The other theory of attachment, which focuses on nurture, was put forward by Dollard and Miller (1949), who believe that attachment is something which you learn. It is a result of experience of the environment you live in, and the world around you, not processes you are born with. This theory involves two key areas, classical conditioning and operant conditioning. The first of which, classical conditioning, is based on association. For example, if it is the mother who feeds the child, after time, the baby will begin to associate the mother with being fed, and soon just seeing the mother will cause the baby to start to feel relieved. The latter, operant conditioning is based on rewards. Positive reinforcement occurs when a particular behaviour is followed by a pleasant action, which causes the child to repeat the action. For example, a child will cry to attract the attention of the primary care giver, who will comfort the child, providing the child with the reward they were seeking. Negative reinforcement however, is when an action puts an end to a particular behaviour. For example, when a primary care giver comforts a child to put an end to their crying, putting an end to the negative action.
There are positive and negative aspects to both theories, which will be further examined. Both Bowlby’s evolutionary theory and Dollard and Miller’s learning theory can be seen as reductionist. In other words, they reduce the complexity of human beings. Focusing on Bowlby’s evolutionary theory, positive aspects include the fact that his theory is supported by many other researchers, which make his claims more valid. However, one key study, by Schaffer and Emerson disagrees with the concept of monotropy, instead claiming that children form multiple attachments, with close family friends, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, grandparents, other relatives and so on. This process of attachment, Bowlby said, takes place within the critical period, which thought to be the first three years. He believed that the attachment process should not be disrupted, or there would be serious consequences. This belief is supported by other evidence found that the critical period is vital to a child’s development. If a child grows up with insecure attachment patterns, they will "develop the inability to form secure attachments and react in a hostile, rejecting manner with their environment" (Pickover, 2002).
Following on from the idea that the learning theory is reductionist, a further criticism of the theory is based on a study by Harlow, which, despite being extremely unethical, demonstrated that attachment is based on more than seeking rewards, and that physical contact and comfort are important too. This theory does not take into account the love and security that the primary care giver provides. As Shaffer and Emerson showed the sensitivity and responsiveness of the carer are also key factors to forming secure attachments and relationships. However, a positive aspect could be that it takes into account that children can be formed by their upbringing, environment and experiences, as opposed to Bowlby who focuses on the idea of nature. It doesn’t exclude those things that make us individual, for example with twins, who can have the same genetic makeup but completely different personalities.
To conclude, I believe that the theories both have strong and weak points, and that they each had an impact on society and how we looked after children. Furthermore, the fact that others have gone on to further their research shows that it will have had some influence on the modern world, albeit indirectly, based on his findings.
Here's what a teacher thought of this essay
Summary The writer starts off really well with some excellent descriptions of both Bowlby's attachment theory and then Dollard and Miller's social learning theory. This shows that the writer has understood clearly the main points of each theory. Unfortunately the writing on the positive and negatives of both theories is rather thin on the ground. It would be better to spend one paragraph on the positives and negatives of each theory. Then the writer needs to draw some conclusions at the end. This has the potential to be a very good essay if the writer could just improve the last few paragraphs. The writer may need to read a little more about the criticisms of both theories. 3 stars