Attachment is a strong emotional tie that develops over time between an infant and their primary caregiver(s). It is a reciprocal tie because each partner is attached to other.
4.General orientation of behaviour towards the primary caregiver
Maurer and Maurer (89) attachments ‘are welded in the heat interactions’.Thus, attachments depend on interaction between two people rather than simply being together.
Maccoby (80) identified four characteristic effects of this tie:
1.Seeking proximity, particularly in times of stress
2.Distress on separation
3.Pleasure when reunited
Development of attachment
How do attachments form?
- Infants are physically helpless and need adults to feed, care for, and protect them without such assistance they would not survive.
- Infants are likely to have an innate tendency to form attachments, increasing their chances of survival, because attachments are reciprocal, it is likely that adults are also programmed to want to form attachments to their children.
- Short-term benefits of attachments are that it provides food and safety for children.
- Long-term benefits of attachments are that it has fundamental importance for emotional relationships.
- Imprinting in animals (Lorenz, 52) has been adapted as a theory for the first relationships in humans, the infant’s first relationship acts as a template for all other relationships. Bowlby (81) called this the internal working model, a mental model of the world that allows individuals to predict, control and manipulate their environment. Individuals have many models or schemas, some are concerned with environment or organismal which tells us about ourselves and our relationship with the others. One of which is our relationship with our primary caregiver, this model provides a basis for all others. There is also evidence that imprinting in humans affects later sexual relationships. The Westermack effect (Westermack, 81) describes the fact that the more time children spend together before the age of 6, the less likely they are to form sexual relationships in later life, this reverse imprinting is important for avoiding incest. Shepher (71) found that not one of the 3000 Israel marriages involved individuals from the same Kibbutz.
Stages of the development of attachments
Stages of the development of attachments
Schaffer and Emerson (64) investigated this and found that there were certain identifiable stages or phases in infant development.
Schaffer and Emerson (64) conducted a study to produce descriptive data about attachment. They studied 60 infants from a mainly working class area of Glasgow. The infants were observed every four weeks until they were 1 year old and then again at 18 months. Observations were conducted in the children’s homes, they used two measures of attachment: separation anxiety (distress by infants when separated by their caregiver) and stranger anxiety (distress shown by infants when a stranger is present). They found that specific attachments begin at 6-8 months, fear of strangers begins a month after that in all children. Intensely attached infants tend to have very responsive mothers, who meet their needs quickly. Those that don’t respond quickly tended to have less intense attachments. By 18 months, very few infants are only attached to one person (13%). One third of attachments, had five or more attachments. Fathers were rarely the sole object of attachment (3%).
Phase of attachment: Age range: Characteristics of phase: Pre-attachment phase 0-3 months At about 6 weeks, infants begin to treat other humans differently from objects by smiling and gurgle at them. Indiscriminate attachment phase 3-7 months Infant can distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar people but is quite happy to be comforted by anyone. Discriminate attachment phase 7-9 months Infant distinguishes between carers and strangers and exhibits distress or separation anxiety when left alone (they have developed object permanence) and may be fearful of the strangers. Multiple attachment phase 9+ months Attachments develop with other people (for example, grandparents or brothers and sisters), although the original attachment remains the strongest.
This 'stage' approach is all-well-and-good but it largely ignores individual differences: Infants develop different types of attachments at different rates. It is also specific to Western society, as other cultures were not studied.
Types of attachment
Assessing secure and insecure attachments
- Mary Ainsworth developed a rigorous method of measuring attachment in a procedure called the Strange Situation. This study was important to allow psychologists to study the strength of attachments. Ainsworth and Bell (70) classified children as belonging to one of three groups: 1. SECURE (TYPE B)
2. INSECURE either AVOIDANT
3. or AMBIVALENT (TYPE C).
The Strange Situation
Takes place in a laboratory with a set of attractive toys and furniture. The assessment is made between 12-18 months. It tried to measure organization of attachment rather than amount. It takes place over a sequence of events:
1. The mother and child are introduced to the room.
2. The mother and child are left alone, the child can investigate the toys.
3. A stranger enters the room and talks with the mother. The stranger gradually approaches the infant with a toy.
4. The mother leaves the child alone with the stranger, and the stranger interacts with the child.
5. The mother returns to greet the child. (repeated)
Assesing The Strange Situation
Children with insecure-avoidant attachment styles turn their attention to the environment. They may not react when their mother leaves the room or when she comes back. Perhaps this is because they have learned that nurturance will not be forthcoming from their mothers/inconsistent mothering over the first year.
