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What is attachment?

Explanations of attachment

Attachments involve two people, a parent and a child, who have an emotional link between each other, which ties them together. AQA mark scheme Attachment can be defined as an emotional relationship between two people in which each seeks closeness and feels more secure when in the presence of the attachment figure.

How do we know that two people have an attachment? Maccoby (1980) said that we can find evidence of attachment by observing behaviour. Typical behaviours include: Seeking proximity: A young baby will watch their caregiver carefully and howl if they go too far away. An older, more mobile child will simple crawl after their attachment figure. Distress on separation Joy on reunion: hugging or clinging onto an attachment figure General orientation: directing attention to one another, engaging in activities/interaction

Explanations of attachment These notes detail two explanations of attachment, including: 1) Learning theory; 2) Bowlbys theory. For your exam you may be required to outline and evaluate these two explanations of attachment.

1. Learning theory Learning theories of attachments focus on the rewards provided by caregivers to babies in terms of food and comfort. Learning theories of attachment are based on the principles of classical and operant conditioning.

Classical Conditioning: Learning through association Classical conditioning is based on learning through association, but how does classical conditioning apply to attachment? Easy explanation: For an infant, milk provides relief from hunger. As the mother (or carer) is usually the person who provides an infant with milk, the infant associates the mother with the milk and is therefore seen as a source of pleasure (in her own right). Over time the infant associates their parent/carer with pleasure until eventually the parent/carer becomes a source of pleasure even when they are not providing milk. This is how learning theory suggests that children become attached to their mothers. Complex explanation: Before conditioning, milk is an unconditioned stimulus, which produces an unconditioned response (reflex) from the baby relief from hunger. Before conditioning, a caregiver is a neutral stimulus, who produces no conditioned response. During conditioning, the baby associates the person who feeds them (neutral stimulus) with the milk (unconditioned stimulus), which produces an unconditioned response, of relief from hunger. After conditioning, this results in the person (now a conditioned stimulus) becoming associated with pleasure from feeding, resulting in a conditioned response, of relief from hunger.

Operant conditioning: Positive and Negative Reinforcement Key terms Positive Reinforcement: Any behaviour that produces a reward (a positive experience/feeling) such as eating (relief from hunger), will be repeated. Negative Reinforcement: Behaviours which switch off something unpleasant are also likely to be repeated. Punishment: Behaviours that lead to an unpleasant outcome (punishment) are less likely to be repeated. How does operant conditioning apply to attachment? The act is crying is rewarding for a baby as he/she is provided with food and or cuddles, which settles them. As the crying has produced a reward (positive reinforcement) they are likely to repeat this behaviour in the future. As the act of feeding and or cuddling the baby has stopped the unpleasant sound of crying for the caregiver, this acts as negative reinforcement and this behaviour is therefore likely to be repeated in the future. Its a perfect vicious circle.

Evaluation of learning theories of attachment Need for comfort not food! Evidence suggests that attachment is not based on feeding and primate studies have shown that attachment appears to be based on the need for comfort more than feeding. Harlow (1958) and Harlow and Zimmerman (1959) carried out a series of experiments using rhesus monkeys. They studied 8 infant monkeys who were reared in isolation and deprived of their real mothers until they were 8 months old. Their aim was to test learning theory by examining the attachment behaviour of baby monkeys. (Method) In each cage, there were two surrogate mothers, one made of wire with a monkey like face and an identical wire mother covered with a soft,

towelling fabric. A feeding bottle supplying milk was attached to the wire mother and the Harlows measured the amount of time the baby monkeys spent clinging to each mother. They checked to see if an attachment had been formed by putting a noisy mechanical toy in the cage to frighten the monkey and to see which mother they clung to, when frightened. The Harlows found (results) that the baby monkeys used the soft towelling mother as their based, returning to her for comfort when they were frightened. They only visited the wire mother for food. This shows (conclusion) that these monkeys have an innate, unlearned need for conform, suggesting that attachment concerns emotional security more than food. While this clearly an animal study which cannot be directly generalised to humans, it provides strong evidence that there is much more to attachment than feeding and rewards (evaluation). Metapelets on Israeli Kibbutzim Fox (1977) studied the attachment relationships between mothers, babies and metapelets on an Israeli kibbutzim (a communal farm). Metapelets provide full-time care for newborn children, allowing the mothers to work. In general, children were more attached to their mothers, with some children appearing to have little or no attachment with the metapelets. As metapelets did the majority of the feeding this also suggests that learning theories of attachment are flawed.

