The Stage Theory (Schaffer and Emerson)
Schaffer and Emerson developed a stage theory of attachment (based on their 2 year study of Glaswegian babies)
The Asocial Stage (0 – 6 weeks)
During this stage, emotional behaviour such as crying and smiling is directed at anyone or anything.
Indiscriminate attachment (6 weeks – 7 months) – During this stage, the infant is generally content when receiving attention from anyone.
Specific attachment (7-11 months) – The infant in this stage forms a strong attachment to one individual, but good attachments to others often follow shortly after this.
+ The view that the development of attachment is primarily through a series of stages has received a degree of approval. Observations seem to support the stage theory. In fact, researchers go as far as suggesting that most children in all societies go through these stages in much the same way.
+ There is also an acceptance of separation protest and separation anxiety, which has also been found in several studies. These responses suggest that children have formed schemas for familiar or unfamiliar people.
- Many researchers actually disagree with the concept of the asocial stage. Bowlby, for example, believed that babies were equipped with a range of social behaviours such as babbling and crying that forms the basis for them to behave in social ways towards people.
- Also, later research also suggested that babies are not as asocial as described. Research indicates how babies will smile more broadly when they see their caregiver or hear their voice. Evidence also points to the fact that even at one week old, babies are able to recognise their mothers face.
Individual Differences in Attachments
Definitions of Attachment Types
A strong and contented attachment of an infant to its caregiver, related to healthy cognitive and emotional development.
This is the optimal type of attachment. The securely attached individual is able to function independently because their caregiver acts as a secure base.
The infant is distressed by the caregiver’s absence.
However, he or she rapidly returns to a state of contentment after the caregivers return, immediately seeking contact with the caregiver.
A form of attachment between infant and caregiver that is not optimal for healthy cognitive or emotional development i.e. avoidant and resistant attachment.
This comes in the form of resistant and avoidant.
Infants who have a resistant attachment with their caregiver is insecure in the presence of their caregiver, and becomes distressed when they leave. He or she resists contact with the caregiver when they return, and is wary of the stranger
Avoidant attachment is characterised by the infant not seeking contact with the caregiver, and showing little distress when separated. The infant avoids contact with the caregiver upon return. The infant treats the stranger the same way to the caregiver, often avoiding him or her.
Mary Ainsworth designed an experiment to measure the type of attachment between an infant and their caregiver. She called this The Strange Situation.
To investigate individual variation in infant attachments; in particular differences between secure and insecure attachments
They hoped that their method of assessing attachments, the Strange Situation test, would prove to be a reliable and valid measure of attachments
The Strange Situation test lasts for about 20 minutes and was used on American infants aged between 12 and 18 months.
It takes place in a laboratory and the method used is controlled observation
The Strange Situation consists of eight episodes, which involve the infant being separated from their caregiver, being with a stranger, and reunion with the caregiver. There are two separations and two reunions
Separation protest, the infant’s willingness to explore, stranger anxiety and reaction to reunion with the caregiver are the key behaviours used to assess the security/insecurity of the attachment relationship
There were considerable individual differences in behaviour and emotional response in the Strange Situation
Most of the infants displayed behaviour categorised as typical of secure attachment (70%)
10% were anxious/resistant and 20% were anxious/avoidant
The securely attached infants were distressed when separated from the caregiver, and sought contact and soothing on reunion
Anxious/resistant attachment was characterised by conflicting emotions and inconsistency, as the infants were very distressed at separation, but resisted the caregiver on reunion.
Anxious/avoidant attachment was characterised by detachment as the infants did not seek contact with the caregiver and showed little distress at separation
+ Much research has confirmed the usefulness of the Strange Situation test, and the three types of attachment identified by Ainsworth et al.
+ The Strange Situation is easily repeated, its procedures allow the experiment to be repeated under the same conditions.
- The ecological validity of the classification (attachment categories, e.g. secure, insecure) was questioned. Also a fourth attachment type was suggested by Main and Solomon. They found that a small number of infants displayed disorganised attachment, in which the infants showed no consistent pattern of behaviour, and fitted none of the three main attachment types. However, Main and Solomon accepted the validity of the three identified attachment types by Ainsworth et al.
Types of Attachment
The Strange Situation has been used in numerous other studies to assess attachment. Based on Ainsworth’s studies three types of attachments have been identified:
Secure Attachment –
- When the caregiver is present the infant explores the strange environment and plays happily and uses the caregiver as a secure base.
- The infant shows distress when the caregiver leaves
- 70 % of American children show secure attachment.
Insecure Resistant Attachment -
- The children remain close to their mother, showing signs of insecurity even in her presence
- The infant becomes distressed when the caregiver is absent and is difficult to comfort on reunion
- The infant may show inconsistent behaviour such as hitting while clinging, the parent also shows inconsistent behaviour.
- 10% of American children were found to be resistant
Insecure Avoidant Attachment -
- The infant shows little or no concern when the mother leaves, and displays little pleasure when she returns.
