Psychology AS - Developmental Psychology

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Key Behaviours of Attachment

  • Separation Protest - infant cries when primary care giver (PCG) leaves them.
  • Exploration Behaviour - explore new environments when PCG is present.
  • Stranger Anxiety - infant cries when left with a stranger (stranger picks them up).
  • Joy on Reunion - infant is happy to see PCG when they return.

Attachment is a strong emotional and reciprocal bond between two people, especially between an infant and it's caregiver. (Cardwell 1996)

Maccoby (1980) suggests 4 characteristics of this bond:

  • Seeking proximity
  • Distress on separation
  • Pleasure when reunited
  • General orientation of behaviour towards the PCG

Schaffer and Emerson (1993) a close emotional relationship between two persons characterised by mutual affection and a desire to maintain closeness.

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Schaffer and Emerson (1964)


  • Studied 60 infants (0-18 months) from Glasgow
  • Observations once a month in infants home


  • 54% showed their mum as their primary caregiver
  •  3% showed their dad as their primary caregiver
  • 27% showed both their parents as their primary caregiver
  • Remaining showed no attachment


  • Stages of attachment (next card)


  • High ecological validity because results can be applied to real life.
  • Parents may be subject to demand characteristics and therefore alter babies behaviour.
  • 1964: women stayed at home more so doesn't relate to society today.
  • Lacks population validity - only 60 and all from Glasgow.
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Stages of Attachment

0-2 months: Pre-Attachment

  • Infants display indiscriminant social responsiveness and hence display no preference to anyone.

2-7 months: Attachment in the Making

  • Begin to recognise faces and smile to people. They tend to smile more when key people they recognise are around and don't cry at new people.

7 months: Attachment Proper

  • The infant is now attached to PCG only. This is the first and special attachment. Display stranger anxiety and separation protest.

8 months: Multiple Attachments

  • Once initial attachment is made, they quickly form others with people they see frequently. However, these bonds are not as strong as the first.

8-24 months: Reciprocal Relationships

  • The infant rewards PCG to maintain care. Cry/talk to trigger response.
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The Strange Situation - Ainsworth (1970)


The child and mother are placed into a laboratory setting containing toys; this is an unfamiliar environments for both the child and the mother. There are 8 stages:

  • Mother and infant enter the room. (exploration behaviour)
  • Stranger enters and talks to mum. (stranger anxiety)
  • Mother leaves the room. (separation proteset and stranger anxiety)
  • Mother returns. (joy on reunion)
  • Stranger leaves. (exploration behaviour)
  • Mother leaves. (separation protest)
  • Stranger returns and tries to play with infant. (stranger anxiety)
  • Mother returns. (joy on reunion)


  • Distinct differences in behaviour and different types of attachment.
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Types of Attachment from Ainsworth (1970)

Secure Attachment

  • 70% of infants
  • Infant displays all four key behaviours

Insecure Resistant

  • 15% of infants
  • Infant shows extreme separation protest - screams a lot
  • Rejects PCG on return - push them away due to fear of being left again
  • Normal amounts of stranger anxiety 
  • Not as confident with exploration - constantly check that PCG is there

Insecure Avoident

  • 15% of infants
  • Avoid all social interaction
  • No exploration - sit where they are and play with whatever is there
  • Ignore strangers - no response
  • Not bothered generally with separation protest 
  • Minimal response to joy on reunion
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Reasons for differences in attachment

Sensitive Responding

  • Actions of the PCG - should respond when an infant cries by cuddling or feeding
  • Starts to form trust and build a bond
  • Insecure: infants haven't has someone to meet their needs - PCG has to leave

Maternal Depression

  • Anxiety: stress
  • Social withdrawl
  • Low self-esteem
  • No motivation
  • Sleep deprivation
  • This can lead to no sensitibe responding causing an insecure attachment

Temperant Hypothesis

  • Infants are born with their own temperant which influences how they interact with others
  • Social - happy, smile, interact lots - cause PCG to be rewarded, encourages caring behaviour
  • Slow to warm up - not very responsive, don't smile as much - cause PCG to try less - no reward
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Culture in relation to attachment


  • People are encouraged to be the best that they can be and strive to achieve.
  • Promote the individual and support them in achieving their potential.
  • Applies to the western world (UK, USA, most of Europe, Australia and Canada).


