Schaffer Stages of Attachment

  • Created by: Sam Evans
  • Created on: 09-02-17 14:02

Key Terms

Key Terms

Stages of Attachment - many developmental theories identify sequence of qualitatively different behaviours linked to specific ages

Multiple Attachments - attachments to two or more people - most babies appear to develop multiple attachments once they have formed one true attachment to main carer 

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Schaffer Stages of Attachment

Procedure - Schaffer & Emerson

  • Mothers of 60 Glaswegian babies were visited monthly for year & at 18 months
  • Seperation anxiety - asked mothers about separation anxiety in the everyday, e.g. leaving the room
  • Stranger anxiety - observed response to unfamiliar adults, e.g. researcher


  • 50% showed separation anxiety towards mother at 25 - 32 weeks - specific attachment
  • Attachment was to most interactive caregiver
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Stages of Attachment

Asocial Stage - first few weeks

  • Little observable social behaviour but show preference to familiar adults
  • Happier in human company

Indiscriminate Attachment - 2 - 7 months

  • More observable social behaviour - preference to familiar adults
  • Accept comfort from any adult

Specific Attachment - 7 months

  • Majority start to display separation/stranger anxiety to 1 particular adult - usually PA figure

Multiple Attachment - 1 year

  • Attachment behaviour directed towards more than 1 adult - SA figures
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Asocial Stage - L

  • Babies have poor co-ordination & are immobile
  • Therefore, hard to make judgements based on behaviour observation - lacks validity 

Conflicting Evidence - L

  • Bowlby states babies form PA's before secondary/multiple attachments
  • Ijzendoorn et al state collectivist culture see families help from outset so SA's form from birth
  • Contradicts Schaffer's findings and conclusions

Measuring Multiple Attachments - L

  • Babies showing separation anxiety doesn't mean they've formed attachment
  • Schaffer & Emerson fail to distinguish between SA's & playmates - distress shown when playmates leave
  • Limitation as no way to tell difference between playmate or SA distress
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Good External Validity - S

  • Observation done in ppts homes & parents reported findings
  • Babies behaviour unlikely to be affected by others presence
  • Behaviours were natural increasing validity

Longitudinal Design - S

  • Same children followed up & observed regularly
  • Better internal validity - no individual differences between ppts

Limited Sample Characteristics - L

  • All families from same area & over 50 years ago
  • Child rearing have changed since then
  • Can't generalise findings to modern day
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