Children with insecure-ambivalent attachment styles are unable to disengage from the mother. While most children may whimper or cry when their mother leaves the room, they will usually pacify themselves and begin to settle and play. Children with insecure-ambivalent attachment styles may not be able to calm themselves. When the mother returns, they may also begin to scream and rage, rather than to be pacified, or they may alter between wanting their mother and then pushing her away when she attempts to comfort them. Secure children will represent a balance between over-involvement with the environment or with the mother. They might explore the environment, but as the strange situation proceeds, their balance of behavior will increasingly tip towards proximity-seeking and contact-maintaining behavior. They will use the mother as secure base, or a reference point, from which to explore the world, going off to play for a bit, and then coming back to reunite with the mother, only to go off and play once again.
What causes the different types of attachment?
· Originally Ainsworth and Bell, supported that secure attachments were the result of the responsiveness of the mothers to their child’s needs. There are believed to have been flaws in the study as raters were aware of the meaning of the categories and so knew which were which categories so bias could have come into it. A better controlled study by Isabella et al. (89) found a close relation between responsiveness of the mother and attachment as predicted as by Ainsworth. Schaffer and Emerson found similar results, the closer the mother’s responsiveness, the more securely attached they are.
· An alternative is the Temperament hypothesis put forward by Kagan (82), he suggests that innate temperamental characteristics might account for behaviour in the strange situation rather than being as a result of a caregiver’s behaviour. Research has shown that babies that cannot attend to people well later develop insecure attachments (Waters, 78).
Evaluation of strange situation
· The argument is that the test measures behaviour that is characteristic of the child, whereas the critics claim that it is the relationship that is being tested. Research shows that infants can have different attachments with different parents, attachment to mother and father can be very different (Lamb, 77). There are many intervening variables that may mean it does not measure what it claims to.
If attachment is vital to development and later life, you would predict that separation would have a negative effect on the individual. Short-term effects of separation: Separation protest
Robertson and Bowlby (52) described the immediate response to separation as the ‘protest-despair-detachment’ (PDD) model. The children in their study were between 1 and 4 years of age, they were placed in a residential nursery or were themselves hospitalised.
1.The initial PROTEST involved crying, grizzling and calling the name of the mother, with the child appearing distraught and panic-stricken.
2.Protest reactions typically gave way to DESPAIR, where the child became apathetic, uninterested in their surroundings, cried occasionally and had a continuing need for their mother.
3.This in turn was followed by DETACHMENT as the child cried less and became more alert and interested. The detachment at first seemed to suggest recovery, but this seems to have been at the cost of suppression of feelings for the mother. When the mother returned, the child responded to her with a lack of interest and was often angry and rejecting.
The extent of the distress varies according to the initial security of attachment as well as individual temperamental differences and also experience. The caregiver themselves may also feel separation anxiety.
If infant-caregiver separation continues for a prolonged period, the result is likely to be severe anaclitic depression in the infant. Spitz (45) first used this term to describe the severe progressive depression found in institutionalised infants, resulting from prolonged separation from their mothers. The term anaclitic means ‘arising from emotional dependency on another’. Spitz and Wolf (46) studied 100 apparently normal children who became seriously depressed after staying inn hospital. They observed that the children generally recovered well if the separation lasted less than three months. Longer separations were rarely associated with complete recovery.
Later research has found similar reactions in primates. Hogg et al. (94) examined the effects of a 24-week separation on 3 infant gorillas that had been living with their mothers. During separation infants’ behaviour initially showed threat responses which is characteristic of anaclitic depression. Upon reunion, the infants did not immediately engage in attachment behaviours with their mothers and spent more time in contact with each other.
Criticisms of the protest-despair-detachment model
Barrett (97) examined films made by Robertson and Bowlby of children who were separated from their caregivers, and claimed that the children’s initial response to separation could be better described as a determined effort to cope rather than to protest. Barrett came up with a more complex account of the effects of separation that was related to individual differences. A securely attached child may show little protest and cope relatively well, whereas an ambivalent or avoidant child would be plunged more immediately into protest and despair and would become quite disorientated. This version has the advantage of acknowledging the active role of the child and the interactive nature of the relationship. It’s disadvantage comes in that it is overly complex and leading to an underestimation of the effects of separation.
