Unit 1:Developmental Psychology

Developmental Psychology in a nutshell, for AQA Psychology A AS

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  • Created by: Amy
  • Created on: 18-05-12 16:00

Definition of Attachment

  • attachment is a strong, emotional, reciprocal bond between an infant and their main caregiver
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Explanations of Attachment: Learning Theory

  • attachment is learnt from our environment
  • Classical Conditioning- based on Pavlov's experiment, food (unconditioned stimulus) gives pleasure (unconditioned response), mother (neutral stimulus) is paired with food, this still creates a feeling of pleasure, therefore the infant learns to associate the mother with food and pleasure, mother (conditioned stimulus) gives pleasure (conditioned response) whether food is present or not.
  • Operant Conditioning- hunger makes an infant feel discomfort, but food (primary reinforcer) removes this negative state and as the mother (secondary reinforcer) is the person that provides the food she is also associated with removing the discomfort associated with hunger.


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Evaluation of Learning Theory


  • Supports Nurture- suggests we can develop an attachment bond from our surroundings and learning rather than just from biological processes.
  • Lab Based- Classical conditioning is a standardised/scientific procedure which can be repeated- more reliable


  • Reductionist-only focuses on the fact that attachment is based on food, ignores nature and the fact that attachment could be instinctive.
  • Contradicting Research- Harlow and Harlow's monkeys were given the choice between a wire monkey wire food or a fleecy monkey without food, all sought the fleecy monkey- suggests contact comfort is more important than food.
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Explanation of Attachment: Bowlby's Theory (also k

  • attachment is instinctive, born with a natural survival technique to bond emotionally
  • Monotropy- all infants develop one special attachment bond with their main caregiver
  • Reciprocal- the bond is a two way thing, the infant and mother both programmes to attach.
  • Social Releasers-infant demands caregiving reaction from mother by crying
  • Critical Period- attachment must develop in the first 2 1/2 years or not at all
  • Internal Working Model-views a person has about themself, based on care recieved during childhood and strength of attachment bond- determines success of future relationships.
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Evaluation of Bowlby's Theory


  • Supports Nature- suggests attachment is biological and instinctive- designed to aid survival
  • Research Support-attachment type and therefore internal working model found to influence success of relationships in adult life.


  • Reductionist- ignores nature, learning attachment from environment and the process of classical conditoning
  • Alternative Temperant Hypothesis- uses personality as basis for being better at forming later relationships, rather than attachment type and internal working model.
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Types of Attachment- Mary Ainsworth- The Strange S

  • child placed in room with toys, 1 way mirror allows observation, mother and stranger- measure attachment between infant and mother
  • Tested 3 types of Behaviour:
  • Seperation Anxiety- when mother left the room
  • Stranger Anxiety- when stranger was present
  • Reunion Behaviour- how infant responded when mother returned


  • Controlled Observation-standardised procedure easily repeated-reliable
  • Practical Application- secure children found to be more popular at nursery


  • Artificial Environment- lacks ecological validity- may not generalise
  • Biased sample- only used white middle class americans
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Type A-Insecure Avoidant

  • 15% of original study
  • played contently- behaviour not orientated towards mother
  • not affected by seperation- no visibal distress
  • rejects stranger
  • reject mother on return- do not seek comfort
  • internal working model- believe they are unworthy of attention as carer is rejecting
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Type B-Secure

  • 70% of original study
  • use mother as safe base to explore and play
  • distress on seperation
  • accept some comfort from stranger
  • seek proximaty to mother on her return
  • positive internal working model- positive self image as carer is emotionally available and supportive
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Type C-Insecure Resistant

  • 15% of original study
  • wary of surroundings/ stay close to mother
  • great distress on seperation
  • reject stranger completely
  • when mother returns- want to picked up but then demand to be put down immediately
  • negative internal working model- negative self image and exaggerate behaviour for attention as carer is inconsistent
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Cultural Variations in Attachment: Van Izjendoorn

  • meta-analysis of studies from 8 different countries, all using the strange situation observation technique
  • Type B (Secure) found to be most common in all countries
  • Type A (Avoidant) found to be more common in the West, such as Germany as independance is a desired trait
  • Type C (Resistant) found to be more common in the East, such as Japan


  • Meta-analysis- provides large amounts of data across cultures with similar findings- therefore more reliable
  • Gives insight into cultural variations in attachment


  • Unknown details of individual studies/ varying sample sizes- reduces validity
  • Too simplistic- very generalistic of culture and parenting- greatest variation actually found within certain cultures not across different cultures.
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Cultural Variations in Attachment: Takahashi

  • study using 60 Japanese infants age 1
  • findings: 68% secure, 32% insecure resistant
  • 0 insecure avoidants- would be seen as rude to ignore parents in this culture
  • in 90% of cases, the seperation episode had to be stopped as the infants suffered extreme distress- in everyday life Japanese children are rarely seperated from their parents.