  • Tribal communities are collectivist.
  • Everyone works together to achieve a united goal, working for the greater good.
  • Each person has a job/role which benefits everyone, not just themselves.
  • Applies to the non-western world.
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The Learning Explanation of Attachment

  • As babies cannot feed themselves, they rely on other people to meet their biological needs for food.
  • Attachments are based on feeding.
  • The baby associates the person who feeds them with the pleasurable sensations of being fed and relief from hunger (classical conditioning).
  • The mother becomes a positive reinforcer (operant conditioning) as she provides rewards for the baby.
  • Attachments may also be learned via observation and modelling (social learning theory).
  • Parents act as role models for children, teaching them how to give and recieve affection.
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The Evolutionary Theory of Attachment - Bowlby

  • Attachments are instinctive behaviours for both babies and parents that have evolved because they increase the likelihood of babies surviving.
  • Babies posses instincts such as crying and smiling to get others to look at them, and parents possess instincts to protect and care for their babies.
  • Babies form one attachment which is more important than all others (monotropy).
  • The first attachment must be formed in the snesitive period before the child reaches the age of three.
  • The first attachment provides the baby with a model of how loveable they are and how trustworthy other people are. It also provides a prototype or internal working model (IWM) of how relationships work.
  • The attachment formed as a child affects later adult relationships (the continuity hypothesis).

Studies to support the evolution theory over the learning theory

  • Schaffer and Emerson (1964) - Observational study of 60 Glasgow babies - Around 4 in 10 babies formed their first attachment to someone who did not feed them, but that played with them.
  • Harlow and Harlow (1958) - Gave baby monkeys, who had been separated from their natural mother, a soft cloth pretend 'mum' monkey and a wire 'mum' monkey that fed them - The baby monkeys formed an attachment to the soft cloth 'mum', showing that comfort was more important than simply providing food.
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Factors impacting attachment - Separation

Definition of separation when the PCG leaves for an extended amount of time or they pass away

Impact - Separation Anxiety

  • Clingy, Demanding, Avoid/Reject Carer


  • Protest - infant cries/screams
  • Despair - withdrawn (feeling lost)
  • Detatchment - look for others to form attachments to


  • Gender - boys are affected more than girls by separation anxiety
  • Age - problems occur if infant is less than 5 years (able to understand if 5+)
  • Who left with - if put into care then sep anx occurs, if left with relative or family friend then ok

Ways to prevent

  • Sensitive responding - emotional, there for them
  • Visits to PCG - understand they will be okay and are returning
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Studies into the effects of Separation

Robertson and Bowlby set out at studying the effects of separation on infants when they become alarmed at just how distressed some of them appeared to be from going into hospital.

They filmed Laura twice a day for 40 minutes using an unbiased time sampling technique while she was in hospital, separated from her primary caregiver(s).

They found that the film showed Laura went from being calm to showing incredible distress and begged her parents to stay on many occasions.

It was these films that changed the restrictions on visiting hours.


  • Lacks population validity and no generalisations can be made - only one girl
  • High in ecological validity - naturally occurring situation
  • Unbiased time sampling - true representation of overall behaviour and can be rewatched
  • No demand characteristics - she did not know she was being filmed
  • Not unethical - not subjecting her to separation
  • Shows how stressful separation can be
  • Supports stages of separation anxiety - extreme protest and despair
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Studies into the effects of Separation

Robertson (1968-73) looked at how 5 different children coped in residential care. 4 children were placed into foster care where they recieved sensitive responding, whilst the other child was placed into residential nursery with no substitute emotional care.

They were all under 3. The 4 in foster care kept to their regular home routines and were taken to see their mum in hospital. They adjusted well and did not reject their mum when she returned.

The child in a residential nursery started off fine, interacting with carers but when attention was not given although it was wanted the child played up (breaking down, refusing food, stops playing and cries a lot) eventually giving up on gaining attention and rejecting the PCG on return.

It was concluded that when bond disruption occurs and there is no substitue emotional care, an infants will show despair and this will result in detatchment.


  • Lacks population validity
  • Visits to PCG and sensitive responding stops separation problems
  • High in ecological validity 
  • No filming - Robertson's own perspective (researcher bias)
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Factors impacting attachment - Privation

Defintion of privation when an infant does not have a strong attachment (true isolation - no interaction)


  • Cycle of privation (rare) - if they go on to have children, they will not know how to interact/engage with people correctly or feel uncomfortable and therefore cause privation in their children.
  • Reactive attachment disorder (common) - due to mistrust, won't allow themselves to become close to someone. If they do, they will push them away because they don't know how to cope with a close relationship.
  • Social skills - awkward around people, mistrusting and happy in their own space.
  • Reduction in intellectual ability (isolation only) - depends on time in isolation, impact can be severe. After 12 years language development becomes very difficult.

