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Describe and evaluate research into attachment and/or sociability in the first few years of life

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Introduction

Describe and evaluate research into attachment and/or sociability in the first few years of life (24 marks) Sociability is the desire to seek out and interact with others whereas attachment refers to the formation of a relatively strong and enduring emotional relationship between people. While these appear to be separate behaviours they are in fact interdependent. In that if someone responds in an unsociable manner to another then it is highly unlikely that an emotional relationship will be formed. Conversely if someone responds sociably towards another and this is reciprocated then it is probable that they will choose to interact on future occasions thus increasing the probability that they will form a strong enduring emotional relationship. Thus sociability is a prerequisite for attachments. Both sociability and attachment are very important behaviours as they increase the probability that an infant will survive long enough to produce viable offspring. The function of sociability is therefore to gain the attention of potential caregivers and increase the probability that they will interact in future. Attachments serve a number of functions in that they create a safe base from which the infant can explore its environment and return to especially in potentially threatening situations. Establish a first emotional relationship that acts as the basis for later emotional relationships. Enable a gradual detachment of dependency from the attachment figure(s) so that they are able to function as independent adults. Reduces distress and promotes emotional development and development of the self-image. ...read more.

Middle

In fact towards the end of this stage a stranger can just as easily comfort the infant when distressed as can their main caregiver. Thus it would appear that by the 5th stage the infant has formed an attachment and by the 6th stage has begun to form multiple attachments and as we will see this gains support from research into attachment. Attachments are assumed to have occurred if the infant uses the caregiver as a safe base from which to explore its environment and returns to the attachment figure in times of anxiety, distress or other potentially threatening situations (eg the presence of a stranger) to seek reassurance. Attachments are also thought to have occurred if they show distress when separated from caregiver. As with sociability research by Schaffer & Emerson (1977) has shown that attachment is not a sudden process and this too occurs in stages - ie four stages (assuming that the infant is in an environment that would enable these to occur of course). These are as follows: The first stage is the asocial stage occurring at 0 to 6 weeks during which the infant is attracted to animated, speaking human faces more than anything else (supported by Fantz' previously cited research). The second stage is the indiscriminate attachment stage occurring at 6 weeks to 7 months during which the infant prefers human company to anything else and are apt to protest if any human puts them down or leaves them alone. ...read more.

Conclusion

Research has shown that the type of attachment an infant initially makes is reflected in later emotional relationships. For example Landerville & Main (1981) found that infants securely attached at 12 months were much more likely to obey their mothers, co-operate with female strangers, were more curious and more sociable with peers at 21 months than infants who were not securely attached. Waters et al. (1979) found that the quality of infants' attachments at 15 months was reflected in their behaviour at age 31/2 years. In that infants securely attached at 15 months were social leaders in nursery settings often initiating play activities, were more sensitive to their peers needs and feelings, more curious and eager to learn, more self-directed and more popular with peers than insecurely attached infants were. Hazan & Shaver (1987) found that attachment styles experienced in childhood are reflected in adult emotional relationships. Nevertheless, research has shown that these effects are not permanent, for example, Ross Thompson et al. (1982) found that securely attached infants can become insecurely attached if the attachment is disrupted (e.g. mother returns to work) or broken (e.g. divorce). Furthermore, Crockenberg (1981) found that changes in the caregivers circumstances (e.g. becomes less stressful) then an insecurely attached infant can become securely attached. Thus, unlike diamonds, attachment types are not forever and any event that drastically alters the ways in which infant and caregiver respond to each other can have a significant effect on the quality of their emotional relationship. ...read more.

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