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Describe and evaluate two theories of attachment

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Introduction

´╗┐Describe and evaluate two explanations of attachment (12 marks) Attachment is a strong emotional tie that develops over time, and is usually between an infant and their mother. Prolonged separation from the attachment figure is often accompanied by stress and discomfort. People who are attached want to be near each other, and show happiness and pleasure when they are reunited after a period of separation. One explanation of attachment is the learning theory. This theory suggests that attachment is something that is learned. There are two parts to the learning theory; classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning is where we learn by associating two things together. For example, the mother provides food which is pleasurable for the infant when they are hungry, so the infant associates the mother with food and the feeling of pleasure. ...read more.

Middle

However, food never comes without the mother, so the mother becomes the secondary reinforcer- even without bringing food, the presence of the mother reduces discomfort for the infant and brings a feeling of pleasure. The infant will therefore repeat any action, such as crying, which will bring their mother close. The learning theory has empirical support, for example, Hay et al shows that attachment is learned from watching and imitating a model. A child who watches their carer will try and copy their behaviour, which helps to form an attachment. However, there is research that does not support the idea of the learning theory, such as that conducted by Harlow. Harlow separated infant monkeys from their mother and raised them in isolation. He created two artificial wire monkeys; one had a feeding bottle attached and the other was wrapped in a soft cloth, but offered no food. ...read more.

Conclusion

Bowlby said that if this didn?t happen, the child would be damaged for life- socially, emotionally, intellectually and physically. Empirical support for Bowlby?s theory of attachment comes from Lorenz (1952). He put half a group of gosling eggs in an incubator, so that when they hatched, the first thing that they would see would be him. The goslings imprinted on Lorenz when they hatched and began to follow him around. This shows that imprinting in some animals is innate and must happen within a critical period. For the goslings, this was a few hours after birth. However, some research shows that infants become attached to multiple caregivers, which goes against Bowbly?s idea of monotropy. Shaffer and Emerson?s study found that infants would form attachments to the adults who were most responsive to them. In 39% of cases, this was not the person who spent the most time with them, or the person who fed them. ...read more.

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