Research in to attachment

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Harry Harlow (1959)

A: Investigate whether food was enough to create attachment; he tested the 'cupboard love theory'

P: Sixteen baby monkeys were used, four in each of four conditions. A cage containing a wire mother producing milk and a cloth mother, A cage containing a cloth mother producing milk and a wire mother, A cage containing a wire mother producing milk, A cage containing a towelling mother producing milk. The amount of time spent with each mother, as well as feeding time, was recorded. A loud noise was used to test for mother preference during stress. A larger cage was also used to test the mokeys' degree of exploration

F: Monkeys preferred to cling to the cloth mother when given a choice, regardless of whether she produced milk; they even stretched across to feed from the wire mother. Monkeys with only a wire mum had diarrhoea; a sign of stress. When frightened, monkeys clung to the cloth mum. Monkeys with towelling mothers explored more and visted the surrogate more often.

Co: Monkeys have an innate, unlearned need for contact comfort, suggesting that attachment is more to do with comfort than food. It is associated with lower stress and willingness to explore

Cr: This study involved animals, so it may be hard to generalise to humans. There are ethical issues involving the separation of baby monkeys and the stress purposely caused to them

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The Strange Situation - Mary Ainsworth et al (1978

A: To see how young infants between 9 and 18 months behave under conditions of mild stress and novelty, testing stranger anxiety, separation anxiety and the secure based concept.

P: It was a novel environment. Five catagories were recorded in 8 episodes, invloving the child, carer and a stranger, 1.proximity and contact seeking behaviours, maintaing, 3.proximity and contact avioding, and interaction resisting, behaviours. Every 15 seconds the behaviour was recorded and scored on an intensity scale of 1 to 7.

F: The babies explored more when just the mother was present. 15% were insecure-avoidant, ingoring their mother and showing indifference towards her, 70% were securley-attached, playing happily while the mother was present, became upsert when she left, wanted comfort on return and calmed down quickly. 15% were insecure-resistant, became fussy and wary and horribly distressed on mum leaving and couldn't be comforted on return

Co: Sensitive mothers see things from the baby's perspective, interpreting signals and responding apprioprately to the needs; mothers were accepting, cooperating and accessible; have securely attached babies; insensitive mothers have insecurely attached babies

Cr: Assumes that attachemnt types are fixed characteristics, but classifiation can change if family circumstances change. It lacks ecological validity as it was done in a lab.

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Schaffer and Emerson (1964)

A: Investigate whether the learning theory was correct and whether primary carers were the main source of attachment

P: Conducted a longitudinal study of 60 babies every 4 week throughout their first year, then again at 18 months. Mothers were asked about the babies protests in separation situations, including being left alone in a room, left with a babysitter and being put to bed

F: Babies were clearly attched to people who were not involved in their physical care (noteably fathers). 39% of cases, the mother (usually the main carer) was not the baby's main attachment figure.

Co: Feeding is not the primary explanation for attachment. Schaffer (1971) commented that the 'cupboard love theory' puts things the wrong way round, babies do not 'live to eat' but 'eat to live'. They are active seekers of stimulations, not passive recipients of nutrition. Nannies, etc. often provided food, yet the baby still viewed the mother as the primary attachment figure.


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