Explanations of Attachment

  • Created by: tiacoles
  • Created on: 16-02-16 21:26
  • Attachment is a close emotional relationship between infants and their caregivers. 
  • Attached infants will show a desire to be close to their primary caregiver. They'll showw distress when they're seperated, and pleasure when they're reunited.

Learning Theory (behavourist theory)

Classical Conditioning

  • This is about learning associations with the environment. 
  • Getting food naturally gives the baby pleasure.
  • The baby's desire for food is fulfilled whenever it's mother is around to feed it. 
  • So an association is formed between mother and food.
  • So whenever it's mother is around, the baby will feel pleasure.

Operant Conditioning

  • Dollard and Miller (1950) claimed that babies feel discomfort when they're hungry so have a desire to get food to remove the discomfort. 
  • They find that if they cry, their mother will come and feed them - so the discomfort is removed (negative reinforcement)
  • The mother is therefore associated with food and the baby will want to be close to her. 
  • This produces attachment behaviour. 

Harlow showed the need for 'contact comfort.'

Method: Harlow aimed to find out whether baby monkey's would prefer a source of food or a source of comfort and protection as an attachment figure. In laboratory experiments rhesus monkeys were raised in isolation. They had two 'surrogate' mothers. One was made of wire mesh and contained a feeding bottle, the other was made of cloth but didn't contain a feeding bottle.

Results: The monkeys spent most of their time clinging to the cloth surrogate and only used the wire surrogate to feed. The cloth surrogate seemed to give them comfort in new situations. When the monkeys grew up they showed signs of social and emotional disturbance. The females were bad mothers who were often violent towards their offspring. 

Conclusion: Infant monkeys formed more of an attachment with a figure that provided comfort and


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