Attachment – Psychology

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20 April 2016

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Early Social Development:

  An emotional bond between two people. It is a two-way process that endures over time. It leads to certain behaviours such as clinging and proximity-seeking and serves the function of protecting the infant.
  Primary attachment figure

The person who has formed the closest bond with a child,demonstrated by the intensity of the relationship. Usually the biological mother, but other people can fulfil the role.

  Learning theory

A group of explanations which explain behaviour in terms of learning rather than any innate or higher order tendencies. Mainly used by behaviourists who rather focus their explanations purely on what behaviour they observe.

Learning Theory
 Classical Conditioning (Pavlov)
Unconditioned Stimulus (US) – food

Unconditioned Response (UR) – pleasure

Neutral Stimulus (NS) – the feeder

Conditioned Stimulus (CS) – food from a feeder

Conditioned Response (CR) – pleasure/attachment

Learning Theory
  Operant Conditioning
  Reinforcement
  When doing something results in a pleasant consequence, the behaviour is more likely to be produced.
  Punishment
  When doing something results in an unpleasant consequence, the behaviour is unlikely to be produced.
  Dollard and Miller (1950) explain attachment using operant conditioning:
  When an infant is fed it reduces discomfort and increases pleasure, this serves as a reward and is the primary
reinforcer. The person supplying the food is associated with avoiding discomfort and is the source of reward which becomes the secondary reinforcer. Attachment occurs because the child seeks the person who supplies the reward.

Evaluating the Learning Theory
  Strengths

It can provide adequate explanations of how attachments form.   Behaviourists argue that since we are made up of the same building blocks of stimulus/response environments experiments done on animals are safe to generalize to human behaviour.

  Weakness
  It may be attention and responsiveness from the caregiver that is the primary reinforcer, not food.
  Learning theory is largely based on studies with non-human animals. Human behaviour may be similar in many ways but learning theory does not consider higher order thinking and emotions that can influence behaviour.

  Harlow (1959) demonstrated that it is not food but the level of contact and comfort the infant receives that increases attachment levels. The use of young rhesus monkeys were used to demonstrate this.

  60 babies were studied in Glasgow and found that attachment was higher to the person who was most responsive and who interacted with them more (Schaffer and Emerson,1964).

Cant explain the importance of sensitivity in attachment.

Bowlby’s Attachment Theory (1969)
  Attachment is adaptive and innate
  Bowlby’s theory is an evolutionary theory because it sees attachment as a behaviour that adds to its survival and ultimately its reproductive value. Having attachment capabilities is an innate drive, similar to imprinting, that has long term benefits ensuring it stays close to its caregiver.   Background on the Theory of Evolution
  Adaptive behaviours are behaviours that increase the likelihood of survival and reproduction.
  Natural selection is the continuation of these adaptive traits within the animal to increase chances of survival.
  Sexual selection is the ability to reproduce, not just survive. Adaptive genes that lead to possessing traits to assist in reproduction increases sexual selection.

Bowlby’s Attachment Theory
  Sensitive Period
  A biologically determined period of time during the second quarter of the first year is the most crucial period in which attachments can be made. Once missed then it is more difficult for a child to make attachments and demonstrate social difficulties.

  Caregiving is adaptive
  Not only attachment but also caregiving is adaptively innate. Social releasers from the infant give signals to the caregiver (smiling, crying, etc) to take care of it. Attachment is the innate system in babies and caregiving is the innate system in adults.

  Secure base
  Having a secure attachment provides a child with a secure base in which to explore the world from. It fosters independence, not dependence.   Monotropy and hierarchy
  Infants form a number of different attachments but has one particular bias towards a very special one called the primary attachment, this is called monotropy. Even with secondary attachments, this hierarchy of attachments recognizes the importance of a primary attachment figure (PAF). The PAF is one that responds most sensitively to the childs social releasers. Secondary attachments are important, without them, children tend to lack social skills.

Bowlby’s Attachment Theory
  Internal working model
  A mental model of the world that enables individuals to predict and control their environment. The internal working model based on attachment has several consequences:
  In the short-term it gives the child insight into the caregivers behaviour and enables the child to influence the caregivers behaviour so that a true partnership can
be formed.
  In the long-term it acts as a template for all future relationships because it generates expectations about how people behave.
  The continuity hypothesis
  The idea that emotionally secure infants go on to be emotionally secure, trusting and socially confident adults.

Evaluating Attachment Theory
  Strengths

Lorenz (1952) supports that imprinting is innate as the goslings imprinted on the first thing they saw moving, which was Lorenz.

