Psychology: Attachment- Key Words

Key words from 'Pyschology AS The Complete Companion' on the attachment section for the unit one exam.

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Is an emotional bond between two people. It is a two way process that endures over time. It leads to certain behaviours such as clinging and proximity seeking and serves the function of protecting an infant.

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Primary Attachment Figure.

The person who has formed the closest bond with a child, demonstrated by the intensity of the relationship. This is usually a child's biological mother, but other people can fulfil the role- an adoptive mother, a father, a grandmother etc.

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The Learning Theory of Attachment.

These theories suggest that a child is born Tabla Rasa and that the process of forming an attachment is a learnt process. There are two learning theories of attachment, classical conditioning and operant conditioning.

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Classical Conditioning.

This theory involves learning through association. It suggests that a child learns to associate their mother with food and this is how the attachment is formed. Food (uncoditioned stimulus) naturally produces a sense of pleasure (unconditional response) in the child. The person who feeds (conditioned stimulus) the infant becomes associated with food; pleasure therefore becomes a conditioned response. This associaton between the person and the sense of pleasure is how the attachment is formed.

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Operant Conditioning.

Dollard and Miller presented am explanation for attachment based on operant conditioning. They suggested that a hungry infant feels uncomfortable and this creates a drive to reduce this discomfort. When the infant is fed, the drive is reduced and this produces a feeling of pleasure. Food becomes a primary reinforcer because it reinforces the behaviour in order to avoid discomfort. The person who supplies the food is associated with avoiding discomfort and becomes a secondary reinforcer, and a source of reward. Attachment occurs because the child seeks the person who can supply the reward.

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Bowlby's Evolutionary Theory of Attachment.

Bowlby believed that attachment is a behavioural system that has evolved because of its survival value and, ultimately, it's reproductive value.  According to Bowlby, children have an innate drive to become attached to a caregiver because attachment has long-term benefits. He believed that if a child failed to form a strong attachment to their mother they'd struggle to form good relationships when they're older.

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Refers to characteristics that are inborn, a product of genetic factors. Such traits may be apparent at birth or may appear later as a result of maturity.

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Continuity Hypothesis.

The idea that emotionally secure infants fo on to be emotionally secure, trusting and socially confident adults.

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Internal Working Model.

A mental model of the world that enables individuals to predict and control their environment. The internal working model based on attachment has several consequences:

-In the short-term it gives the child insight into the caregiver's behaviour and enables the child to influence the caregiver's behaviour, so that a true partnership can be formed.

-In the long-term it acts as a template for all future relationshops because it generates expectations about how people behave.

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The idea that the one relationship that the infant has with their primart caregiver is of special significance.

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Sensitive Period.

A biologically determined period of time during which the child is particularly sensitive to a specific form of stimulation, resulting in the development of a specific response or characteristic.

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Social Releasers.

A social behaviour or characteristic that elicits a caregiving reaction. Bowlby suggested that these were innate and adaptive, and critical in the process of forming attachments. Social Releasers can be physical (large eyes, small nose) and social (cooing, smiling).

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Temperment Hypothesis.

The belief that children form secure attachments simply because they have a more 'easy' temperment from birth, whereas innately difficult children are more likely to form secure attachments and later relationships.

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Secure Attachment.

This is a strong and contented attachment of an infant of to his or her caregiver, which develops as a result of sensitive responding by the caregiver to the infant's needs. Securely attached infants are comfortable with social interactions and intimacy. Secure attachment is related to healthy subsequent cognitive and emotional development.

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Insecure Attachment.

This is a form of attachment between infant and caregiver that debelops as a result of the caregiver's lack of sensitive responding to the infant's needs. It may be associated with poor subsquent cognitive and emotional development.

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Insecure- Avoidant.

Style of attachment characteristics those children who tend to avoid social interaction and intimacy with others.

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Insecure- Resistant.

Ambivalent attachment characteristics those who both seek and reject intimacy and social interaction.

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Insecure- Disorganised.

The emphasis on the other forms of attchment is of consistent behaviour. There are those who argue that there is aslso a type characterised by a lack of such consistent patterns of social behaviour.

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Seperation protest/anxiety.

The distress shown by an ingant when seperated from his/her primary caregiver.

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Stranger Anxiety.

The distress shown by an infant when approached or picked up by someone who is unfamiliar.

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Cultural Variations.

The ways that different groups of people vary in terms of their social practices, and the effects these practices have on development and behaviour.

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Refers to all the rules, customs, morals and ways of interacting that bind together members of a society or some other collection of people.

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Collectivist Culture.

Any culture that places more value on the 'collective' rather than the individual, and on indterderpendence rather than independence. The opposite is true of Individualist Cultures.

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Disinhibited Attachment.

A type of disorganised attachment where children do not discriminate between people they choose as attachment figures. Such children will treat near-strangers with inappropriate familiarity and may be attention-seeking.

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Describes the result of institutional care. An 'institution' is a place dedicated to a particular task, such as looking after children awaiting adoption. An institution is a place where people live for a period of time as opposed to day care or outpatient care where people go home every day. In the past such institutions had strict regimes and offered little substitute emotional care.

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The lack of having any attachments due to the failure to develop such attachments during early life.

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Day Care.

This refers to a form of temporary care not given by family members or someone well known to the child, and usually outside the home. It is sometimes referred to as 'non-parental care'.

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Social Development.

This aspect of a child's growth concerned with the development of sociability, where the child learns how to relate to others, and with the process of socialisation, in which the child acquires the knowledge and skills appropriate to that of society.

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