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Classical Conditioning:

Baby learns associations between different things in the environment. Getting food gives baby pleasure. Baby becomes attached with person feeding them- associates caregiver with food. Baby feels secure around caregiver as they satisfy baby's psychological needs.

Operant Conditioning:

Dollard & Miller: Babies feel discomfort when hungry and desire to get food to remove the discomfort. If baby cries, mother will feed them, removing the discomfort (negative reinforcement) and baby is happy (positive reinforcement). Mother associated with good prodicing attachment behaviour (distress when separated). Reinforcements also come from signs of childs happiness and development e.g. mother may be excited by baby achieving milestones (sitting up, first words, etc.)

Social Learning: Bandura- children learn through imitation and observation of role models.

Vespo & Hay- parents are role models and teach children how to carry out and understand relationships. 3 components: Role modelling, Direct instruction (teach child to reciprocate affection) and Social Facilitation (help child carry out attachment behaviours).

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Evaluation of the Learning Theory

(+) Plausible and scientifically reliable explanation.

(-) Schaffer & Emerson studied attachments formed by 60 infants from birth and found that a significant number formed attachments with someone other than the one doing the feeding, nappy changing, etc and that the primary attachment was often with the father not the mother. Quality of interaction most important, stronger attachments formed with person most sensitive and responsive.

(-) Harlow experimented with attachments formed by rhesus monkeys and surrogate mothers. One of the surrogate mothers was an uncomfortable wire framed model that dispensed food, the other was a padded model that didn't provide food. They cuddled up with and were more distressed by the absence of the comfortable surrogate which means we can conclude conditioning doesn't explain attachment in infant monkeys as they are not linking food with pleasure. 

(-) It is extremely reductionist as it only considers learned responses and doesn't take into account emotion and thought.

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Adaptive: Attachments adapt, giving our species an "adavptive advantage". If an infant has an attachment to the caregiver, they are kept warm, safe and given food.

Social Releasers: Babies have these to "unlock" the innate tendency of adults to care for them. These can be both:

Physical- typical 'baby face' features and body proportions. Behavioural- e.g. crying, cooing.

Critical Period: Attachment must be formed between birth and 3 years old. Bowlby believed if this didn't happen, child would be damaged for life- socially, emotionally, intellectually and physically.

Monotropy: Infants form one very special attachment with their primary caregiver. If mother isn't available, they could bond with another ever-present adult (mother substitute).

Internal working model: formed through monotropic attachment. It is a special mental schema for relationships. Begins in early childhood and influences the child's later relationships through to adulthood (continuity hypothesis)

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Evaluation of the Evolutionary Theory

(+) Support for the critical period comes from Lorenz who found goose chicks had a Critical Period of just a few hours in which to imprint (form attachment). If they didn't imprint within this time, they never would.

(+) Very influential and applied in practical situations, particularly hospitals, children's homes and fostering policy.

(-) Concentrates on mother's role, neglecting the father who is seen to be of little significance. Later research has shown the father can play a useful role. Lamb suggests tha often children prefer the rough and tumble play they get with their father.

(-) Schaffer and Emerson provided evidence against Bowlby's claims about monotropy. They found that many children form multiple attachments and may not attach to their mother.

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STRANGE SITUATION (Ainsworth and Bell)

Procedure: 100 middle class American infants and their mothers. Controlled observation of mother and child during set of pre-determined activities.                                                                    Observed:

  • Separation anxiety: unease infant shows when left by caregiver
  • Infant's willingness to explore
  • Stranger anxiety: the infant's response to the presence of a stranger
  • Reunion behaviour: the way the caregiver was greeted on return

Stages One and Two: Mother and infant go into room to get used to it before observation begins. Stage Three: Mother is in room and stranger enters.                                                                        Stage Four: Mother leaves and the stranger interacts with infant.                                              Stage Five: Mother returns (reunion behaviour recorded).                                                           Stage Six: Mother leaves and the infant is left alone (separation protest is recorded).               Stage Seven: Instead of mother, the stranger returns (stranger anxiety behaviour recorded).   Stage Eight: Mother re-enters the room and stranger leaves (reunion behaviour recorded).

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Results of the Strange Situation

Securely Attached (70%)

  • Are willing to explore using mother as 'safe base'
  • Show some separation anxiety when mother leaves
  • Are easy to soothe/greet mother positively
  • Show high stranger anxiety when approached by stranger

Insecure Avoidant (15%)

  • Are willing to explore- don't orientate towards mother
  • Show low separation anxiety when mother leaves
  • Show avoidant behaviour when mother returns
  • Don't show high levels of stranger anxiety- unconcerned


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Results and Evaluation of the Strange Situation

Insecure Resistant (15%)

  • Are less interested in exploring when mother is present
  • Show intense distress when mother leaves
  • Cling to mother on return, but then may push her away
  • Infant avoids the stranger- shows fear of stranger

Conclusion: There are significant individual differences between infants. Most American children are securely attached. Appears to be a distinct association between the mother's behaviour and the infant's attachment type.

