Attachment - Psychology AS AQA A

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  • Created on: 23-09-12 10:01

The Evolutionary Theory of Attachment

The evolutionary theory of attachment as proposed by John Bowlby (1907-1990) suggests that attachment, in terms of adaptation, is essential for survival. In order to progress healthily, children are born with an innate tendency to form attachments. This means that infants are pre-programmed to become attached to their caregiver.

Bowlby's evolutionary theory consists of a number of essential factors. The first is monotropy which refers to his suggestion that infants form one social bond with the person who is most sensitive to their social releases (i.e. their caregiver). This bond or attachment is a two-way process which is referred to as reciprocal. Furthermore, Bowlby proposed that infants develop an Internal Working Model which acts as a template for future relationships. This is based on the relationships between the infant and the primary caregiver. Finally, Bowlby also suggested that there is a critical period of 2 and a 1/2 years where an attachment has to be formed. If not, the infant will experience social and emotional problems in late life.

This theory can be both criticised and supported through studies carried out by several researchers. For instance; Konrad Lorenz (1952) was an ethologist who found that a group of goslings became attached to the first living thing they encountered. This immediate attachment is referred to as imprinting. Lorenz's findings suggest and support the idea of an innate drive to form an attachment. However, there is also the issue of extrapolation.

On the other hand, a study which contradicts the theory was carried out by Schaffer and Emerson in 1964. They conducted a large-scale observational study and found that after a main attachment was formed, multiple attachments followed. This contradicts Bowlby's suggestion of monotropy as there was more than one attachments formed. The study also has high ecological validity but can also be criticised as being prone to bias as the infants' mothers kept the records.

When considering the Internal Working Model proposed by Bowlby, two studies can be used to support this concept. In 1987, Hazan and Shaver found a strong relationship between childhood attachment type and adulthood attachment type. In a more recent study, Black and Schutte (2006) found a similar result, which suggests that the relationship between child and caregiver does form a template for future relationships. It also strongly supports the continuity hypothesis concerning attachment experiences. Nevertheless, both studies depend on the memories of young adult and so, the accuracy.

Psychologists have many different explanations of attachments. One of which is Bowlby's evolutionary theory. He suggests that attachments are an innate, biological response to illicit care giving, and therefore survival, of the infant. This is achieved through social releasers, which as crying and their 'cute' appearance which appeals to the potential caregiver. According to Bowlby's theory of monotropy, this caregiver should be a woman. Bowlby suggests that a child's attachment acts as a template for their future relationships so a stable attachment is necessary for a socially successful individual. 

However, Bowlby's theory is


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