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Attachment Notes

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In psychology the term 'attachment' is used to describe: "the formation of a strong, long lasting reciprocal emotional tie or bond between an infant and primary caregiver. Psychologists believe that it is both normal and healthy for infants to form an attachment to one or more caregivers and that this attachment is important for later development. Attachment provides security and comfort through proximity."


Behaviours that indicated attachment (Maccoby, 1980)
- Proximity seeking - the infant tries to stay close to the caregiver (especially when stressed)
- Separation distress and pleasure when reunited - both caregiver and infant experience distress on separation
- General orientation of behaviour towards specific individual - the infant is always aware of the caregiver and makes frequent contact. EXPLANATIONS OF ATTACHMENT EXPLANATIONS OF ATTACHMENT - LEARNING THEORY According to Behaviourism:

• All behaviour is learned from experiences in the environment rather than being innate

• When children are born, they are blank slates and everything they become can be explained in terms of the experiences they have

• Behaviourists focus their explanations on behaviour - what people do - rather than on cognition - what people think

• Behaviourists see all behaviour as being learned either through classical or operant conditioning CLASSICAL CONDITIONS - ASSOCIATIONS

People and non-human animals learn because of the ASSOCIATIONS that they make Classical conditioning involves learning through associations. Food (unconditioned stimulus) produces a sense of pleasure (unconditioned response). The food becomes associated with the person doing the feeding, who then becomes the conditioned stimulus, also producing a sense of pleasure.

 Learning occurs when we are rewarded for doing something
 Any behaviour that produces a reward - POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT - such as food - will be repeated
 Behaviours that switch off something unpleasant are also likely to be repeated - NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT
 Behaviours that lead to an unpleasant outcome - PUNISHMENT - are less likely to be repeated APPLYING OPERATION CONDITIONING TO ATTACHMENTS: DOLLARD AND MILLAR (1950) A hungry infant feels uncomfortable and this creates a drive to reduce the discomfort When the infant is fed, the drive is reduced and this produces a feeling of pleasure (which is rewarding) Food becomes a primary reinforce because it 'stamps in' (reinforces) the behaviour in order to avoid discomfort. The person who supplies the food is associated with avoiding discomfort and becomes a secondary reinforcer, and a source of reward in his/her own right. ATTACHMENT OCCURS BECAUSE THE CHILD SEEKS THE PERSON WHO CAN SUPPLY THE REWARD

SUMMARY: CLASSICAL CONDITIONING: o Infant learns to associate feeding/ comfort with primary carer/ mother o Mother acquires feeding/ comforting properties by association OPERANT CONDITIONING o Infant learns that crying, brings positive response (food) from adults (reinforcement) o Adult learns that responding to cries etc. brings relief from noise (negative reinforcement) EVALUATION OF LEARNING THEORY EXPLANATIONS ON THE FORMATION OF ATTACHMENTS Main predictions of Learning Theory and attachment are:
- The child will form attachments on the basis of primary care provision (feeding etc)
- Attachment behaviour should increase steadily from birth
- The strongest attachments will be with those who provide the most primary care STRENGTHS:
 Learning theory provides an adequate explanation of how attachments from as we do learn through association and reinforcement
 But food which is seen as a crucial to the emergence of the infant caregiver attachment, may not be the main reinforce and hence attachments may not be formed on the basis of primary care provision (feeding)
 Attention and responsiveness from caregivers are important rewards that may create the attachment bond and hence may be more important than food in this process WEAKNESSES: RESEARCH BASED EVIDENCE RESEARCH


FOX (1997)

EMERSON (1964)

Fox studies 122 children, born and reared in an Israeli Kibbutz. In this system, children are raised communally. Children in this study had lived in a children's house from an early age where they were cared for by a nurse. The nurse was responsible for feeding the infants and taking care of their daily needs. Very little time was spent with their parents

By observing separation and reunion behaviour, Fox concluded that the children were strongly attached to their parents, and showed a weaker attachment to the nurses.

They observed 60 babies from mainly working-class homes in Glasgow for a period of about a year. They found that infants were not most attached to the person who fed them. They were most attached to the person who was most responsive and who interacted with them the most

These studies suggest that 'cupboard love' is not likely to be the best explanation for attachment, although association and reinforcement may still be part of the story.

This UNDERMINES THE LEARNING THEORY as it goes against the fact that children will form attachments on the basis of primary care provision. More based on quality of time, not quantity.

Cupboard love = attachment is based on food alone Attachment is with the person who interacts and responds the most

HARLOW (1959)

Harlow aimed to find out whether baby monkeys would prefer a source of food or a source of comfort and protection as an attachment figure. Harlow separated infant rhesus monkeys from their mothers and raised them in isolation. He created two artificial wire mothers that resembled monkeys; one had a feeding bottle attached and the other was wrapped in soft cloth but offered no food. The monkeys spent much of their time clinging to the cloth mother, especially in times of distress.


This UNDERMINES THE LEARNING THEORY view of attachment because according to the explanation the young monkeys should have attached to the wire monkey which dispensed food because they would associated it with a sense of pleasure and the reduction of their hunger drive. However, the infants tended to cling more to the mother who offered them comfort Sensitive caregiving is important for attachment and later social development.