(+) Efficient, can measure lots of behaviours quickly and easily bring in lots of participants.             (+) Replicable, method has been employed world wide                                                                         (-) Validity, location is different from child's normal environment. However infants may experience new locations quite naturally e.g. baby sitter, at play group.                                                              (-) Generalisation, culture bias (middle class Americans)                                                                   (-) Ethical issues: protection of participants, informed consent, right to withdraw

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CULTURAL VARIATIONS (Van Ijzendoorn + Kroon.)

Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg

Carried out a meta analysis studying over 2000 babies, analysing 32 studies in 8 different counties using the Strange Situation. Investigated attachment types across and within cultures.

Secure attachments were most common in all cultures. Lowest proportion of secure attachments was in China, the highest was Great Britain and Sweden.

Avoidant attachments were most common in West Germany and very rare in Israel and Japan.

Resistant attachments most common in Israel, China and Japan. Sweden had the lowest.

Three studies carried out in West Germany showed very different findings. In Japan, one study had no avoidant attachments whereas another had 20% again supporting different findings. Therefore we can't assume all children are brought up the same in a similar culture.

Conclusion: Secure attachment is the 'norm' as it is the most common attachment in all countries. The findings also support the idea that secure attachment is 'best' for healthy social and emotional development.

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Evaluation of Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg

(+/-) Large sample size due to using meta analysis. More variables considered, making findings easier to generalise. However methodologies may have been different- difficult to compare. Some studies may have suffered investigator effects.

(-) 18 out of 32 studies were carried out in the U.S. (culture bias). 27 of the studies were done in individualistic cultures and only 5 from collectivist cultures, implying sample may not be truly representative.

(-) Strange situation was developed in America and may be suited to studying attachment behaviours in this type of culture. Goldberg argues that we can only make valid interpretations of the strange situation in cross-cultural studies if we understand the attitudes to child rearing in that culture.

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Evaluation of Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg

(+/-) Large sample size due to using meta analysis. More variables considered, making findings easier to generalise. However methodologies may have been different- difficult to compare. Some studies may have suffered investigator effects.

(-) 18 out of 32 studies were carried out in the U.S. (culture bias). 27 of the studies were done in individualistic cultures and only 5 from collectivist cultures, implying sample may not be truly representative.

(-) Strange situation was developed in America and may be suited to studying attachment behaviours in this type of culture. Goldberg argues that we can only make valid interpretations of the strange situation in cross-cultural studies if we understand the attitudes to child rearing in that culture.

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A bond/attachment is formed, then broken.                                                                                     Robertson & Bowlby studied  a child named 'John' who spent 9 days in residential nursery and put forward three stages of short term effects of separation (PDD).                                                         1) Protest: screams and protests when parent leaves, clings to parent and may try to escape from others who pick them up.                                                                                                                    2) Despair: child starts to calm down, although still upset. Likely to refuse others' attempts to comfort them and appear withdrawn and uninterested in anything.                                                                                                                                              3) Detachment: If separation continues, child may begin to engage with others again although they may be wary. Likely to reject caregiver on their return and show signs of anger.                 

Long term effects                                                                                                                                 1) Extreme clinginess: cling to parent when they try to leave, in anticipation of separation.            2) Detachment: may refuse to be hugged, behaviour may be designed to protect them from being hurt again.                                                                                                                                           3) Child may be more demanding of their attachment figure.                                                     Factors affecting the child's response to separation: age, type of attachment, sex of child, whom the child is left with, quality of care received, experience of previous separations

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Child has never formed a close relationship with anyone.

Kuluchova (The Czech Twins): JM + PM- mother died when they were 18mths old. They were locked in a cellar and subject to regular beatings by their step mother from age 2 till 7. They had no contact with the outside world. They had rickets, communicated mostly in gestures and had no spontaneous speech. They developed normally showing no signs of psychological abnormaliy when assessed at the age of 14. Recovery can be accredited to the two women who adopted them. Both formed good relationships and married and enjoyed stable relationships later in life.

(+) Demonstrates effects of early privation are reversible. Bowlby's critical period is wrong?

(-) Twins had each other = not completely isolated- possibly formed attachments with each other. 

(-) Raised in a normal environment till 18mths, they may have formed attachment with mother.

(-) Follow up study could be intrusive, making them feel like objects.


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Substantial period of time spent living in an institution e.g. orphanage/children's home.