Research shows that once the sensitive period has passed and no attachments are formed, children display social difficulties with peers. If attachment and caregiving are an important biological function as Bowlby suggests then they would be found universally. Tronick et al (1992) studied an African tribe in Zaire and found despite tribal responsibility for raising kids a PAF is present. This is also evidence of monotropy.

Schaffer and Emerson found that the more quickly a caregiver responded to a childs needs and the more interaction they had led to a stronger level of attachment. This interaction is important as it is not enough to have something to cuddle but to actually be cuddled back builds a stronger attachment.

The Minnesota longitudinal study (2005) found that continuity between early attachment and later emotional/social behaviour. Infants classified as secure were later rated highest for social competence, less isolated, more empathetic and more popular.

Evaluating Attachment Theory
  Weaknesses
  Multiple attachments, according to psychologists, are as equally important. There are no primary or secondary attachments, all attachments are integrated into one single working model. However, a review the research points to the hierarchical model as being predominant (Prior and Glaser,

An alternative explanation to the continuity hypothesis exists, known as the temperament hypothesis. This is the belief that children form secure attachments simply because they have a more ‘easy’ temperament from birth, whereas more innately difficult children a more likely to form insecure attachments. The infants temperamental characteristics shapes a mothers level of responsiveness. Thomas and Chess (1977) identified infant personality types as easy, difficult and slow-to-warm-up. Belsky and Rovine (1987) found a link between physiological behaviours and later attachments types. The more calm and less anxious (aspects of temperament) an infant was the more likely they were to develop secure attachments.

Types of Attachment
  The Strange Situation (Ainsworth and Wittig, 1969)

Aim: to see how infants behave under situations of stress with the introduction of a stranger and the separation of the parent. This tests stranger anxiety and separation anxiety and also the infants willingness to explore with its secure base.
Procedure: a 9×9 research room marked off into 16 squares was used. The procedure consists of 8 episodes…
Data is collected by a group of observers that recorded what the infant was doing every 15 seconds. Observer noted the type of behaviour and level of intensity on a scale of 1-7.

Types of Attachment
  The Strange Situation Findings:
  Ainsworth combined data from several studies to make 106 middle-class infants observed.
Similarities and differences were found in the way the infants behaved. In terms of similarities, it was noted that episode 2 onwards exploratory behaviour decreased while crying increased.
Proximity-seeking and contact-maintaining increased during separation and when stranger appeared. Finally, contact-resisting and proximityavoiding behaviours rarely occurred towards the caregiver prior to separation.

Types of Attachment
  The Strange Situation Findings:

Ainsworth found differences in three main types of children. 

Insecure-avoidant: this is a style of attachment characterising those children that tend to avoid social interaction and intimacy with others. 

Secure attachment: this is a strong and contented attachment of an infant to his or her caregiver which develops as a result of sensitive responding by the caregiver to the infants needs.

Insecure-resistant: this is a style of ambivalent attachment characterising children who both seek and reject intimacy and social interaction.

Main and Solomon (1986) re-analysed the strange situation video tapes and created a fourth attachment type:

Insecure-disorganised: these infants lack a coherent and consistent strategy for dealing with the stress of separation.

% of infants
(Ainsworth, 1978)
% of infants (Van
Ijzendoorn et , 1999)












Evaluating Types of Attachment
  Strengths

Ainsworth’s Strange Situation technique has given psychologists a means to understand and study attachment which can lead to new future findings. 

Intervention strategies have been developed to strengthen caregiving behaviour and attachments types. The Circle of Security Project (Cooper et al, 2005) which teaches caregivers to recognise signs of distress showed a decrease in disordered caregiving and an increase in secure attachment types.

It has proven to be experimentally valid as its construct validity has been demonstrated by other studies supporting the four types of attachments and its predictive validity has been demonstrated in correlations between early attachment types and later behaviours.

  Its findings are also consistent which makes them reliable. Using interobserver reliablity methods, Ainsworth found almost perfect agreement at . 94 between the raters (1.0 is perfect).
  Weakness
  Or does it lack validity, because it is intended to measure the attachment type of an infant, BUT does it really simply measure the quality of a particular relationship? Main and Weston (1981) claim it is measuring one relationship instead of something innate within an individual. 

Evaluating Types of Attachment
  Effects of attachment types
  Bowlby’s continuity hypothesis would predict that a child’s behaviour later in life would be effected by specific
attachment types they develop.
  Prior and Glaser (2006) found that in later childhood, if as infants they developed a secure attachment type, they would be less emotionally dependent and possess more interpersonal harmony. Infants with the other three types would be more aggressive, negative withdrawn in later childhood.
  It would also effect you in your adult romantic lives as well. Hazen and Shaver (1987) conducted the ‘Love Quiz’ which asked questions about early experiences and current love experiences and found that there were characteristic patterns of later romantic behaviour associated with each early attachment type.

