Psychology- Attachment

attachment including day care

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  • Created by: Shauni
  • Created on: 22-05-12 19:08


Babies demonstrate attachment behaviours from around six or seven months of age.

You can tell a baby has developed an attachment by two kinds of behaviour:

  • Seperation anxiety - distress when seperated from the attachment figure
  • Stranger distress- fear of strangers

Phases of attachment:

Pre-attachment (birth-3 months): babies become attracted to humans rather than objects such as toys

Indiscriminate attachment (3-7/8 months): establish between familiar and unfamiliar things, show more acceptance towards familiar things such as smiling at family

Discriminate attachment (7/8 months): develop an attachment to a specific person such as the mother

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The Learning Explanation of Attachment (Cupboard L

  • As babies cannot feed themselves, they rely on other people to meet their biological needs for food
  • Attachments are based upon feeding
  • The baby associates the person who feeds them (usually the mother) 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 receive affection

Classical conditioning- stimulus is associated with a response

Operant conditioning- individuals behaviour is modified by its consequences and reinforcements

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Research Against The Learning Explanation:

Schaffer and Emerson:  observational study of 60 Glasgow babies Around 4 in 10 babies formed their first attachment to someone who did not feed them but who played with them Harlow and Harlow: Gave baby monkeys, who had been seperated from their natural mother, a soft cloth pretend 'mum' monkey and a wire 'mum' which fed them The baby monkeys formed an attachment to the soft cloth 'mum', showing that comfort was more important than simply providing food Contact comfort is associated with lower levels of stress and a willingness to explore, indicating emotional security This study involved animals and therefore we cannot necessarily generalise the result to humans Ethical issues: baby monkeys were seperated from their natural mother, causing them unecessary distress

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Evolutionary Explanation- Bowlby (1):

Attachments are instinctive behaviours for both babies and parents that have evolved because they increase the likelihood of babies surviving

Babies possess instincts (crying/smiling) to get others to look after them, and parents (especially mothers) possess instincts to protect and care for their babies

Babies form one attachment which is more important than all the others (monotropy)

The first attachment must be formed in the sensitive 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)

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Evolutionary Explanation- Bowlby (2):

...continued... Evaluation: Other claims made by Bowlby have been refined as we have learned more about child development:

IWMs and continuity: Hazan and Shaver's Love Quiz study found that attachments in childhood often predicted adult love relationships, supporting the IWM theory. However, attachment types can change depending on later experiences. Secure children who experience parental divorce/death may become insecure. Insecure children may develop 'earned security' from a later relationship

Monotropy: Bowlby's belief in the importance of mothering/parenting in later adjustment is widely accepted. However, Scaffer and Emerson suggest that multiple attachments rather than single attachments are common for most babies.

The sensitive period before the age of 3 is the best time for attachment to form. However, in circumstances of adoption or privation, attachments can be formed later. Tizard and Hodges found that children adopted after the age of 4 still attached to their new parents.

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The Strange Situation (Mary Ainsworth):

Sample: American toddlers aged 12-18 months and their mothers

Method: Ainsworth used controlled observation in a lab 'playroom'. 8 episodes each lasting around 3 minutes were standardised. These involved the mother briefly leaving the baby alone, then returning and a stranger approaching the baby. The episodes were designed to measure seperation anxiety and stranger distress.

Findings: babies' behaviours fell into 3 broad types or patterns.

Type A: Insecure Avoidant- largely ignored the mother when she left and returned. Treated the stranger in a similar way.

Type B: Secure- Used their mothers as safe base to explore the playroom. Upset when mother left and pleased to see her when she returned. Wary of the stranger but accepted some comfort from them.

Type C: Insecure Resistant: Upset when the mother left, but did not settle down when she returned. Alternated between being angry and clingy. Very worried about the stranger.

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The Strange Situation-Conclusion:

Ainsworth concluded that babies have different types of attachment with secure being the most common. She argued that attachment type depended upon how quickly and sensitively mothers responded to their babies.

Secure babies had mothers who responded quickly and sensitively. They felt safe when the mother was there and she looked after them consistently

Insecure babies had mothers who did not respond consistently. Some ignored their babies, and the babies learned not to expect very much (avoidant). Others responded inconsistently, so the baby became anxious and unsure how the mother would act (resistant/ambivalent)

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Cultural Variations in Attachment:

Babies are brought up in different places around the world and different qualities are encouraged in them.

Ainsworth's Strange Situation study has been repeated many times in different countries.

These studies have shown that whilst secure attachments remain the most common across cultures, there are variations between different cultures and also within cultures.

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Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg:

Carried out a meta-analysis of 32 strange situation studies in different countries.

