Psychology Attachment Revision Guide

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Attachment – Two people who have an emotional link, which ties them together

Bond – a set of feelings that ties one person to another

Maccoby (1980) 

People have a bond by:

  • Seeking proximity
  • Distress on separation
  • Joy on reunion
  • General orientation or behaviour towards the other person

Animal attachment – first thing they see is their mother (imprint)

Shaffer and Emerson (1964)

  • Studied 60 babies in Glasgow
  • Monthly visits for the first year then visit again at 18 months
  • Focussed on separation anxiety, stranger distress
  • Showed separation anxiety within 6-8 months (attachment formed )
  • Fear of strangers followed a year after
  • After the first attachment they would form multiple attachments
  • 65% attachment was with the mother  3% with father
  • 27% was joint attachment with mother and father
  • Variety of methods of data collection
  • Ecological validity – done in their own home
  • historical validity – not relevant to today
  • inducing stress to children

Classical conditioning - Learning through association


  • Sounded a bell when feeding dogs
  • Began to salivate at the sound of the bell

UCS – unconditional stimulus

UCR – unconditional response

CS – conditioned stimulus

CR –conditioned response

Food (UCS) = Pleasure (UCR)

Food + mother (CS) = pleasure (CR)

Criticisms of Classical Conditioning

Harlow (1959)

  • Study with monkeys
  • Monkey spend more time with the surrogate who gave comfort instead of food
  • Went to the surrogate who gave comfort when scared
  • Proves food is not the main criteria for attachment

Shaffer and Emerson

  • Controlled observations
  •  Not necessarily more attached to the person who fed them

Operant conditioning - Behaviour that provides a reward


  • Rats would press the lever that supplied food
  • Repeat it to gain the food

Positive reinforcement

Negative reinforcement

  • Baby will cry from being hungry or cold
  • Caregiver will console the
  • Behaviours are rewarding to the child
  • Negative reinforcement for the parent – repeat next time they cry
  • Baby is likely to repeat crying for the reward
  • Parent to repeat to stop the crying
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Social learning theory


  • Children and adults learn behaviour through observation and imitation

 Hay & Vespo 

  • Parents act as a role model for how to understand and carry out relationships
  • Role modelling – show
  • Direct instructions – teach
  • Social facilitation – watch and help


  • Importance of role models
  • Hay& Vespo don’t deny importance of innate influences but draws attention to the development
  • Do not explain why attachments are emotionally intense for both people

Evolutionary explanations –


  • Innate drive to form attachments
  • Internal working ...

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