- They can be comforted and calmed down by the stranger just as well as the mother.
- The infant shows little preference for the mother over the stranger, often avoiding both.
- 20% of American children showed avoidant attachment.
Cross Cultural Variation in Attachment
Different cultures have different norms about childrearing and different values about the way children and parents ought to behave. Sagi conducted studies using The Strange Situation inside and outside America the results were as follows:
Secure attachment = 71%
Anxious/Resistant = 12%
Avoidant = 17%
Israeli children – Israeli children were raised on a kibbutz, a largely self-contained community, like a large extended family and therefore they saw very few strangers, were rarely alone but were used to separation from their mothers.
Secure attachment = 62%
Resistant = 33%
Avoidant = 5%
Anxiety was probably due to the stranger entering, rather than being separated from their mother.
Japanese children – Showed similar attachments to Israeli children but probably for different reasons. Under normal circumstances children are never left alone at 12 months & mothers rarely leave them in the care of others.
Secure attachment = 68%
Resistant = 32%
Avoidant = 0%
Anxiety was probably due to being separated from their mothers as Japanese mothers rarely leave their children.
German children – Showed a different pattern of attachment to other cultural groups.
Secure attachment = 40%
Resistant = 11%
Avoidant = 49%
German children are often encouraged to be independent and not clingy, this may explain the high avoidant figure.
Cross-Cultural Variation Study by Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg:
To investigate variations in attachment styles between different cultures, through a meta-analysis of research that had studied attachments in other cultures. (using other studies results)
They compared only the findings of studies that had used the Strange Situation in order to draw conclusions about the external validity of this as a measure of attachment to other populations (population validity) and other settings (ecological validity).
They used the results of 32 studies that had used the strange situation to measure attachment.
Research from 8 different countries was used including Western cultures (e.g. US, Great Britain, Germany) and non-Western cultures (e.g. Japan, China, Israel).
Secure attachment was the most common type of attachment in all 8 nations.
However, significant differences were found in the distribution of insecure attachments.
Western cultures = Avoidant was the dominant insecure attachment
Non-Western cultures = Resistant was the dominant insecure attachment
There was greater variation within cultures than between cultures.
+ In spite of its limitations, the Strange Situation is the only test of infant attachment that has been used in several different countries.
+ It could be argued that findings from the test could be used to understand some of the main sub-cultural differences found within any given country.
- Those who use the Strange Situation assume that behaviour has the same meaning in all cultures, when in fact social constructions of behaviour differ. For example, in Japan young infants are rarely parted from their mother, whereas German infants are taught to be independent from a young age.
- As a result, the Strange Situation lacks ecological and population validity, which means that the findings and insights may not be genuine.
Bowlby’s Theory of Attachment
John Bowlby was a child psychoanalyst interested in the relationship between child and their caregiver.
He was influenced by the evolutionary theory & believed that attachment was an innate response, which evolved and served to promote survival in several ways such as:
Safety – Attachment results in the desire to maintain proximity and therefore ensured safety.
Emotional relationships – Attachment enables the infant to learn how to form and conduct healthy relationships. Bowlby used the concept of the internal working model; a blueprint for all future relationships.
A secure base for exploration – Attachment also provides a secure base for exploration, which is fundamental for a child’s cognitive development.
Social releasers – Bowlby argued that attachment was innate and reciprocal, and the infant communicated their needs through the role of social releasers, such as crying. These social releasers result in a desire for care giving from the parent.
Monotropy – This is the idea that the attachment between infant and caregiver is unique and special.
Saucy Elephants Bathe In Mud
+ This theory has been extremely influential within developmental psychology, and has paved the way for further research in attachment.
+ Bowlby’s idea of monotropy has been supported via cross-cultural studies.
+ There has also been support for Bowlby’s idea of social releasers.
- The idea of an internal working model has been criticised. Bowlby argued that a child’s relationship with his or her caregiver provided a blueprint for later emotional relationships. However, this could be explained simply as some children being able to form relationships better.
- His idea of monotropy has also been criticised, as some argue that multiple attachments may be more desirable than a single primary attachment.
- Bowlby’s premise rests on an evolutionary argument; however, it is not possible to prove that attachment is innate.
Bowlby argued that attachment evolved to protect the survival of the young, otherwise they would die. Although the evolutionary approach may seem sensible and valid on the surface, it is post hoc, meaning that it is after the event. It is based on observing behaviour and then proposing a survival function to account for it. The problem with this is that any behaviour can be explained in this way, and it is also difficult to test.
Deprivation and Privation
Deprivation / separation – Occurs when a child has formed an attachment but is then separated.
Short-term separation occurs usually when infants are in day care or an infant or caregiver has a short stay in hospital.
Long-term separation can occur when families split up and one parent is given custody of the child, or when one or both parents die.
