Studies in Child Psychology (Edexcel A2)

Collection of studies used in child psychology A2.  I've condensed it down to as little as possible to make it easier to remember.

If you can think of anything else that would be good to add, just comment below.

  • Created by: Emma
  • Created on: 15-06-11 20:51

(1) Mary Ainsworth, 1969 "The Strange Situation"

Structured observation of parent-child interactions

Laboratory experiment

Observing: the child's response to a stranger, separation from the mother, reunion with the mother

Standardised procedure:

  • 1 - the child and carer are placed in a empty room
  • 2 - the child is free to explore
  • 3 - a stranger enters, greets the mother and attempts to play with child
  • 4 - the carer leaves the child with the stranger
  • 5 - the carer re-enters and the stranger leaves
  • 6 - the carer leaves the child alone
  • 7 - the stranger re-enters
  • 8 - the stranger leaves and carer re-enters
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(2) Results: Mary Ainsworth, 1969 "The Strange Sit

Secure attachment:

  • Moderate anxiety to stranger
  • Moderate distress at separation
  • Happy and calms quickly at reunion

Anxious avoidant:

  • No distress at stranger
  • No distress at separation
  • No interest at reunion

Anxious resistant:

  • Very distressed at stranger
  • Very distressed at separation
  • Seeks but then rejects comfort at reunion
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(3) Evaluation: Mary Ainsworth, 1969 "The Strange


  • standardised procedure (high reliability as this allows for replication)
  • laboratory experiment (controlled environment, which reduces extraneous variables)


  • unethical - no protection from harm, issues with right to withdraw (up to the parent to withdraw the child)
  • artificial laboratory setting (low ecological validity)
  • demand characteristics (the mothers were aware that they were being studied, which possibly affects behaviour)
  • validity issues - the study may be measuring reaction to the situation opposed to attachment (Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg)
  • simplistic classifications - securely attached, anxious avoidant, anxious resistant (some argue attachment is far more complex than these)
  • infant behaviour is difficult to analyse and categorise
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Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg (1988)

  • Conducted a meta-analysis of 38 studies using the strange situation in 8 countries
  • found inconsistencies with the results
  • this suggests that the strange situation is not a culture-free test of attachment
  • instead, it is probably measuring cultural differences in parenting styles as much as it is measuring parent-child attachments

Israel: children live in Kibbutz communities, babies are cared for collectively, and so isolation is stressful (high % of secure attachments and anxious resistant attachments)

Japan: mothers never leave their babies alone and so isolation is stressful (exceedingly high % of secure attachments)

Germany: independence from carers is encouraged, and so isolation is not stressful (high % of anxious avoidant)

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Bowlby's Theory Of Attachment

  • Bowlby accepted the evolutionary explanation of attachment behaviour
  • Added aspects of psychodynamic theory (early childhood experiences determine later adult personality and emotional development)
  • Identified 4 important aspects of attachment:

1 - Monotropy

2 - Social releasers

3 - Internal working model

4 - Maternal deprivation hypothesis

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Bowlby's Theory Of Attachment: Monotropy

Bowlby believed that there is a single (mono) predominant relationship, typically with the mother.

This is crucial to healthy psychological development

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Bowlby's Theory Of Attachment: Social releasers

Instinctive, proximity-promoting behaviours from the infant, which encourage social interaction with others.

Laughing, crying, gurgling, smiling

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Bowlby's Theory Of Attachment: Internal working mo

The first relationship creates a template/model for all subsequent relationships that the child will form

This will influence the child's own parenting behaviour

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Bowlby's Theory Of Attachment: Maternal Deprivatio

Like Lorenz, Bowlby believed in a critical period within which attachment must occur (first 2 years of life)

If privation or deprivation occurs during the first 2 years of life it will have a detrimental effect on the child's development:

  • Affectionless psychopathy - lack of emotion, empathy and feelings
  • Developmental retardation - specifically low intelligence
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