Psychology: Early Social Development AQA A

Early Social Development

  • Created by: Jasmine
  • Created on: 29-04-11 22:22

Definition of Attachment

Schaffer (1993): a close emotional relationship between two persons, characterised by the mutual affection and a desire to maintain proximity.

Maccoby (1980): Characteristics of attachment- Seeking proximity, separation anxiety, pleasure when reunited, general orientation towards the primary caregiver.

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Explanations of attachment: Learning Theory

All behaviour is learned therefore attachment is also learned. Attachment is based solely on food and the drive for food.

Classical conditioning: Baby feels hungry => caregiver feeds baby => baby experiences pleasure => association of caregiver and feeling of pleasure without feeding.

Operant conditioning: Baby feels hungry and cries => caregiver feeds baby => baby is rewarded with feeling of pleasure, caregiver is rewarded by content baby => association of caregiver and pleasure. Food is a primary reinforcer, the caregiver is a secondary reinforcer.

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Explanations of attachment: Learning Theory cont.

Harlow and Harlow (1962) carried out a study into attachment by separating infant monkeys from their mothers. The monkeys were given a cloth mother with milk. The milk was then transferred to a wire monkey with no comfort. The monkeys stayed with the cloth mother until the drive for food became too much and they moved to the wire mother. The monkeys fed until the drive for food was satisfied and then immediately returned to the cloth mother. This undermines the Learning theory because it shows the importance of comfort

+ Became a stepping stone for future reseach.

- Highly unethical, the monkeys were psychologically damaged and couldn't live with other monkeys.


+ Became stepping stone for future research and models.

- Very reductionist; undermined by Harlow et al. who said that comfort was just as important as food.

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Explanations of Attachment: Social Learning Theory

Babies learn by imitation as well as by direct reinforcement.

Called vicarious reinforcement which is the effect of seeing others on behaviour as a reinforcer.

Hay and Vespo (1988) said that parents deliberately teach their children to love them by modelling affection, by direct instruction and by social facilitation (using others to model positive relationships).


+ Generated much further research and models.

- Durkin (1995) pointed out that it is doubtful that strong emotions can be entirely taught.

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Explnations of Attachment: Evolutionary Perspectiv

Bowlby (1969) said that attachment was important for survival; infants need someone to care for them. Babies are therefore born with an innate ability (programmed into them) to form an attachment with their primary caregiver to increase the chances of survival.

Attachment is a reciprocal process, there can't be an attachment if one party is unwilling, thus meaning that adults are also innately 'programmed' to attach to their infants.

Short-term benefit: ensures food and safety.

Long-term benefit: provides a template for relationships, internal working model.

Features of the theory:

  • Infants and carers have an innate ability to form an attachment.
  • Attachment is a biological process, it must form within a critical period.
  • Attachment plays a role in later deveopment.
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Explanations of Attachment: Evolutionary Perspecti

1. Innate programming

Bowlby (1969) said attachment could be understood using the principles of evolution.This means infants are born 'programmed' to attach. Social releasers are elicited by the child such as crying, smiling, looking appealing and cooing providing an innate reaction within the caregiver.

Lorenz (1937) hatched goose eggs and acted as mother to the goslings, goslings are likely to attach to the first moving object they see, Lorenz in this case. He  used two groups, one set of eggs with mother and the other in an incubator. The goslings when hatched followed Lorenz and not their real mother.

2. Critical period

If an attachment does not form within the first 2.5 years then it will not form. This was altered to a sensitive period where attachment can form after the first 2.5 years.

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Explanations of Attachment: Evolutionary Perspecti

3. Continuity Hypothesis

The relationship between one special attachment figure (monotropy) provides an infant with an internal working model of relationships.

  • Secure children develop a +tive working model as a result of a caring, responsive primary caregiver.
  • Avoidant children develop a -tive internal working model if their parent is rejecting.
  • Ambivalent children develop a -tive internal working model if their parent is inconsistent.

Sroufe et al.(1999) followed a group of children from 1yr to adolesence. Throuhout their childhood the children were seen by trained observers and completed activities. Children rated as securely attached had more initiative, higher self-esteem and self confidence.

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Explanations of Attachment: Evolutionary Perspecti


+ Major theory of attachment.

+ Generated alot of research.

+ Had a huge impact on the emotional care of children.

- Doesn't explain why some children can cope with poor attachment experiences.

- Low correlations between attachment level and style of parenting.

- Shaffer and Emmerson (1964) proved that babies can have more than one attachent figure.

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Types of Attachment

  • Securely attached - distress when separated from caregiver, easily consoled
  • Insecure-avoidant - unconcerned by caregiver absence, sometimes ignored
  • Insecure-resistant - distress when separated, rejecting when reunited, ambivalent caregiver

Ainsworth and Bell (1970): White, middle class infants as the sample; One by one the infants were put into a room. The infants were observed when:

  • Mother and child entered the room.
  • Mother and child are left alone to explore and play.
  • A stranger enters the room and talks to mother. Begins to interact with child.
  • Mother leaves room, stranger attempts to interact with child.
  • Mother returns to greet and comfort child.
  • Mother and stranger leave child alone.
  • Stranger returns and tries to interact with child.
  • Mother returns and picks up child, stranger leaves inconspicuously.

66% = secure      22% = insecure-avoidant      12% = insecure resistant.

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Types of Attachment cont.

Evaluation of Strange Situation:

+ Generated much research into cross cultural variations.

+ Identified the 3 main attachment types.

+ SSC is reliable as many of the children studied had same results later in life.

- Did not have a varied sample, only used white, middle class with their mothers.

- Puts stress on participants.

- Cannot get fully informed consent. (They're babies after all!)