2. Bowlbys theory of attachment Bowlby claimed that emotional (attachment) bonds have an evolutionary function to ensure survival. There are three important features of Bowlbys theory: a) Infants and carers are genetically programmed to become attached; b) As attachment is a biological process, it takes place during a critical period of development; c) Attachment plays an important role in later development (continuity hypothesis and monotropy). a. Genetically Programmed Attachment has an evolutionary history and has evolved through natural selection as a mechanism for survival. Offspring would stay close to their parents/caregivers, thus obtaining projection and increasing their survival chances to reach maturity and reproduce. Therefore, through evolution, human infants have become genetically programmed to behave in ways that increase survival chances. These innate behaviours are known as social releasers and include: Crying to attract parents attention; Looking, smiling and vocalising to maintain parental attention and interest; Following or clinging to gain or maintain physical closeness. These automatic behaviours become focused on a few individuals and thus infants become attached through an evolutionary survival system. b. Critical period Bowlby believed that there is a critical period for the formation of attachments. If development does not take place during a set developmental period, it may not take place at all. For example, during the development of the human embryo, the arms begin to develop between days 24 and 26. Any interference with development at this critical stage will permanently affect the development of the arms. If attachment is biological, we would expect there to be a critical period for its development. He suggested that if a child does not form an attachment before the age of two and a half years old, then it would not take place at all. c. The continuity hypothesis and monotropy Attachments teach children how to form adult relations which are vital for reproduction and further survival of their species. The continuity hypothesis states that the relationship with one special attachment figure (monotropy) provides the infant with an internal working model of relationships. Secure children develop a positive model of

themselves, based on their feelings of security derived from having a sensitive, emotionally responsive caregiver. Whereas avoidant children are assumed to have a primary caregiver who is rejecting and ambivalent.

Evaluation of Bowlbys theory of attachment Evidence for genetic programming in other animals Lorenz (1952) studied the behaviour of geese who are likely to imprint on the first moving object they see. Imprinting has short-term and long-term effect. Lorenz (1937) demonstrated this with a clutch of gosling eggs that were divided into two groups. One group was left with their natural mother and the other group was hatched in an incubator. When the eggs hatched the first moving thing they saw was Lorenz and they soon started to follow him. Lorenz marked the two groups and returned them to their mother. The goslings quickly divided themselves up, one followed their natural mother and one group followed Lorenz. The evolutionary benefits are clear a young animal who follows its mother is more likely to be safe from predators, is more likely to be fed and is more likely to find food. Therefore, it is more likely to survive and reproduce and pass its genes onto future generations. Inherited behaviours that promote reproduction are naturally selected. This evidence suggests that such innate pre-programming provides an evolutionary advantage, as by staying close to parents, new born animals are less likely to fall victim to predators and other environmental dangers. However, imprinting applies to precocial animals those that are mobile after birth and therefore attachment may not simply be a human form of imprinting. Evidence for the continuity hypothesis and monotropy Hazan and Shaver (1987) published a Love Quiz in an America newspaper, collecting the following information from a group of participants: 1) early attachment experiences, and 2) current romantic attitudes and experiences The found that individuals who were securely attached as infants tended to have happy and longer lasting relationships. Whereas those who had insecure attachments found relationships less easy, were more likely to be divorced and felt that true love was rare.

AQA (A) Past Paper Questions Jan 09, Question 10. 12 Marks. Psychologists have put forward different explanations of attachment, such as learning theory and Bowlbys theory. Outline and evaluate one or more explanations of attachment. Jun 11, Question 9. 8 Marks. Outline and evaluate learning theory as an explanation of attachment. Jan 12, Question 6. 8 Marks. Outline and evaluate Bowlbys explanation of attachment. Jun 12, Question 5. 6 Marks. Outline Bowlbys theory of attachment. Jan 11, Question 8a. 4 Marks. Learning theory provides one explanation of attachment. It suggests that attachment will be between an infant and the person who feeds it. However, the findings of some research studies do not support this explanation. Outline research findings that challenge the learning theory of attachment. Jan 11, Question 8b. 5 marks. Outline an evolutionary explanation of attachment. Jan 10, Question 5a. 2 marks. What is meant by the term attachment? Jun 09, Question 6a. 2 Marks. What is meant by the term attachment?