Separation through hospitalisation
Robertson and Robertson (71) showed that given appropriate preparation and care, children could adjust to separation from their mother. The Robertson’s were successful in minimizing the distress of children whom they cared for on separate occasions in their own home. They prepared the children for separation, they visited the Robertson’s house beforehand, and during the separation the Robertson’s talked about the child’s mother. In comparison, the Robertson’s also studied a cheerful, affectionate 18 month old boy who was taken into residential care for nine days. He became progressively more withdrawn and despairing, despite excellent physical care. On return home, he rejected his mother, and there were severe behaviour problems throughout his childhood, including the fact that he repeatedly ran away from home. The Robertson’s demonstrated to people at the time that did not see the problems with separation, that substitute emotional care as well as physical, was vital in preventing bond-disruption and preventing emotional maladjustment.
Long-term effects of separation: Bowlby’s maternal deprivation hypothesis
Bowlby argued that if an infant was unable to develop a ‘warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his mother (or permanent substitute)’ then the child would have difficulty forming relationships with other people and be at risk of behavioural disorders. This is the maternal deprivation hypothesis. The main evidence came from his own work, however, there were a number of other studies conducted around the time of the Second World War that indicated a key role for separation. Spitz and Wolf (46) study mentioned that of Robertson’s indicated that separation may lead to subsequent emotional maladjustment.
Bowlby’s 44 thieves study: Bowlby (44) conducted a study with 88 clients from the child guidance clinic. 44 of the children had been referred to the clinic because of stealing. Bowlby identified some of these children as ‘affectionless psychopaths’. This group acted as a control. Bowlby interviewed the children and their families and was able to build up a record of their early life experiences. He found that a large number (86%) of those thieves diagnosed as ‘affectionless psychopaths’ had experienced ‘early and prolonged separations from their mothers’, whereas very few of the non-psychopathic thieves or the other children had experienced such separations.
This suggests that early separations may well be related to later emotional maladjustment. However, there have been a number of criticisms made about the methodology.
The data on separation were collected retrospectively and may not be reliable.
Some of the children had actually been separated for rather short periods of time and it is not clear how this causes such serious conditions.There are other methodological problems, such as the lack of true control groups and problematic sampling.
The evidence is correlational, which means that we can only say that separation and affectionless psychopathy are linked, not that one caused the other.
Evaluation of Bowlby’s maternal deprivation hypothesis
- The institutions where they were came from were deprived in many ways so it is hard to judge what had the most effect, maternal deprivation or physical deprivation?
- Not all research has shown that separations lead to maladjustment. A later study by Bowlby et al. (56) found no such ill effects. A group of children with tuberculosis was studied. They were under the age of 4 when they were first hospitalised. The nursing regimes tended to be strict and the care impersonal, but many children were visited per week by their family. Information was obtained by the children between 7 and 14 years of age. They were assessed by psychologists and their teachers were also interviewed. When the children who had TB were compared with a control group of children who had not been in hospital, it was found that there were no differences in terms of delinquency or problems in forming social relationships. Therefore, it would appear that separation does not inevitably have harmful effects, as long as bond disruption is minimized.
- Rutter (81) identified some further problems with the maternal deprivation hypothesis in a classic book Maternal Deprivation Revisited. Rutter supported Bowlby’s hypothesis in general, but felt refinements were needed, e.g. Bowlby did not distinguish between different kinds of deprivation.
- Bowlby’s work although it was later adapted, had a large impact on the way we treat children.
Privation: Case studies
Cases of Isolation: Isabelle
She was kept in isolation in a darkened room with her mother who was deaf and without speech (Mason, 42 and Davis, 47). Isabelle had rickets from a poor diet. She was admitted to hospital around 6 years of age. She behaved like a wild animal and only made croaking sounds. After 1 week in hospital she could make speech sounds and seemed to pass very quickly through the stages of speech. After 18 months, she had a vocabulary of 2000 words, could read, write and create her own stories.
