing up in single or same-sex parent families do not develop any differently from those in two parent heterosexual families. This is a weakness because it suggests that the father’s role as a secondary attachment figure is not important.Therefore, lowering the validity of research into the role of the father as an Attachment figure.

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