PSY1- Developmental Psychology

Explanations of attachment, types of attachment, disruption of attachment, effects of daycare

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Explanations of attachment- Learning Theory

Learning Theory: Links attachment to pleasure/behaviourist theory/ focuses on the baby wanting its needs fulfilled.

Classical Conditioning:This is about learning associations between different things in our environment. Getting food naturally gives the baby pleasure. The baby's desire for food is fulfilled whenever its mother is around to feed it. So an association is formed between mother and food. So whenever its mother is around, the baby will feel pleasure.

Operant Conditioning: Dollard and Miller (1950) claimed that babies feel discomfort when hungry and so have a desire to remove the discomfort. They find that if they cry their mother will come and feed them- so the discomfort is removed (this is negative reinforcement). The mother is therefore asscociated with food and the baby will want to be close to her.

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Explanations of attachment- Learning Theory (criti

Can provide an adequate explanation as we do learn through association and reinforcement.

Strong evidence to suggest feeding has nothing to do with attacment- Harlow (1959)

Method:aimed to find out whether babby monkeys would prefer food or comfort and protection as an attachment figure, laboratory experiment, raised in isolation, 2 surrogate mothers, cloth and wire with feeding bottle.

Results: Spent most of their time with cloth surrogate, only used wire surrogate for feeding, cloth surrogate seemed to give confort in new situations.

Conclusion:Infant monkeys formed more of and attachment with a fgure that privided comfort and protection. Growing up in isolation affected their development.

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Harlow (Continued)

This was a laboratory experiment, so there was strict controls of the variables. This means thats its unlikely the results were affected by an unknown variable. The findings of this study were applied to real life. They led to a change in hospital procedure- human babies in incubators are now given soft blankets. However it can be argued that you can't generalise the findings to humans because humans and monkeys are qualitatively different. There are also ethical problems with this study- the monkeys were put in a stressful position, and later they showed signs of being psychologically damaged by the experiment. Monkeys are social animals, so it was unfair to keep them in isolation. The fact that they were in isolation means the study lacked ecological validity- the monkeys weren't in their natural environment, so the results can't be reliably applied to real life. Laboratory experiments can usually be replicated, but ethical guidlines now in place means that you couldn'r repeat this study today to see whether you'd get the same results.

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Explanations of attachment- Evolutionary Theory

Infants are biologically programmed to form attachments in order to survive. Bowlby(1951) argued that something like imprinting occurs in humans. He developed several claims.

1. Montropy

2.Safe base


4.Critical period releasers

6.If the attachment doesn't develop (e.g. separation or death), or if its broken, it might have seriously damage childs social and emotional development.

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Explanations of attachment- Evolutionary Theory (c

The existence of attachment in all human socities suggest its biological.

Correlations between attachmet behaviour and behaviour in later life are very weak, may suggest Bowlby over-estimated the influence of attachment.

Supporting Evidence

Imprinting shows that attachment is innate (biological). E.g. Lorenz (1935). This supports that children are biologically programmed to attach to the first person they see when they are born.

Schaffer and Emerson's study also supports Bowlby's theory. They observed that strongly attached infants had mothers who responded quickly to their demands and who offered their child the most interaction. Therefore supporting Bowlby idea that we form emotional relationships with those that are most responsive to us.

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Types of attachment

Secure Attachment: In a secure attachment there's a strong bond between the child and its caregiver. If they're separated, the infant becomes distressed. However when reunited, the child is easily comforted by the caregiver. Secure attachments are associated with a healthy cognitive and emotional development.

Insecure Avoidant: If they're separated from their caregiver, the child doesn't become particularly distressed, and can usually be comforted by a stranger.

Insecure Resistant: The child is often uneasy around their caregiver, becomes upset if they're separated. Comfort can't be given by strangers and its also resisted from the caregiver.

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