Negative effects of intitutionalisation: Physical problems, cognitive impairment, increased aggression, problems with peers, attention seeking behaviour, inapropriate physical contact, problems with later relationships.

Rutter et al: longitudinal study comparing Romanian orphans adopted by UK families with UK born adoptees. 58 were adopted before 6 months, 59 adopted between 6 - 24 moths, 48 classes as late placed adoptees (2 - 4yrs). Interviewed/observed at ages 4, 6 ,11

By 6yrs, children making good recoveries, but late adoptees had a much higher level of disinhibited attachment (attention seeking behaviour/inappropriate contact) In 2007, he returned to children (aged 11) and found some had made recoveries but half diagnosed with the condition at 6, still had it. Long term consequences may be less severe if they have the opportunity to form attachments.

(+/-) Self report technique    (+/-) Natural study     (+/-) Longitudinal study- gains insight/attrition

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Institutionalisation (Tizard and Hodges)

 Tizard & Hodges: Longitudianl study, researched 65 children at 4 months old. Caretakers forbidden to form attachments. By age 4, 24 had been adopted, 15 restored to biological parents and 26 remained in institution. Children were assessed at ages 4, 6 and 16 by observations and interviews with parents and teachers. At each age, a control group was used to make comparison.

At age 4 and 8: Adopted group had fewest behavioural problems. Adopted & restored were more attention seeking, clingier & less likely to form close relationships. Adopted group were more physically affectionate than the norm. At school all 3 groups were unpopular, restless & aggressive.

At age 16: Adoptees had entirely normal relationships but only half the restored children had strong relationships with their parents. All 3 groups had poor relationships with peers/less likely to have a definite friend.

Conclusion: Institutionalisation can have long term effects, privation may be partially reversible.

(-) Small sample size- 20+ children couldn't be found by end of study- hard to generalise             (+/-) Natural experiment   (-) Sample bias- probably selected children easiest to get on with to be adopted (according to temperament hypothesis, easier children are better in later life). (-) Attrition

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DAYCARE- Peer Relations

Refers to temporary form of care.                                                                                                 Types:

  • Nursery: free for children 3yrs+ Trained staff, often attached to school, inspected by Ofsted.
  • Childminder: must be registered, child goes to minder's home, inspected by Ofsted.
  • Nanny/au pair: looks after child in child's home.
  • Informal arrangements: e.g. relatives or neighbours, often unpaid, received little research.

Social Development: Concerns growth of child's abilities to interact with others and behave in a prosocial manner.

Improves peer relaions: Clarke Stewart: studied 150 children attending school for the first time. Those who attended nursery coped better in social situations and interacted better with peers. Conclusion: day care helps social development and improves peer relaions. (-) small study

Decreases peer relations: DiLalla: correlational study into time spent in daycare and prosocial behaviour. Found negative correlation: children who spent more time in daycare were less cooperative and helpful in their dealings with other children. Conclusion: daycare can harm peer relations. (+) useful contrasting study. (-) can't establish cause and effect

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DAYCARE- Aggression

Increases aggression: EPPE project: Studied over 3000 children in UK between 3 and 7yrs.

Sammons et al: analysed data showing there is a slight risk of antisocial behaviour when children spend 20hrs+ per week in daycare. Risk noticeably increased when 40hrs+ per week in care.

Melhuish: noticed increased aggression amongst children whose carers were constantly changing. Conclusion: Day care can increase anti social and aggressive behaviour. The longer children stay in care environment where they lack a constant care figure, the more pronounced aggression is.      

(+) Supported by the US NICHD study        (-) Culture bias

Decreases aggression: Shea et al: video taped 3-4 yr olds at playtime during first 10wks of nursery. Children became more sociable the longer they were at nursery. Amount of aggressive behaviour decreased. Changes were greater in children attending for 5 days a week compared to those attending 2 days a week. Conclusion: daycare can increase sociability and decrease aggressive behaviour.

(-) Children could behave different to what they normally do.

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Evaluatuon for Day Care

  • Types of daycare used differ between studies, because of this, adult-child ratios and number of peers present will vary between studies and impact on child's behaviour. 
  • Age commencing childcare and time spent in daycare also vary between studies with some looking at children who started in their first year and are spending 40hrs a week there, while others start later and spend perhaps only a couple of days a week.
  • Temperament of the child is hardly ever mentioned but is clearly going to affect child's reaction to daycare.

Quality Day Care: Campbell et al:

  • Appropriate adult-child ratio
  • Small groups- easier for young children to mix
  • Mixed age groups- older ones act as role models
  • Low staff turnover-prevents feelings of insecurity when adults leave
  • Well trained staff who appreciate attachment theory
  • Stable attachment figure- a key worker who is responsive and warm to child
  • A structured day- routines help child feel environment is predictable- essential for feeling safe
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