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Describe and Evaluate Explanations of Attachment

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Describe and evaluate explanations of attachment Attachment describes a strong, emotional bond that endures over time between an infant and their caregiver. It is a mutual, important bond that results in a desire to stay strong physically. One such theory regarding how attachment works and forms is called the learning theory. The learning theory focuses on how the bond of attachment as described above forms through an infant's physiological needs and the caregiver responds to those needs on a survival basis. The learning theory describes two types of actual learning in relation to this known as classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning refers to involuntary responses and how they transfer to new situations. The procedure involves a pairing of stimulus and response, with a subject that comes to represent the given response. For example, if a baby were happy after being fed by its caregiver, it would soon learn to associate that happiness with its mother, and feel happy on seeing her alone rather than just when being fed. ...read more.


It also only covers the basic ideas of attachment, for example it does nothing to explain the different stages of attachment and at what point infants begin to change behaviours toward bonded individuals and those they haven't bonded with. Further to this, it fails to explain how children become independent whilst still attached or bonded because it treats 'attachment' as dependence more than anything. Perhaps more crucially with respect to the learning theory, it also does not explain why attachment behaviours are displayed by an infant even if they are mistreated and their physiological needs are not met. It is necessary therefore to consider other theories of attachment; one of the most famous and arguably most important is Bowlby's. Bowlby suggests that we have a genetic predisposition to find someone to bond with which is quite possible and hard to disprove, and similarly a mother has such a predisposition to bond and form an attachment with her infant. ...read more.


One of the main criticisms of Bowlby's theory, which is again challenged by Schaffer & Emerson's study, is that fathers are not of any direct emotional importance for the baby. Bowlby saw the father as financial and emotional support for the mother, but as has been shown by others, fathers can be attachment figures in their own right. Following on from this, Schaffer & Emerson also found, as described, multiple attachments to be the rule rather than the exception as according to Bowlby. Up until the discriminate attachment phase (when they begin to distinctly identify strangers), babies and infants also display a range of attachment behaviours to people other than their own mother as Bowlby suggests. These two theories go some way toward explaining attachment and the behaviours displayed, however it could be argued that in some respects they are incomplete and perhaps a bit dated, so it is best to look to and also consider studies by more recent psychologists such as Schaffer & Emerson and Ainsworth in order to properly understand the mechanics of attachment today. Susannah Kitchen 20/11/07 ...read more.

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