Psychology- Attachment

Just some notes on Attachment AQA AS

  • Created by: Robbie
  • Created on: 31-05-10 16:52


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How they develop - THEORIES

CONRAD LORENZ investigated the attahchetns in animals- he noticed that newborn orphaned infants often attached to any animal in the immediate vicinity. In 1935 he conducted an experiment with gesse and found that the goose would attach to the first large mobile object that they saw after birth. he coined the term as IMPRINTING.

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- found that the mothers who had extended skin to skin contact after birth were showed more SOOTHING BEHAVIOURS such as cuddling their babies when they were given routine medical examnations ect.

- maintained a closer PROXIMITY to their babies and gazed at them more often than control group (those had the regular skin to skin contact which in those times was very little)


-This study showed that there may be a SENSITIVE PERIOD immediatly after birth where it may be important to bond with the baby.

-It also showed that it may be beneficial for babies to beneficial for fathers to be present during the birth.

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- Attachment behaviours are loosely linked to age. SEPERATION ANXIETY from attatchment figure was start from around 6-8 moonths. and STRANGER DISTRESS followed around month later.

-After initial attachment was formed, multiole attachents were formed with a variety of people who saw them regularly, e.g siblings, grandparents ect.

Sepertion Anxiety: If distress or anxiety is shown when caregiver leaves baby- indicates an attachment has been formed.

Stranger Distress: distress at sight of strangers, shows baby can distingiuish between familiar people and is anxious around those that are unknown.

- WHO? for 65% of babies in the study, the first attachment figure was the mother, whereas only 3% formed attachemnts with fathers. A further 27% formed JOINT ATTACHMENTS (to mother and father).

Intrestiginly in almost 40% of the babies, the person who cared for the child was not the first attachment figure.

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ASCOCIAL STAGE (0-6 weeks) - Babies have similar reponses to obkects and people, no preference towards sepertae people. Prefer to look at faces and eyes. Rapidly begin to learn to distinguish people by smell and voice.

INDISCRMINATE ATTACHMENTS (6 weeks to 6 months) - babies become more sociable, can tell people apart, do not prefer specific people yet, no fear at strangers.

SPECIFIC ATTACHMENTS (7 months onwards) - two changes take place around this time. baby begins to show sepration anxiety, also show stranger distress.

MULTIPLE ATTACHMENTS (10/11 months onwards) Baby shows attachemnt behaviours to several differnt people.

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- Time to make attachemnts varies between species

- in many animals attachemnt happens soon after birth (IMPRINTING), this means the youn animal is likely to foloow its mother and this increases chances of survival.

- Likely to be a sensitive period soon after birth for parent to form bonds with newborn infants.

- First attachments between babies and care giver are normally formed around 7 months, followed by multiple attachments.

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-The Theories

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- Learning Theory- Operant and Classical Conditioning

- Social Learning Explanations

- Evolutionary Explanations (JOHN BOWLBY'S THEORY)

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- Argues that attachments are based on the pricnciples of operant and classial conditioning. First attachments ar quite often a powerful source of pleasure for the baby as well as removing physical and emotional discomforts. An early version of Learning Theory was proposed by Dollard Miller (1950)


Applying Skinner's experiments to attachment:

Newborn baby will cry to feelings of discomfort, the sound of the baby is uncomfortable to caregiver who will attempt to console the baby and remove feelings of discomfort. This is rewarding for the baby who is likely to settle down. This acts as a NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT for the carer as they are likely to repeat the feeding/cuddling when the baby cries the next time.

Basically the parent learns to feed or comfrot the baby when they cry in order to stop ear-splitting crying. = Perfect system?

POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT: any behaviour that produces a reward will be repeated. Behaviours that 'switch off' something unpleasant are also likely to be repeated.

NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT: Behaviours that lead to unpleasant outcome (punishment) are less likely to be repeated.

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See pavlovs dog

-In terms of attachment, milk (from a carer) is the unconditioned stimulus, which provides unconditioned (reflex) response in the baby of pleasure at relief from hunger- this reflex response it automatic and does not need to be learned.

-The baby associates the person who feeds them (neutral stimulus) with the food, and soon on their own come to produce a learened or conditioned response. This is very similar to pets giving you their undying love when you go to the food cupboard. This can also be called the 'cupboard love' hypothesis.

-Initially it i the relief from discomfort or pleasure of feeding that is rewarding- but the caregiver soon becomes produces the same feelings of relief or pleasure via association or classical conditioning.

Evidence for this explanation:

- Schaffer ad Emmerson- the first attachment formed by 39% of babies was of those who played with them or were sensitive most towards them.

- Harlow and Harlow, and Harlow and zimmerman- 2 monkeys.

However these studies ignore instinctive aspects or (evolutionary aspects of attachment.

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Social theory proposed by Bandura (1977) argues that children and adults learn many of their behaviours through observation and imitation of the behaviour of other people who act as role models.

-Hay and Vespo argue that parents act as these 'role models'. and children learn behaviours through a number of different ways:


- DIRECT INSTRUCTION - "do not take that toy from adam" (child learns not to steal or that it is a bad thing)

- SOCIAL FACILITATIOn - Parents watch and help child carry out specific attachment behaviours- e.g. playing with friends and siblings.


- Does NOT take into accound thwhy attachments are so emotionally strong for both people involved in them.

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- Bowlby arued that attachment was an evolved mechanism that ensured survival of the child.

- Argues that attachment was instinctive. Was through a process of natural selection to ensure that baby survives, matures and reproduces.

- Babies posses instincs such as smiling and laughing so that caregivers will look after them.

- In connection, parents especially the mother posses instincts to protect baby from harm. those who have been unseecusful at this or did not have these instincs have died, and are therefore not in the genepool!

- a second important aspec of Bowblys was MONTROPY- single attachment to one person who is mostimportant to baby.

- the first attachment provided the INTERNAL WORKING MODEL or TEMPLATE for future relationships.

- Bowlby belived these attatchments took place within a sensitive period, the first 3 YEARS of childs life.

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Please ignore the spelling mistakes, these were quite rushed (exam tomorrow)



oh yeah, and let me know how useful you found this- what i could do to imporve ect. (i know about the spelling!) thanks



Nice work very useful.

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