Evaluating Types of Attachment
  Factors that influence attachment type

  Ainsworth developed the Maternal Sensitivity Scale to rate mothers’ behaviour such as sensitivity and insensitivity to infants signals. The scale found:
Securely attached infant

Observed Mothers bx

attached infant

Avoidant infant

Resistant infant more sensitive, cooperating

Unresponsive to crying less affectionate

More rejecting and less attention giving

Preoccupied with routine activities when holding infant

Maternal reflective functioning
  Some studies have shown low correlations between measures of sensitivity and strength of attachment. Slade et al (2005) found the ability to understand what someone else is thinking or feeling may be more important.

  May play a role as previous research indicates, but it is unclear.

Cultural Variations in Attachment
  KNOW the definitions of culture, cultural

variations and the difference between
individualistic and collectivistic cultures (pg.45)
  Cross-cultural Similarities
  Ainsworth’s

Uganda study (1967)
  Tronick et al (1992) study on the African tribe in
  Fox (1977) infants in Isreali kibbutz raised by nurses when tested in the Strange Situation appeared equally attached to both caregivers, except in the reunion behaviour where they showed greater attachment to their mothers.

Cultural Variations in Attachment
  Cross-cultural Differences
  Grossman and Grossman (1991) found that German infants appear more insecurely attached rather than secure. This may be due to the different childrearing practices as German culture involves keeping some interpersonal distance from the parent and infant.

  Takahashi (1990) used the Strange Situation on a group of 60 middle-class infants in Japan and found similar rates of secure attachment. However, the infants showed no evidence of insecure-avoidant and high rates of insecureresistance (32%). Different childrearing practices can explain the difference for in Japan the infants are rarely ever separated from their parents which is why they would be more distressed than their American counterparts.   Conclusions

  These studies suggest that the strongest attachments are still formed with their mothers and that there are differences in attachment that can be related to differences in cultural attitudes.
  Meta-analysis study by Van IJzendoorn and Kroonenberg (1988) examined over 2000 Strange Situation classification studies in 8 countries. They found the variation between countries and culture were small with secure attachment being the most common in all countries followed by insecure-avoidant except in Japan and Israel. Variations within cultures however were greater. In conclusion the findings appear to be similar to that found in the US and this supports the view that attachment is an innate and biological process. Also data collected on different subcultures should not be generalised to be representative of a particular culture.

Criticisms of Research on Cultural
  Culture bias

Rothbaum et al (2000) argued that attachment theory and research is not relevant to other countries because it is rooted in American culture. For example, the sensitivity hypothesis reflects western ideas of autonomy whereas in Japan sensitivity is about promoting dependence. The continuity hypothesis states that secure infant attachments create more competent adults, however, this ‘competence’ is defined in terms of individuation. The secure base hypothesis in the west explains secure attached infants as independent and confident exploring whereas in Japan they promote dependence and the concept of amae and so this can explain why insecure-resistant behaviours are more typical.

Rothbaum concludes that psychologists should produce a set of indigenous theories that are explanations of attachment that are rooted in individual cultures with a small group of universal principles (infant need for protection) but mostly with childcare practices relating to cultural values.

Rothbaum was challenged by Posada and Jacobs (2001) which
shows that attachment theory does apply to most cultures.

Criticisms of Research on Cultural
  Criticisms of cross-cultural research
  Tests of procedures used may not be equally valid in the country and may make the culture appear ‘inferior’ or ‘abnormal’. This is an example of imposed etic. This is when a research method is used in one culture even thought it was designed to be used in another (intelligence tests or observations).
  The group that was tested may not be representative of the culture and yet researchers might make generalisations about the whole culture or even the whole country.

Disruption of Attachment
  Effects of Separation

Spitz and Wolf (1946) observed 100 children in an institution became severely depressed after a few months.

Skeels and Dye (1939) found similar children scored lower on intelligence tests.

Bifulo et al (1992) found that negative effects of deprivation may occur later in life. When 249 women who had lost their mothers before they were 17 were studied, it was found that they were twice as likely to develop depressive/anxiety disorders later in life.

Robertsons (1967-73) made films observing the effects of separation in children:

When given a high level of emotional care and similar structures to that of their home life, the children exhibited some signs of distress, however, slept well and did not reject their PAF when they were reunited. Some were even reluctant to part with the foster mother which is a sign of a good emotional bond.