In the UK a large percentage of mothers work and children are put into nursery or with a childminder from a young age. In Germany, working mothers are rare but young children are encouraged to be independent and self-reliant. These experiences may lead young children to show less anxiety about seperation and be classed as insecure-avoidant

Few Japanese mothers worked and babies were rarely put in nursery or left with childminders. This explains why they showed violent protest at seperation but did not settle down when the mother returned- they experience few seperations and were not used to them. This led to the increased number of insecure-resistant children.

In Israel, many children are brought up in communes. In closed communities, they are unlikely to meet strangers, which explains why they show so much fear of strangers.(insecure-resistant)

Most common order: secure, insecure-avoidant, insecure-resistant

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PDD response identified by Robertson and Robertson- study of John, little boy put in residential nursery while his mother had a baby. Showed 3 stages of reaction:

Stage 1-Protest: Child may cling to the parent to prevent them leaving and cries and screams after they have gone.

Stage 2-Despair: Child sinks into a state of hopelessness or depression. They do not seem interested in anything.

Stage 3-Detatchment: The child appears to be better. They are no longer actively distressed but appear to have 'switched off' from people.

Long-term effects: seperation anxiety

After the seperation has ended, some children may continue to show effects. They may show increased seperation anxiety about situations such as being left at nursery, which they had previously coped with.They may become more clingy or may alternate between rejection of the parent and demanding their attention.

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Factors Affecting Child Response to Seperation:


Children under about 18 months who have limited language skills find it more difficult to communicate with someone who does not know them well

Who they are left with

If this is someone close who they are also attached to the effects will be less severe, especially if the person can interpret what the child wants

Where they are left

If this is familiar (own home/grandparents' home) they may cope better than in a strange place

Experience of previous seperations

A child who has previous good seperations may cope better

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Bowlby's Maternal Deprivation Hypotheses:

The maternal deprivation hypothesis.

studied children raised in orphanages and nurseries. Saw lack of maternal care as the common factor leading to negative outcomes like poor IQ and even death

There were, however, several methodological faults with these studies

He then later did another study:

The disruption of mother-child bond results in negative outcomes, with serious and permanent damage to a child's emotional and intellectual development

compared 44 juvenile thieves with a control group of non-thieves with emotional problems. 32% of the non-thieves were affectionless psychopaths.86% of these affectionless psychopaths experienced maternal seperation compared to 17% of the thieves who were not affectionless psychopaths.

This suggests that maternal deprivation can have serious long-lasting negative effects

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Privation Case Study-Koluchova:

Early life: 
Twin boys suffered extreme privation from 18 months to 7 years. They were locked in an unheated cellar, beaten and starved. They had no human company except each other

At age 7, they were unable to talk, terrified of adults and had severe health problems


Following extensive treatment/ rehabilitation, the boys were placed in a permanent foster home. They developed normal language skills and attend mainstream schools

This study suggests that young children can sometimes recover from difficult circumstances if they receive good aftercare. It is hard to know what happened to the children during the first years of their lives. Each set of circumstances is different so we should not generalise from case studies.

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Privation Case Study-Skuse:

Early life: Two girls experienced privation from birth until the ages of 2 1/2 and 3 1/2. Their mother had learning difficulties and kept them tied to the bed with dog leads. They were prevented from talking.

Problems: When found, they had no speech and very few social skills.They did not know how to play.


Louise developed normal language skills and started school. Mary showed severe problems and was moved to a special school for autistic children

This study suggests that young children can sometimes recover from difficult circumstances if they receive good aftercare. It is hard to know what happened to the children during the first years of their lives. Each set of circumstances is different so we should not generalise from case studies.It is also difficult to know whether Mary suffered from some form of developmental delay or whether this was caused by neglect.

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Institutional Care- Tizard and Hodges:

Sample: 65 children brought up in a children's home until at least age four

Method: In this natural experiment, 65 childen were raised in a home where the physical care was good, but staff were discouraged from forming attachments to children. By the time the children were 2, they had on average 24 carers. At age 4, 25 were restored to their birth parents, 33 were adopted and the other 7 remained in care. Some of the children were followed up at ages 8 and 16.

Both restored and adopted children struggled with relationships with peers

Conclusion and implications: Children can form attachments outside the sensitive period of the first 3 years, contradicting Bowlby's theory. However, they may struggle with relationships with people who do not put in extra effort. There may have been differences between the children, which led to some being adopted and others staying in the home, which could also affect the outcome of the study.

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Can Children Recover from Privation and Institutio

Studies show that many children develop rapidly when adopted and form strong attachments. The degree of recovery depends on a number of factors:

Length of time spent in institution:

Rutter et al study of romanian children found that those who were adopted after 6 months were more likely to show disinhibited attachment patterns than children adopted at an earlier age.