  • Ethical- part of the study was stopped when P's became distressed in order to minimise the risk of prolonged psychological harm.


  • Unethical- extreme distress caused to the infants, potentially psychological harm.
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Deprivation (Disruption of Attachment)- Bowlby's 4

  • 88 P's aged between 5 and 16 years old
  •  44 classed as "non thieves"- just suffered from emotional problems
  • 44 classed as "thieves"-anti social behaviour
  • of the 44 Thieves 16 were classed as Affectionless Psychopaths (AP's) which meant they didnt show any remorse or guilt for their actions- of these 16 86% were found to have suffered early and prolonged seperation from their main caregiver.
  • of the non AP's who were Thieves 17% had also suffered from early and prolonged seperation
  • Conclusion: early prolonged seperation leads to at best emotional problems and at worst affectionless psychopathy.


  • Practical Application- gives insight into the effects of early and prolonged seperations.
  • Supports Bowlby's Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis (attachment must be continuous, develop within critical period and have Monotropy to devlelop an internal working model)


  • Retrospective data-based on memories- therefore may be unreliable
  • Correlational-only suggests link not cause and effect between seperation and AP
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Privation (Failure to Form Attachment)- Curtis, Ge

  • Genie was found age 13, after being locked in a room where she was physically restrained to a potty chair, given little stimulation and was recieved no contact from other people.
  • possibly mentally ill from birth
  • when she was found and given aftercare and speech therapy she made improvements in vocab, but her grammar and sentence structure remained poor.
  • she then regressed after being mistreated in a care home.
  • Conclusion: suggests effect of privation is not always reversible- depends on length of privation and aftercare recieved. Genie did make progress but she did suffer privation for 13 years and then was not always given appropriate aftercare.


  • Detailed Qualitative Data- very descriptive-gives insight into casestudy
  • Ethical- the privation was naturally occuring and therefore was not artificially created.


  • Lack of objectivity- therapist was also psychologist and Genie's main caregiver-potential bias
  • Unethical-not given fully appropriate care after- perhaps more of a scientific interest
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Privation- Czech Twins

  • found age 7, after being locked in a cellar by their stepmother- beaten and starved.
  • were adopted and formed strong emotional bonds with their adoptive parents and good peer relationships
  • suffered no psychological harm and developed average intelligience


  • Suggests effects of privation can be reversible
  • Research support- Harlow and Harlow's monkeys developed without maternal parents


  • Could be argued that they did not suffer privation as they probably formed an attachment bond with each other
  • Retrospective data- memories may be unreliable
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Institutionalisation-Hodge and Tizard

  • 65 P's initially age 4 in childrens home where carers were discouraged from forming attachment
  • 21were adopted
  • 13 were restored to their original parents
  • by age 8 20/21 and 7/13 had formed attachment with their parents but had problems with peer relationships
  • restored children were found to be more arguementative
  • Conclusion: effects of institutionalisation are reversible dependant on aftercare recieved


  • Longitudinal Study-accurate representation of development due to follow up procedure
  • Practical Application- carers in institutions now encouraged to provide emotional care


  • Longitudinal Study- final group unrepresentative- 51/65 drop out rate
  • Biased- adoptees may have been more socially skilled, and therefore better at forming attachment bond.
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Institutionalisation-Rutter et al

  • compared Romanian and UK born adoptees
  •  58 adopted before 6 months old
  • 59 adopted between 6 and 24 months old
  • 48 adopted between 2 and 4 years old (considered late adoptees)
  • followed up at ages 4, 6 and 11
  • at age 6 disinhibited attachment was most common in Romanian late adoptees (54% suffered)
  • also found input of educational support and mental health charities
  • Conclusion: reversible if early intervention


  • Large amounts of Qualitative data- more descriptive- valid


  • Unknown exact conditions of the Romanian institution- less reliable as conditions may have affected the ability of the children to develop later attachments.
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