Two Czechoslovakian Twins
Identical male twins were isolated when their mother died giving birth (Koluchova, 76). The children went to a children’s home for 11 months and then spent 6 months with their aunt, and then went to stay with their father and stepmother. The father was of low intelligence and the stepmother was quite cruel. The boys were restricted to the house, kept in a closet or the cellar. When discovered at 7 years of age the boys could barely walk, had acute rickets, were very fearful and their spontaneous speech was very poor. Once placed in a foster home, they made major improvements. The children are now adults and now appear to be well adjusted and cognitively able (Clarke).
Genie was found when she was 13 years of age (Curtiss, 77). Her history was of isolation, severe neglect and physical restraint; she was kept strapped to a potty in an attic. Her father punished her if she made any sound. When found, she looked as if she was 6 or 7 years of age. Curtiss described her as ‘unsocialized, primitive and hardly human’, she made few sounds and was hardly able to walk. Genie NEVER achieved good social adjustment or language, although many attempts were made. Her later foster family was found to abuse her.
Privation: studies of institutionalisation
What effects does institutionalisation have? According to Bowlby, a ‘bad’ home was better than any institution because institutions ‘convert a physically neglected but psychologically well-provided child into a physically well-provided but emotionally starved one’ (Bowlby et al. 52).
- Studies have shown that children living in orphanages did improve dramatically in terms of intellectual development when they were given emotional attention. Skodak and Skeels (49) compared the development of one group of orphans raised in a home for children who were mentally retarded (where the women gave them attention) with another group who remained in an institution. After one and a half years, the IQs of the control group fell from an average of 87 to 61 points, whereas the average IQs rose from 64-92 points, the group who were transferred to the home. Skeels (66) assessed the children 20 years later and claimed that the effects were still apparent.
- Tizard and co-workers conducted a large study over 20 years. The conclusions were again that recovery is possible given the ‘right’ individual. Some children are more resilient than others. Clarke and Clarke (79) put forward a transactional model to explain this. It may be that the adopted children in Tizard’s studies got on well within their families because their families made special efforts to love them, whereas they did not experience this outside the home and thus were made to form relationships as easily or well. This would suggest that the children’s ability to form relationships WAS affected by their early privation and reminds us of how reciprocal the nature of relationships are.
- This model is transactional because it identifies an interaction. The effects of privation are not simple, but interact with other factors so that sometimes there are no effects from privation, whereas in other situations these effects are apparent.
In Romania, many children were placed in orphanages from birth and experienced considerable deprivation. Rutter et al. (98) studied 111 Romanian orphans adopted in the UK before the age of 2. On arrival, these children were physically undersized, but by the age of 4 they had caught up spectacularly to age-related milestones. However, AGE AT ADOPTION WAS NEGATIVELY CORRELATED WITH ATTAINMENT OF DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES. The later the child was adopted, the longer children experience emotional deprivation, the longer it will take for them to recover. The picture suggests that early privation is not irreversible unless the same (privated) circumstances are prolonged. An interesting finding of Harlow’s, concerned whether to what extent deprived ( or privated) infants were able to become good parents. Thos monkeys raised by a cloth ‘mother’ went onto be abusive and uncaring parents. Quinton et al. (85) conducted a study applying that question to human behaviour. The compared the behaviour of 89 women who had been raised in residential children’s homes with a matched group of women raised in ‘normal’ homes. The women were observed interacting with their own children and were found to be, less sensitive, less supportive and less warm than the group of non-institutionalised women. Those institutionalised women that had positive school experiences in childhood and favourable psychosocial circumstances in adulthood functioned as well as the non-institutionalized group. Recovery is possible, when the child has improved care.
Evaluation of institutional studies
· Clearly, such children did not experience total privation. They may have received peer support, which as was shown by Harlow’s monkeys can compensate for lack of adult attachments. Freud and Dann (51) showed this to be the case for humans. They studied 6 war orphans, whose parents had been murdered in a concentration camp when they were a few months old. The infants had very limited contact with anyone other than each other. When they were freed from the camp, they had not developed speech properly, were underweight, and expressed hostility towards adults. However, they were greatly attached to each other. At the age of 3 they were brought to England where they were cared for in a hostel called ‘Bulldogs Bank’. These children went onto show good recovery and formed attachments with the women caring for them. Their early peer support had helped them to recover. They were also quite young when it all happened.
