Outline and evaluate Explanations of Attachment.

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Q. Outline and evaluate Explanations of Attachment. (18 marks)

        Attachment is a strong, reciprocal, emotional bond between an infant and their caregiver that is characterised by the desire to maintain proximity. Attachments take different forms, such as secure or insecure. Infants display attachment through the degree of separation distress shown when separated from the caregiver, pleasure at reunion and stranger anxiety.

        Freud proposed and explanation of attachment known as the psychodynamic theory. He suggests the first major stage of psychosexual development is the oral stage, where the mother is the primary love object because she feeds the child. Freud saw this first relationship as a foundation for all future relationships. If it was loving and caring then the chid developed the ability to give and receive love; if not then adult relationships would be unsatisfactory.

        Harlow (1959) demonstrates ‘cupboard love’ isn’t a valid explanation for infant attachment behaviour, as babies don’t always attach to the person who feeds them. Attachment is separate from the need for food. This was demonstrated in Harlow’s monkey study as when distressed the infant monkeys appeared to seek comfort not food. Schaffer and Emmerson (1964) showed 39% of infants attach to someone other than the person meeting their everyday needs. Another criticism of this theory is that Freud’s evidence isn’t based on facts and observations but on inferences.  For example he assumes the existence of the id on his assumptions of the structure of the personality.

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        A second explanation of attachment is the learning theory, the idea that all behaviour is learnt either by association (classical conditioning) or consequences (operant conditioning). By classical conditioning the pleasure of feeding becomes associated with the person who feeds the infant and this person therefore becomes a source of pleasure even when there is no feeding. Because the caregiver is associated with positive reinforcement they become a secondary reinforcer. The attachment is reciprocal mothers being reinforces positively by smiles or negatively by crying.

        It emphasises the role of ‘cupboard love’ so is subject to the same criticisms as the ...

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