Development of attachments
Infants have an innate ability to seek interactions with other individuals. This is known as sociability and is integral to the phases in the development of attachment (Schaffer, 1996).
The table below summarises the four stages of this process:
Phase of attachment: Age range: Characteristics of phase:
Pre-attachment phase 0-3 months At about 6 weeks, infants begin to treat other humans differently from objects by smiling and gurgle at them. Indiscriminate attachment phase 3-7 months Infant can distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar people but is quite happy to be comforted by anyone. Discriminate attachment phase 7-9 months Infant distinguishes between carers and strangers and exhibits distress or separation anxiety when left alone (they have developed object permanence) and may be fearful of the strangers. Multiple attachment phase 9+ months Attachments develop with other people (for example, grandparents or brothers and sisters), although the original attachment remains the strongest.
This 'stage' approach is all-well-and-good but it largely ignores individual differences: Infants develop different types of attachments at different rates. It is also specific to Western society, as other cultures were not studied.
Types of attachment
The different types of attachment were investigated by placing 12-18 month-old infants in an increasingly stressful environment or 'Strange Situation' (Ainsworth et al., 1978).
This table shows the stressors placed on the infant and the observations made of his or her behaviour:
Stressors: Observations: Unfamiliar room Reaction to caregiver leaving Caregiver leaves the room Reaction to caregiver returning Stranger in the room
Ainsworth identified three types of attachment in American infants:
Type of attachment: Name of attachment: % Of infants: Characteristics of attachment: Type A Insecure-avoidant 20% Indifferent to caregiver - unconcerned if present or absent. Signs of distress when left alone but could be comforted by caregiver or stranger. Type B Securely attached 70% Stay close to caregiver and are distressed by their departure but easily comforted on return. Stranger could give limited comfort. Type C Insecure-resistant 10% Ambivalent to caregiver - both close and resistant at times. Anxious of environment and resistant to stranger.
A fourth type of attachment (insecure-disorganised or Type D) was identified by