In psychology the term attachment is used to describe a special type of relationship between two people.
Attachments are a special kind of affectional bond.
An affectional bond is a “relatively long-enduring tie in which the partner is important as a unique individual and there is a desire to maintain closeness to the partner.”
Make a list of the people with whom you have an affectional bond.
Although these bonds with others are important throughout life the most important bonds are the ones developed between infants and their caregivers, this bond is seen as an attachment.
List some examples of how an infant reacts when they are separated from their caregiver with whom they have an attachment.
Infants get very distressed when separated from the caregiver they are attached to.
Attachments ensure that there is closeness between the infant and caregiver.
Why might attachments be important? (why might maintaining proximity to a caregiver be important?)
So attachments are important, to maintain this proximity between caregiver and infant, in order to ensure survival.
List some actions or behaviours that babies show that you think are to encourage caregivers to want to attach and remain close to them?
Babies cry, make eye contact, reach and grasp.
Do animals have attachments?
We can see example of attachment of infants to their caregivers in the animal world too.
Can you think of any examples of animals showing attachment behaviours?
When baby ducks and geese hatch they form an attachment to their mother. The attachment is very strong and they follow their mother everywhere and become distressed if she leaves.
Why is it important for them to form this attachment?
What do you think would happen if a human was the first thing the ducklings saw when they hatched?
One psychologist tested this and the ducklings followed him absolutely everywhere!
The Development of Attachments
Psychologists have studied babies from birth to find out about the process of attachment.
They have found that there seem to be some phases in attachment.
The indiscriminate attachment phase
This is from birth to 6 months
During this period the infant responds equally to anyone who shows an interest in him/her.
Gradually they start to respond more to people they are familiar with.
The specific attachment phase
This is from 7 months to 1 year
The child shows a special preference to certain caregivers
We consider that an infant has formed an attachment to someone when it shows particular behaviours
Separation anxiety & Stranger fear
Evidence of the attachment bond
The child shows distress when the carer leaves.
For example if a baby cries when its mother leaves the room, we conclude that the baby feels insecure when the mother is out of sight.
Unlike earlier the child may now show a fear of unknown adults
For example if a stranger comes close to the baby and it moves away from the stranger towards another person, we conclude that it is fearful of strangers and gains security from this person.
Differences in attachment
Infants differ in their attachments towards their caregivers.
One way their attachment may differ is the quality of their attachment bond between them and their caregiver.
Some infants are more strongly attached to their primary caregiver than others.
How could we test infants to see if some are more strongly attached than others?
We could test this by seeing how anxious an infant gets when it is separated from its caregiver. The more anxious it is the stronger its attachment.
The “Strange Situation”
Mary Ainsworth was interested in the security of a child’s attachment to its caregiver.
By the security of the child’s attachment we mean how confident it is that its special person will provide what it needs.
Ainsworth studied this through an experiment called the “Strange Situation”.
Watch the video clip carefully to see an example of this experiment.
The “Strange Situation” - Procedure
Ainsworth set up a playroom and a mother and infant (1 year old) played with toys in this room.
After a time, an adult stranger came in and then a series of events happened, in which the adults left and returned.
As a result the baby and the two adults were sometimes all together, sometimes each adult is alone with the child, and sometimes the child is alone.
The playroom had a one way mirror so she could observe the behaviour of the infant throughout, to see how it played and responded to the mother and the stranger.
The “Strange Situation” - Results
Ainsworth identified three different types of attachment.
Securely attached - These children are happy when the mother is present, distressed by her absence, went to her quickly when she returned and the stranger could provide little comfort.
Insecurely attached – there were two types of insecure attachment.
Anxious avoidant – avoided the mother, indifferent to her presence or absence, greatest distress when child alone, a stranger could comfort just as well as the mother.
Anxious resistant – Seemed unsure of the mother, more anxious about mothers presence, distress in her absence, would go to her quickly when she returned then struggled to get away, also resisted strangers.
Open up your textbook to p53 where there is a table of these three types of attachment.
Watch the video clip again, can you identify what type of attachment each child is showing.
Write down in your paper….
1 st Child - Helena
2 nd Child – Charlotte
Put next to this the type of attachment you think the child is showing.
Once you have decided, write next to this the behaviours that the children showed that led to your choice.
The main reason for carrying out experiments into attachment is to be able to measure the effects of infant attachments on later behaviour, when the children are older or when they are adults.
Many psychologists agree that these first attachments infants make, are very important and can go on to influence the relationships we have later in life .