Long Term Effects of Deprivation
The Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis
Bowlby proposed the Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis, it focuses on the effects of deprivation. He argues that if the main attachment bond is broken in early years (up to 3 years) then it will have an adverse affect on the child’s emotional, social, and cognitive development.
Long-term effects of Deprivation/Separation – Bowlby’s Study of 44 Thieves:
To establish cause-and-effect relationship between maternal deprivation and emotional maladjustment based on his observations of patients at his child guidance clinic.
He had observed that children showing poor emotional development had often experienced separation/deprivation and suggested that this could result in psychological and behavioural problems later on in life.
Bowlby focused on a group of 44 children that had been referred to the child guidance clinic because of stealing.
He compared them with a control group of 44 children who were referred to the clinic because of emotional problems and not because of crime.
It was an opportunity sample of 88 children, Blowlby worked at the child guidance clinic (were the participants were selected).
Bowlby diagnosed 32% of the thieves as ‘affectionless psychopaths’, but none of the controls were.
86% of the thieves diagnosed as affectionless psychopaths had experienced maternal separation before the age of 5 years
Whereas only 17% of the thieves not diagnosed had experienced maternal separation.
The findings shows that maternal deprivation can have sever effects. It could cause permanent emotional damage
According to Bowlby, an affectionless psychopath has a lack of emotional development, characterised by lack of concern for others, lack of guilt, and inability to form meaningful and lasting relationships.
The implications were that this research could be used to inform on issues concerning parenting; in particular, the potential negative consequences of mothers working.
The Long Term Effects of Privation (Hodges and Tizard):
To investigate the permanence of long-term effects of privation (the state of a child who has never formed a close attachment with anyone) due to institutionalisation, including emotional and social effects in adolescence.
This followed Bowlby’s claim that maternal deprivation would cause permanent emotional damage, and earlier contradictory research by Tizard, which suggested that the negative effects of privation could be reversed.
65 children who had been taken into care before the age of 4 months formed an opportunity sample.
This was natural experiment, using a matched pairs design, as the institutionalised children were compared with a control group who were raised at home.
It was a longitudinal study, (age on entering care to 16 years). By the age of 4 years, 24 had been adopted, 15 restored to their natural home and the rest remained in the institution.
The children were assessed at ages 4, 8 and 16 on emotional and social competence through interview and self-report questionnaires.
At the age of 4, children had not formed deep attachments, and they were highly attention seeking.
By age 8, significant differences did exist between the adopted and restored children. Most of the adopted and restored children had formed close relationships with their caregivers and were as attached as the control group. However at school they were very attention seeking and tended to be unpopular with their peers.
At 16 the adopted children were still closely attached with their adoptive parents, where as the attachment bond was fragmented between the restored children and their parents. Both the restored and adopted children were less likely to have a ‘best friend’ or be part of a group or liked by other children. Many displayed bullying behaviour.
Their study suggests that early privation had a negative effect on the ability for some of the children to form relationships especially outside of the home with other peers and adults.
Some of the effects of privation can be reversed, as the children were able to form attachments in spite of their privation.
However, some privation effects are long lasting, as shown by the difficulties that the institutionalised children faced at school.
This suggests a need for research into possible reasons why the adopted children fared better than the restored children and the importance of high-quality subsequent care if the effects of privation are to be reversed.
Hence, there are practical implications for care home, adoption, and fostering practices.
- Problems of a longitudinal study include the sample drop-off. Hodges and Tizard noted that the adopted children who remained in the study had shown better adjustment at age 4. In contrast, the restored children who remained in the study had shown more adjustment problems at age 4. Thus, the sample drop-off left a biased sample.
- This biased sample may have distorted the difference between the adopted children and the restored children, because the adopted children were better adjusted at the start of the study.
- Consequently, the findings may lack validity, which reduces their meaningfulness and generalisability.
- As this was a natural experiment, the IV cannot be directly manipulated, and so cause and effect cannot be inferred. Therefore, it cannot be said that privation causes long-term social and emotional effects, such as the difficulties the children had forming peer relationships. At best privation can be implicated in this effect, meaning that conclusions are limited.
Day care is a temporary alternative of care for a child / children from the main caregiver. It can take many forms from nurseries, childminders, playgroups etc.
Kinds of Day Care – Day Nurseries and Childminders:
Day nurseries are organisations set up to care for pre-school children during the day. They are usually employed by fully qualified staff.
Kagan et al studies nurseries by setting up their own in Boston. The intake was of middle and lower class families from various ethnic groups.
They focused on 33 infants who attended the nursery full time from the age of 3½ months, and compared them with a matched home control group.
The children were assessed for 2 years, measuring attachment, sociability cognitive skills and they found no significant differences between the nursery and home children.
This suggests that day care does not cause harmful effects on a child’s development.
Andersson conducted a large-scale study in Sweden and also concluded that day care had few negative effects on children and in fact many children benefited from the care.
However, day care in Sweden is of very good quality, particularly because it is so well funded by the Swedish government.