Koluchova (1976)

  • Two twins were isolated form 18 months - 7 years. They were given food and water. At 7 years they were adopted into a caring home. By the age of 20, they had above average intelligence and were comfortable in social environments. 
  • This completely criticises but is not true privation because they had each other and through creating their own language, formed an attachment and sensitive respnding was available.

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Factors impacting attachment - Institutionalisatio

Definition of institutionalisation when an infant is placed into care (focus on care homes, not foster care).


  • Disinhibited attachment (attention seeking, no fear of strangers, get very close to adults, no personal space)

Inside care homes

  • Poor conditions (food/water, warmth)
  • High staff turn over (carers told not to form attachments - stops favouritism and stops children becoming upset if carers leave)
  • Low carer to child ratio (no time for sensitive responding)


  • Being adopted by a caring family, the earlier the better.


  • Rutter (2007) - Romania
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Day Care and Social Development

Types of daycare (3 months - 5 years)

  • Nursery - lots of children, lots of adults, lots of interaction for the infant 
  • Childminder - a few children, one adult, lots of interaction with children (not as much as nursery)
  • Nanny/Relative - one adult plus siblings, limited interaction (not new to the infant) 

Effects on social development

  • Nursery - good effects as lots of adults to guide the infant
  • Nanny/Relative - lower social development - think it's acceptable to engage with other children how they do with siblings

Social development looks at social skills (how children interact with each other)

  • Aggression - push, slap, snatching, throwing, biting, scratching, pulling hair, shouting
  • Pro-Social Behaviour - sharing, helping, cuddles, manners, being quiet
  • Peer Relations - an infants ability to get on with other infants

Good peer relations = pro social behaviour

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Research into Day Care - Campbell (2000)


  • 48 Swedish children who attended day care were monitored to see whether they differed in terms of their social development.
  • The children attended different day care setting and were divided up as follows:              9 children = childminder, 30 children = nursery, 9 children = childminder then nursery.
  • They were initially observed at 18 months before starting day care and then between 18 months and 3.5 years they were observed at home and at day care.
  • After this, the children were observed and assessed by teachers at 6.5 years, 8.5 years and 15 years of age.


  • Long days in day care = low social competence (more aggressive behaviour = poor peer relations)
  • Short, frequent days in day care = high social competence (good pro social behaviour)
  • High quality day care = developed better social skills.
  • Social skills are normally developed by the age of 3.5 years and remain constant up until 15 years when the children were last monitored.
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Research into Day Care & Social Development

Posititve Impact - good peer relations

  • Children in day care have increased opportunity to develop social skills because they mix with other adults and children other than family (Bailey 2008).
  • Anderson (1989) reports that children in day care are more social and outgoing.
  • Clarke-Stewart (1991) found that children who attend nurseries have better social development.
  • Field (1988) and Frank have found that day care encourages infants to play in a more cooperative way.
  • Stewart (1994) found that children who attended day care were able to negotiate with their peers.
  • Creps (1999) children who attend day care before 6 months are more sociable than those who attend day care later.

Negative Impact - aggressive behaviour

  • Belsky (2006) found that children in day care had advanced cognitive abilities, but showed aggression to their peers.
  • Field (1988) found those who had day care argued more with teachers.
  • Lewis (2003) found that the more hours spent in day care before 4.5 years increased problems at school and lower social skills.
  • DiLalla (1988) found a negative correlation between time spent in care and pro-social behaviour.
  • NICHD (1991) studied 1000 children from diverse backgrounds and 10 different locations and concluded that day care causes increased aggression.
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Comparing different types of day care

Melhuish (1990) compared 3 groups of children in London who started day care before they were 9 months old.

There were 3 different day care settings:

1. Relatives - highest language skills & lowest pro-social behaviour

2. Childminder - middle language skills & pro-social behaviour

3. Nursery - lowest language skills & highest pro-social behaviour

This suggests that it may be a case of 'swings and roundabouts'. Where some children gain from their childcare others miss out and vice versa. 

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