Unit 1.2: Attachment


key terms

Attachment: A strong a enduring bond between a child and a caregiver

Types of Attachment

Secure Attachment:

  • Will explore the unfamiliar room
  • Subdued when mother left and greeted her positively when she returned
  • Moderate avoidance of the stranger, but friendly when mother present
  • Mothers were described as sensitive

Insecure Avoidant

  • Do not orientate to their mother while investigating the room and toys and do not seem concerned by her absence. Showed little interest when mother returned
  • Avoided the stranger, but not as strongly as they avoided the mother on her return
  • Mothers sometimes ignored their infants

Insecure resistant

  • Show intense distress, particularly when their mother was absent but rejected mother when she returned
  • Showed ambivalent (opposites) behaviourtowards the stranger, similar to the pattern of resistance and interest shown with their mother
  • Mothers appeared to behave ambivalently towards their infants.

core theory


Bowlby’s theory: Babies attach for survival

Monotropystrong attachment to one caregiver or primary caregiver, first attachment to form

Critical Period – time when attachment must form or will not form at all. 0-3 years old, best in 1st year. If this is not formed then problems occur in later life

Deprivation – loss of attachment – through parental death or illness, hospitalisation etc. Can lead to needy children who struggle in school

Privation – lack of attachment, children who are institutionalised or neglected from birth (Genie)

denver-dependency-and-neglectcrits of core

  • Children form multiple attachments from a very early age, does not support monotropy
  • Bowlby believed the effects of deprivation were irreversible – case of Czech twins who grew up stable and happy people
  • Over emphasis on Mother as primary caregiver – not the case in all societies
  • Cultural bias is ideas of care of child


Behaviourism – Operant conditioning

  • Interaction with caregiver (by crying/smiling etc) is rewarding for the infant.
  • The caregiver will also feed, comfort and keep the child safe
  • This reinforces the bond between child and caregiver and the attachment behaviours are more common
  • Reinforcing for both caregiver and child
  • Explains lack of bond in neglectful or abusive relationship – nothing rewarding

core study


256 256

Aim: Conducted ‘Love quiz’ to investigate if childhood attachment style influences adult relationship

Procedure: A quiz of nearly 100 questions published in Rocky Mountain News (gossip magazine)

Findings: Out of 620 replies:

  • 56% of respondents classified themselves secure
  • 25% avoidant
  • 19% resistant

Love experience and attitudes towards love (internal working model) were related to attachment type

Those who were securely attached: believed love is enduring, had mutual trust and were less likely to get divorced

Those who were insecurely attached: felt love was rare, fell in and out of love easily, found relationships less easy, were more likely to be divorced

crits of core study

Generalisability: Only a certain type of person tends to read and answer questionnaires in magazines. It was also a volunteer sample so therefore this creates a select type of personality – making it less generalisable. It is also culture biased as it was only sent out in one small area of the world (Rocky Mountains)

Reliability: Standardised questionnaire sent out to all participants. Use of qualitative data = objective and less biased.

Application: The results can help us understand some adult behavioural and relationship difficulties. We can trac back through childhood to consider the impact of parenting on adult behaviours. This can help in therapy sessions.

Validity: The study only used closed Likert Scale questions, which produces limited data. There was no open questions for participants to elaborate further, leading to a lack in validity. Also the use of a questionnaire can lead to social desirability where the participants may have lied to make themselves look happier than they actually are.

Ethics: There was some deception as the title “Love Quiz” may have misled people to believe the quiz was about something that it wasn’t.


article-new-thumbnail_ehow_images_a02_4m_v7_get-child-shriners-childrens-hospital-800x800                         young-baby-in-a-bucket

New born babies

–used to be kept separate for a week

–research showed it was important for mothers and babies to bond

Hospitalisation of children

–traditionally not given much contact with parents

–3 stages of distress (protest, despair, detachment)


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