Learning theory is largely based on studies with animals and Behaviourists believe that humans are no different to animals - our behaviour patterns are constructed through stimulus response and so it is legitimate to generalise from animal experiments to human behaviour BUT, human behaviour may be similar in some ways but in other ways it is different because human behaviour is more influenced by higher order thinking and emotions Behaviourist explanations may therefore lack validity as they present an oversimplified version of human behaviour - they are reductionist and determinist

According to Learning Theory, whilst reinforcement increases the likelihood of behaviours occurring again, punishment will do the opposite and reduce the likelihood of behaviours re-occurring. This is contradicted by the observation that children continue to show strong attachment behaviours towards parents who have been very cruel to them - punishment rather than reward. However, the research that has been conducted has used methods that are objective and scientific and hence the findings are unreliable

BOWLBYS THEORY Bowlby developed the most influential theory of attachment - THE EVOLUTIONARY APPROACH - and there are SIX key strands to his theory.


Attachment behaviour promotes survival because it ensures safety and food for offspring. It is an adaptive behaviour because individuals who are attached are more likely to survive and go on to reproduce. Children have an innate drive to become attached to a caregiver because it has long-term benefits, similar to the benefits of imprinting.


Infants are born with innate social releasers, such as crying and smiling, and they have cute faces, which elicit care-giving. Attachment is a two-way process; it depends on the involvement of both parent/caregiver and infant, and on social releasers.


Bowlby explains that the second quarter of the first year is when infants are most sensitive to the development of attachments. Development of all

biological systems take place most rapidly and easily during a sensitive period, and Bowlby states that if attachment does not take place before the age of 2 and a half, then it is much more difficult thereafter.


(S) Attachment is important for protection and thus acts as a secure base from which a child can explore the world and have a safe haven to return to when they feel threatened. Attachment fosters independence rather than dependence.


Bowlby claimed that infants need one special attachment relationship that is qualitatively different from all others. This primary attachment forms with the individual who has offered sensitive responsiveness. Infants also have secondary attachments, which are important for emotional development. The primary attachment forms the basis of the internal working model and underlies the ability to experience deep feelings.


HYPOTHESIS (I)(C) The internal working model means that there is consistency between early emotional relationships and later relationships. This leads to the continuity hypothesis; the view that there is a link between the early attachment relationship and later emotional behaviour. Individuals who are securely attached in infancy continue to be socially and emotionally competent and vice versa.



- Research states that once the sensitive period has passed it is difficult to form attachments.

For example, Hodges and Tizard found that children who had formed no attachments had later difficulties with peers; 70% of the children "couldn't care deeply about anyone" - demonstrates that early privation has a negative impact on attachment, even with good subsequent emotional care

- Research states that attachment evolves to provide an important biological function - we would therefore expect attachment and caregiving behaviours to be universal.

WEAKNESSES MULTIPLE ATTACHMENTS Many psychologists hold the view that all attachment figures are equally important. In the multiple attachment model there are no primary and secondary attachments; all attachments are integrated into one working model. Research on infant-father attachment, for example, suggests a key role for fathers in social development - Grossmann and Grossmann (1991). Relationships with


In one study of attachment, TRONICK ET AL (1992) studied an African tribe who live in extended family groups. The infants are looked after and even breastfed by different women but usually sleep with their own mothers at night. Despite such differences, the infants at six months still showed one primary attachment.


This supports the view that attachment and caregiving are universal and are not influenced by cultural practices.

- Bowlby suggested that infants form multiple attachments but these form a hierarchy

This is supported by SCHAFFER AND EMERSON (1964) who found that most infants had many attachments, but they maintained one primary object of attachment - most often the infant's mother. The primary caregiver was not always the person who fed or bathed the infant; it is the quality of caregiving rather than the quantity that is important.

- The Minnesota longitudinal study has followed participants from infancy to late adolescence and found continuity between early attachment and later emotional/social behaviour. Individuals who were classified as secure in infancy were rated the highest for social competences, were less isolated, more popular and more empathetic.

This demonstrates continuity.

siblings are important for learning how to negotiate with peers. Prior and Glaser (2006) conclude from a review of research that the evidence still points to the hierarchical model as suggested by Bowlby's concept of monotropy. ALTERNATIVE EXPLANATION Kagan (1984) developed the TEMPERAMENT HYPOTHESIS. This is the belief that children form secure attachments simply because they have a more 'easy' temperament from birth, whereas innately difficult children are more likely to form insecure attachments and later relationships. There is evidence that temperamental differences contribute to attachment. Belsky and Rovine (1987) assessed babies aged one to three days old and found a link between certain physiological behaviours and later attachment types. They found that infants who were calmer and less anxious were more likely to be securely attached.


1. LORENZ (1952): his research supports the view that imprinting is innate in

goslings; a similar process is likely to have evolved in all species in order to ensure survival

2. HODGES AND TIZARD (1989): longitudinal study of 65 British children place in institutional care where attachment was discouraged; found that children who had failed to form attachments had later difficulties with peers indicating that once the sensitive period had passed, it is difficult to form attachments

3. NORIUCHI ET AL (2008): used fMRI and showed that certain areas of a mother's brain was active when she observed her own infant's smiles and cries as opposed to other infants; this provides evidence for adults innately responding to infant's social releasers

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