Temperament hypothesis: Some babies are easy to bond with, babies that are sickly and cry all the time are hard to bond with.

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Cross-cultural variations

Most research has been conducted in America, with American norms, mores and values. Any categories used in the SSC impose an etic onto other cultures that use them. They are not technically correct.

Takahashi (1990) carried out SSC in Japan with 60 middle class children and their mothers:

68% = secure.      0% = insecure-avoidant.      32% = insecure-resistant.

In Japan it is the cultural norm to do everything with your child, this means there would be little or no insecure-avoidant children as it is seen as rude.

Van IJzendoorn and Kroonenberg (1988) carried out a meta-analysis and found in West Germany:

57% = secure.      35% = insecure-avoidant.      8% = insecure-resistant.

This shows the norm that German children are brought up to be independent and not need their mothers to be content.

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Disruption of Attachment: Deprivation

Deprivation - the loss of attachment relationship.

MDH (Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis) Bowlby (1953):

  • MDH focuses on the importance of a continuous relationship between a child and caregiver. If relationship is discontinuous (e.g. with separations) it becomes unstable & disrupts development of relationship.
  • Development of continuous relationship must take place in critical period (2.5 yrs) if development disrupted then child is likely to be emotionally disturbed. Until the age of 5 children are still sensitive to separation.
  • Child must form a relationship with primay caregiver (maternal, motherly figure)

Effects of Deprivation, Bowlby (1944):

86% of theives diagnosed as 'affectionless psychopaths' had experienced early & prolonged separation from their mothers. 17% of theives not diagnosed as affectionless psychopaths had had attachment disruption. 4% of 'non-thieves' had had attachment disruption.

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Disruption of Attachment: Separation (Deprivation

Robertson et al. (1971): showed that separation didn't have to result in emotional deprivation.

  • A boy called John was in a residential nursery while his mother was in hospital. The staff cared for him physically but were too busy to look after him emotionally, he became more withdrawn and when he was collected by his mother he ran away from her. He continued to show outbursts of anger months after he returned home.
  • The Robertsons fostered children while their carers were ill, they found that if emotional ties are kept between caregiver and child then the effects of separation aren't as great. To keep the emotional ties activities can be undertaken for example; drawing a picture for the carer when they return, talking about home and the carers and visiting the carers if possible.

Evaluation of MDH:

+ Generated much research into attachment and deprivation.

- Deprivation doesn't always lead to maladjustment.

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Disruption of Attachment: Privation

Privation - attachment relationship never developed.

3 main types of evidence into privation:

  • longitudinal studies into institutional care
  • case studies of children raised in extreme isolation
  • studies of reactive attachment disorder, a category of mental disorder attributed to a lack of early attachment

Hodges & Tizard (1989) caried out a longitudinal study into the effects of institutional care. They followed children who were in care from 4 months old, there was a policy preventing the caregivers from forming attachments with the children. The children were assessed at various periods over 16 years.

They found that adopted children (adopted by the age of 4) had close attachment with their parents, this was not the case with restored children (returned to their biological family). However both groups were more likely to seek adult attention and approval than a control group of children, both groups were less successful in peer relationships.

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Disruption of attachment: Privation (cont.)

Curtiss (1977) researched Genie, a case study into extreme isolation, was found aged 13. She is a victim of severe physical and emotional neglect, she was never spoken too and was physically restrained, strapped to a childs potty. She was punished if she made a sound. At age 13 she appeared to be 6 or 7 years old. Genie never achieve good social adjustment or languae despite being placed with a foster family.

Flanagan (1996) looked into a case study of a young boy whose mother put him up for adoption. He then was transferred through foster homes until at 18 months was adopted. He was unable to accept the affection his adoptive parents gave him and later in life engaged in lying, stealing, sending death threats and flew into wild rages of anger.

The case study of Genie suggests that the effects of privation are not reversible, even with good aftercare. Other cases such as the Czech twins (1976) suggest that when found young enough and with good aftercare they can recover. However the twins may have formed an attachment with each other when in isolation together. Privation can be reversible given the right circumstances.

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Types of day-care:

  • Day nurseries: 26-40 children in the UK. Should be a ratio of 1:8 staff to child aged 3-5. 1:4 aged 2-3. 1:3 aged less than 2.
  • Childminders: maximum of 3 children in their care usually in their homes. Childminders are registered and inspected by Ofsted.

Quality of Day-care:

  • A good staff to child ratio ensures emotional needs are met.
  • A low staff turnover means children can form attachments with the staff.
  • Physical provisions to help children develop independent skills.
  • Staff training enables children to have an educational and enjoyable time.

Day-care can affect a number of things in a childs life such as:

  • Aggression
  • Peer Relations.
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Effects of Day-care


NICHD study - found that more time spent in day-care => more evidence of later problem behaviours.

EPPE study - too much time in day care in the first 2 years leads to anti-social behaviours later on.

  • Group based day-care where caregivers are constantly chning = aggresion more likely.

Peer relations:

Field (1991) - more time in day-care = more friends.

DiLalla (1998) - Day-care can inhibit socialisation in some children.

  • Children in group based day-care have no more negative behaviours than those in home-based day-care.
  • Group based day-care more likely to produced sociable children.
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Implications on child-care practices

Schaffer (1998) suggested that consistency and quality of day-care is important.

  • A centre must ensure a minimal staff-turnover and making sure that a member of staff is available at all times.

Quality can be improved by:

  • Increasing the amount of verbal interaction between caregiver and child.
  • Giving sensitive emotional care.
  • Having enough stimulation (toys, books etc.)

Research into attachment has improved hospital admissions involving young children. Robertson and Robertson (1971) showed that the negative effects of separation could easily be avoided. As a result, childrens' wards now routinely allo parents to stay with their children and actively involve them in planning their care.

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