· Another important issue is that institutionalisation can involve more than just emotional deprivation. Romanian orphans were found to be spending a lot of their time in their cots with no intellectual stimulation or physical care. However, Widdowson (51) has found that it is emotional care that is the most important. He studied a group of orphans that were apparently malnourished and found that despite neglect they were able to develop to a normal level because they had a nurse looking after them emotionally.
Reactive attachment disorder
Some children who experience early disruptions in the attachment process do appear to be unable to recover. These are children who are diagnosed with REACTIVE ATTACHMENT DISORDER.
Symptoms: - Lack of ability to give and receive affection
- Cruelty to others especially pets
- Abnormalities in eye contact and speech patterns
- Lying and stealing
- Lack of long-term friends
- Extreme control problems
(Parker and Forrest, 93) Cause of the disorder is believed to be lack of primary attachment due to early maternal rejection and separation.
Flanagan (96) demonstrates this with the study of a young boy whose mother had not wanted him and gave him up for adoption. He went into a series of foster homes before being adopted at 18 months. However, he appeared unable to accept the affection offered by his adopted parents. As an older child he engaged in lying, stealing, sending death threats and going into wild rages. Maternal rejection: This can occur when the mother is still present, called PRIMARY REJECTORS (Jones et al. 87). These tend to be middle class women who have had an unwanted child, a difficult pregnancy, and/or experienced separation from their infant due to problems of birth. The mother may well have a good relationship with other children, and able to give appropriate physical care. Rejection starts at the time of birth and never fully recovers. Post-natal depression can also play a part in this.
Effects of day care on cognitive development
- Stimulation is important for cognitive development. Dennis (73) conducted a study of Lebanese orphanages and showed that if children had little opportunity to play or social contact, then after a year their scores on a development test were half those expected for their age. It is possible that children in day care receive less stimulation.
- A secure base for exploration is important for cognitive development. Bowlby’s theory of attachment explained that a key purpose of attachment is the provision of a secure base. Children who are insecure are less able to explore their world confidently and this may hinder their cognitive development. Hazen and Durrett (82) found that securely attached young children were more independent explorers of their environment and were also more innovative in their approach to problem-solving.
- Kagan et al. (80) did not find ill effects of day care. They assessed a group of 33 children in a day care centre in Boston, USA. The children attended the Treemont Centre full time from the age of 3 and ½ months, and we were compared with a matched control group cared for at home by their mothers. Close emotional contact was maintained in both groups. Kagan et al found no large differences between both groups.
- Andersson (92) looked at the long-term effects of day care. The advantage of this study was the length of follow-up period, which was 13 years. Again, no ill effects were found from day care, in fact those entered for day care before the age of 1 showed the highest scores for cognitive and socio-emotional develoment. Burchinal et al. (89) also found that the IQ of children entering school, after having spent time in day care, was usually higher than that of children who had been at home with their mothers.
Working Mothers Do Not Harm their Children:
It could be that the children receive a better quality of care in day care than with their mother.Mothers that go to work may be more content and happy at home so they provide better care after work than those at home all day not very content with life. Harris (78) found that women who do not work and have several children to care for, are more likely to become seriously depressed. Williams (87) claims that work increases a women’s sense of achievement, sense of personal worth and self-esteem. Schaffer (93) reported that children of working mothers tend to be more confident in social settings. Harvey (99) studied over 6000 children of women that work, he found no difference between those children whose mothers were employed and those who were not.
Effects of day care on social development
· Secure attachment is claimed to be of vital importance for emotional and social development. Clarke-Stewart et al. (94) investigated the relationship between time spent in day care and quality of attachment in over 500 children. They found that 15 month old children who experienced ‘high-intensity’ childcare (30 hours or more a week from the age of 3 months) were equally as distressed in the Strange Situation as ‘low-intensity’ children (less than 10 hours a week).This suggests that attachment is not affected by separation through day care.
· A study conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Research Network (97). They examined over 1000 infants and their mothers at age 6 months and again at 15 months. The mothers were interviewed and the infants were observed at home and, where possible, in day care. The findings showed that those infants with extensive day care in terms of their distress they exhibited during separations from their mother in the Strange Situation. It suggested that day care has no immediate effects on attachment. A build up of negative factors however, did have an cause problems, e.g. poor quality childcare, poor maternal sensitivity, more than one care arrangement.