John, however, was in a nursery and not given such attention. He became withdrawn and gave up on proximity seeking bx. When he was reunited with his mother he rejected her for months and demonstrated outbursts of anger towards her.

Disruption of Attachment
  Physical and Emotional Disruption
  As the research evidence shows differences in the way physical and emotional attention is given can produce negative effects in children. However, there are studies that show these ill effects can be reversed.
  Sigvardsson (1979) studied over 600 adopted children in Sweden and at the age of eleven, 26% of them were classified as ‘problem children’. However in a follow up study, ten years later they were no worse off than the average population.
  So when alternative emotional care is provided, ill effects of separation can be reversed. However, for some children disruption of attachment leads to permanent difficulties.
  To criticise the validity of the research consider that they are based on case studies. Weakness of case studies are that they are based on generalisations and they depend on objectivity of the observers and are prone to observer bias.

Failure to Form Attachment
  Isolated children
  Privation is the lack of having any attachments due to the failure to

develop such attachments early in life.
  Genie

The Czech twins

Locked in a room by her father until she was 13. When discovered she could not stand erect or speak. She was disinterested in people and never recovered socially.

Locked away by their step-mother until the age of 7. Were looked after by their sisters and by 14 had normal social and intellectual capabilities. By 20 they had above average intelligence and
excellent social skills.


Was unclear whether or not Genie was retarded at birth or if she ever formed an attachment with her mother. The Czech twins may have formed attachments to each other to compensate for complete lack of care. It is difficult to reach firm conclusions based on only these cases.

Failure to Form Attachment
  Institutional Care

Multiple studies show that the effects of institutionalisation within children is acute distress.
Longitudinal studies have been conducted to see what long term effects are
caused by institutionalisation.

Hodges and Tizard (1989) followed a group of 65 British children from early life to adolescence. Children have been place in an institution from before they were 4 months old. Children have not yet formed attachments at this age. An early study found that 70% of the children were not able to care deeply for anyone.

The children were assessed regularly up to the age of 16. Some children remained while most were adopted or restored with their original families. The restored children were less likely to develop an attachment with their mothers but the adopted ones were as closely attached to their adopted parents as the control group. However, both groups had problems with peers and showed signs of disinhibited attachment.

These findings suggest that early privation had negative effects on the ability to form relationships even when given good subsequent emotional care. If failure to develop attachments after the sensitive period occur it can have an irreversible effect on emotional development.

Failure to Form Attachment
  Effects of Privation and Institutionalisation
  Attachment disorder
  This has been recognised as a psychiatric condition and has been included in the DSMIV. There are two kinds of attachment disorder, inhibited and disinhibited. Children with an attachment disorder have no PAF, cant interact or relate to others before the age of 5 and have experienced severe neglect or frequent changes in caregivers.

  Poor parenting skills
  Harlow’s monkeys that were raised with surrogate mothers went on to become poor parents. Also, Quinton et al (1984) found similar findings when he compared 50 women who had been raised in institutions. When the women were in their 20’s the ex-institutionalised mothers were experiencing extreme
difficulties acting as parents.

  Deprivation dwarfism
  Physical evidence by Gardner (1972) that institutionalised children are physically underdeveloped, potentially caused by stress hormones.   Evaluation
  In the study of Romanian children, one-third recovered well despite not establishing a PAF prior to the sensitive period. Therefore, privation alone cannot explain negative outcomes. This suggests that damage occurs when there are multiple risk factors (Turner and Lloyd, 1995).

  Not sure if the children failed to form attachments early in life. Maybe they did and the problems they experienced later were more related to rejection.

Impact of Day Care

Day Care – the form of temporary care not given by the family or someone well known to the child and usually outside of the home.
Social development – the aspect of a child’s growth concerned with the development of sociability, where the child learns to relate to others and with the process of socialisation, the child learns social skills appropriate to the society.

  Negative effects on social development
  Meta-analysis from findings of 88 studies supports Bowlby’s research that prolonged separation from the PAF leads to maladjustment. Violata and Russell (1994) concluded that regular day care for more than 20 hrs a week had an unmistakable negative effect on socio-emotional development, behaviour and attachment of young children.

  NICHD in USA conducted a longitudinal study of over 1000 children. Parents were interviewed regarding the effects of regular day care. The study showed that the more time a child spent in day care, regardless of quality, the adults rated them as more disobedient and aggressive (NICHD, 2003). The children in day care were 3 times more likely to demonstrate behavioural problems than children that were cared by their mothers. Melhuish (2004) found evidence that children with high levels of day care in the first two years of development had elevated risks of developing anti-social behaviours.

