Psychology AS - Attachment

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Schaffer's Stages of Attachment

Study: Questioned  mothers about seperation anxiety and Stranger Anxiety - 50% of babies towards a particular adult and most interactive and sensitive to infant signal

  • Asocial Stage: Starts to recognise and form bonds
  • Indiscriminate: Preference to people rather than objects
  • Specific Attachment: Display anxiety to strangers - primary attachment figure
  • Multiple Attachment: Secondary attachment to adults who spend time with them
  • Good external validity: Babies not affected by researchers - behaved normally
  • Longitudinal: Children observed regulary - internal validity
  • Limited sample characteristics: Cannot be generalised due to small sample size
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Learning Theory

Classical Conditioning:

  • Food + Baby = Unconditioned response
  • Mother + Baby = No response
  • Mother + Food + Baby = Unconditioned response
  • Mother + Baby = Conditioned Response

Operant Conditioned:Positive and Negative reinforcement

Counter evidence from Animal Studies: Baby monkeys sought comfort over food

Counter Evidence from Human Studies: Babies develop multiple attachment - not all food related

Learning Theory: Ignores other factors associated with forming attachment - e.g. Contect, Personality

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Bowlby's Thoery of Attachment

  • Innate: Born with it

  • Monotropy: Primary Attachment figure

  • Law of Continuity: More constant = a better quality of attachment

  • Law of Accumulated separation: Effects of separation

  • Social Releasers: Innate behaviours - adult attachment system

  • Critical Period: When the first attachment are formed - most important

  • Internal Working Model: Physical representation

  • Mixed evidence for Monotropy – some form multiple attachments

  • Support for Social Releasers – Interactional synchrony

  • Support for internal working model – it’s testable

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Animal Studies - Lorenz

  • Procedure: eggs hatched and imprinted on Lorenz (first thing they saw)


  • Findings: When control (naturally hatched eggs) group mixed with experimental group, the hatchlings followed their respected ‘mothers’ – identified a critical period in which imprinting must take place

  • Generalizability to humans – Human’s attachment is different from birds

  • Findings questioned: Experimental group will try to mate with the species they imprinted on, but they change to their own species after failed attempts – not permanent like Lorenz thought.

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Animal Studies - Harlow's Monkeys

  • Procedure: Cloth (comfort) ‘mother’ and a wire (food) ‘mother’.

  • Findings: Monkeys sought comfort instead of food – contact comfort more important than food

  • Maternally deprived monkeys as adults: more aggressive, less sociable, bred less often, unskilled at mating and neglect their own young/ killed them


  • Ethical Issues: able to generalise findings but had great suffering – sufficiently important enough to be justified

  • Practical value – e.g. hospital visiting hours for young children lengthened to ensure attachment are formed

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The Strange Situation

  • Procedure: (Laboratory control) child encouraged to explore, stranger interaction with the child, caregiver leaves, caregiver returns and stranger leaves.


  • Findings: Secure attachment is the majority result, but Insecure-avoidant attachment and Insecure-resistant attachment was found in low numbers


  • Support for validity – predicts later development

  • Good Reliability – most researchers agree with the results

  • Test may be culture-bound – behaviour doesn’t have the same meaning in different countries

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Cultural Variations

  • Procedure: 32 studies in 8 different countries (UK (High SE), China(Low SE), Germany(High IA), Japan(Low IA), Sweden, Israel(High IR), US and Netherlands)

  • Findings: variations of attachment types exist across the world

  • Large samples – internal validity-reduced anomalous result

  • Samples tend to be unrepresentative of culture – different cultures in one country – not representative
  • Method of assessment is biased – American method
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Maternal Deprivation

  • Normal psychological development

  • 30 months is a Critical Period
  • Low IQ
  • Affectionless Psychopathy: Prevention of normal relationship
  • 44 Thieves Studies: Family - 14/44 affectionless psychopaths and 12 experienced of prolonged seperation
  • Poor quality of evidence
  • Bowlby did the experiment
  • Damage done in the Critical Period can be reversed 
  • Ecological Validity
  • Practical Impact
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Romanian Studies - Rutter's ERA

  • Institutionalisation: a hospital or an orphanage where children live for long, continuous periods of times – very little emotional care provided

  • Procedure: 165 Romanian adopted in Britain - good care for poor early experiences in institutions –Control group of 52 British orphans

  • Findings: Mental retardation and severely undernourished

  • Disinhibited Attachment (symptoms are attention seeking, clinginess and social behaviour directed indiscriminately towards all adults.

  • Real-life Applications:
  • Fewer extraneous variables than other orphan studies:
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Romanian Studies - Bucharest Early Intervention Pr

  • Procedure: 95 children in institutions – compared to a control of group of 50 children never lived in an institution. Strange Situation

  • Findings: Control group - Secure attachment

  • Experiment group - Disorganised Attachment – the minority were Disinhibited Attachment.
  • Disinhibited Attachment – equally friendly and affectionate to all people – an adaptation of living with multiple caregivers - didn’t see the same caregivers enough to form secure attachments

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