Quality of emotional and physical care at the institution:

those that allow children to form attachments to staff generally do better (Dontas et al)

The quality of care after leaving the institution:

Children generally do best when placed with a family who can give them lots of care and attention (Tizard and Hodges)

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Types of Day Care:

Nursery based:

In a state or private nursery, there are lots of structured activities, play workers and children to play with.

Children receive less adult attention than in a family setting and may become frustrated or aggressive when tired.

They have lots of opportunities to make friends, learn to cooperate and share

Family based:

The child is looked after in the home by a nanny, childminder or relatives

They are likely to get more adult attention and may develop language skills more rapidly

There are fewer children to play with and less opportunities to develop social skills and make friends.

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Effects of Day Care-Peer Relations-Andersson, Camp

Studied social and cognitive progress of children attending Swedish day care

Children who had attended day care (DC) were able to get on better with other children, were more sociable and outgoing

Need to be cautious in generalising findings from one place to another. Day care in Sweden is well funded and high quality. But findings are supported by other studies.


Compared children in Sweden who attended DC between 18 months and 3 1/2 years with home-raised children, following them until age 15

Children who spend short days in nursery are more socially competent .Social competence stays around the same level from 3 1/2 years to 15 years

Study showed that quality of DC has an effect as well as time spent in day care
Children were assesed before they started DC providing a baseline to compare their social abilities. Lengthly follow up period shows possible long term effects of early DC experiences

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Effects of Day Care-Peer Relations-Schindler et al

Studied 57 children attending DC in the US. Observed over 2 weeks. Measured amount of time spent playing alone, alongside or cooperatively with other children

Positive correlation between amount of time spent in DC and amount of time spent playing cooperatively with other children

This is a correlational study so need to be cautious about claiming that DC causes more cooperative play.

Cooperative play generally increases as children get older and more able to talk- this is a confounding variable.

Other studies (e.g.DiLalla) found a negative correlation between time spent in DC and pro-social play.

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Effects of Day Care-Aggression-Campbell et al, Bel

Campbell et al: Children under 3 1/2 years who spend long days in nursery have more negative interactions with other children and are less socially competent

Small children spending long days in day care become tired and frustrated leading to more negative interactions with other children

Belsky: Analysed data from a longitudinal study of 1000 American children followed from birth

DC children showed higher levels of problem behaviours than non-DC children, including aggression towards peers and disobedience towards teachers and other adults

American DC is lower quality and less well funded than DC in Sweden.

Findings supported by Maccoby and Lewis who also found that more hours in DC correlated with more conflict with teachers

One interpretation is that children who attend DC become more confident and assertive

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The National Institute of Child Health and Develop

Examined behaviour of a large sample of children aged 4 1/2 years. Researchers collected reports about children's behaviour from parents, teachers and carers.

The more time a child spent in DC, the greater amounts of problem behaviours, including disobedience and aggression.

Used as an extremely large sample so likely to be reliable.

Study was in the US where DC is less well funded

Use of reports from parents and teachers provides well rounded data about children's behaviour.

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Evaluation of Day Care:

Both quality and quantity of DC affect the outcome for children

It is hard to draw conclusion from studies of DC as children attend for different lengths of time and start at different ages. They also have different personalities e.g a shy child might struggle more than an outgoing, confident child.

The effects of DC also depend on the home environment. A child from a disadvantaged home may revieve greater benefit than a child from a home with lots of advantages

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Implications of Research into Day Care:

Bowlby's theory states that children need a secure attachment with an adult who they can use as a safe base to explore their environment.

Many nurseries employ a key-worker system (Goldschmied and Jackson). Each key worker is the named attachment figure for a small number of children. The key worker provides a safe base so the child can play and return to them when they need a cuddle. The childminder should form an attachment with the children in their care.

Children should be able to rely on their attachment figure in times of stress or when they are frightened.

The key worker/childminder needs to be available to the child at stressful times such as dropping off and collection as studies show these to be difficult times for young children

Children can have multiple attachments with a range of different adults (Schaffer and Emerson)

Nurseries and childminders operate with a low child-to-adult ratio and follow strict rules about how many children can be looked after by one adult.

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Quality Care:

Good quality care at nurseries requires:

enough staff for children to receive individual attention

staff who are well paid and well trained so that staff turnover ( staff leaving and new staff starting) is minimised- children need continuity and consistency at nursery

small-sized groups so children are not overwhelmed by strangers

a mixed age group so that pro-social behaviours can be copied from older children

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Jenny N.


Thank you for such a detailed revision guide that I will be sure to use for my AS psychology exam in a week's time. It is most appreciated! :)

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