  The Minnesota longitudinal study demonstrated the more securely attached infants are the more popular with peers they become. So therefore, the more insecure an infant, more peer related problems could be expected. Belsky and Rovine (1988) assessed attachment in children in day care and found that were more likely to be insecurely attached compared to children at home.

Impact of Day Care
  Positive effects on social development

Good day care provides plenty of social stimulation, whereas, children living at home may lack social interactions.
Brown and Harris (1978) found depressed mothers contributed their low moods to being isolated at home with children.
Depressed mothers are likely to form insecure attachments with their children which would have a negative effect on their children. Therefore, the independence gained with having a child in day care is a way to prevent this.

Clarke-Stewart et al (1994) studied 150 children and found they were consistently more compliant and independent.
The EPPE followed 3000 children in pre-schools and found
increased sociability (Sylvia et al, 2003).
Day care exposes children to their peers thus enabling them to develop social
strategies (negotiate and make friends). Field (1991) found a positive correlation between the amount of time in day care and the number of friends children have once they enter school. Also, those that started day care before 6 months were more sociable than those that started later.

Evaluating Research on Day Care
  Weaknesses of research on day care

When evaluating the research, one must consider the
circumstances under which one can find positive or negative

Prodromidis (1995) found no correlation between Swedish children in day care and aggression.

Freidman from NICHD explains the aggression study actually shows that day care children may be more aggressive than non-day care, but still 83% of children in day care between 10 -30 hours a week show no signs of aggression.

Second important finding from the NICHD research is that the mothers sensitivity to the child, higher maternal education and income all play a more important role in decreased behavioural problems than the amount of time in day care.

Finally, the findings are not causal. The data cannot show that day care caused aggression only that there is a link between the two. Therefore, the data suggests that childrens development is more strongly affected by factors at home than those in day care (Belsky et al, 2007).

Evaluating Research on Day Care
  Weaknesses of Research on Day Care
  Cannot apply a cause relating to peer relations as well, only a link. For example, shy and unsociable
children have mothers that are shy and unsociable, therefore, its possible that more outgoing parents/children that go to day care.
  A lot of research supports the idea that day care alone has no direct effect on development and that there are other factors involved. Gregg et al (2005) analysed findings from the Children of the 90’s study and concluded that for the majority of children, maternal employment in their first 3 years of life had no adverse effects on behaviour.

Evaluating Research on Day Care
  Mediating Factors

Quality of Care

Individual Differences

As the quality of care decreases it is expected that the attachment type will become poorer. NICHD study (1997) found that low-quality care was associated with poor social development. As parents have different interests in their child, day care staff are less invested and therefore provide a different kind of attention. This is reflected in Howes and Hamilton (1992) findings that secure attachments occurred in only 50% of day care staff but 70% in mothers.

The NICHD study found the more secure a child’s attachment level is the better they cope with time spent in day care. However, another study showed that insecure children coped better than secure children (showed more aggressive bx) in day care.

Child’s age and number of hours

Gregg et al (2005) found that negative effects were more likely to be found in children starting day care before 18 months of age. However, the magnitude of these effects was small.

Clarke-Stewart et al (1994) found no difference in attachment between spending a lot of time in day care (more than 30 hours) with those that spend a little time (less than 10 hours).

Implications of Research into
Attachment and Day care
  Attachment Research
  Attachment research has shown that when separation occurs, negative effects of this separation can be avoided if substitute emotional care can be provided and links to the PAF are made available. This research has changed the way hospitals handle visiting arrangements and the way institutional care is provided.   A second implication is the way the adoptions process is managed allowing babies to be adopted earlier strengthening child/parent attachments (Singer, 1985).   Another implication is the improvement of parenting skills, ie, Circle of Security, which improves infant/mother relationships.

  Finally, attachment research has been used to improve day care quality focusing on the importance of secondary attachment figures.
  Day Care Research
  As research shows, high quality care leads to positive outcomes. What is highquality care?   Low child-staff ratios – 3:1 is ideal for sensitive care to be given   Minimal staff turnover – allows for consistent care and decreases anxiety   Sensitive emotional care – only 23% of carers demonstrated highly sensitive care, 50% was moderate care and 20% were emotionally detached.   Qualified staff – qualified managers lead to better social development   To ensure high-quality care, legal standards are implemented relating to staff ratio to age of the child, minimum qualifications of staff, Ofsted inspections and finally the sure Start programme.

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"Attachment – Psychology" StudyScroll, Apr 20, 2016.

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