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Lecture 10

PSYC 251 Lecture 10: Module10

Course Code
PSYC 251
Stanka A Fitneva

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PSYC 251 March 23, 2018
Module 10
Attachment and the Development of the Self
The Caregiver-Child Attachment Relationship
- Research on children adopted from institutions in Romania is best known study on this
o Showed that institutional deprivation in first years of life hinders social,
emotional, and cognitive development
o Deprives child of meaningful relationships with caregivers
- Behaviourists argue that food, like breast milk, is the basis for the parent-child bond
o Infants link food to mother’s through classical conditioning
o Food = unconditioned stimulus
o Mother = conditioned stimulus
o Mother’s evoke pleasure in infant only because of this association
- Harry Harlow did studies of rhesus monkeys
o Infant monkeys reared in laboratory away from mothers were physically healthy
but developed emotional and behavioural problems unless they were given some
affection and something soft to hold
o Tested whether pleasure of food or pleasure of comfort was more important to the
o Two surrogate mothers made of wire and wood were constructed, except that one
was covered in sponge and terrycloth
o Varied which mother gave food
o Monkeys spent more time on the cloth mothers, especially when the cloth mother
fed them
o As the monkeys fed by the wire mother got older, they would only feed at her and
go to the cloth mother every other time
o Showed that infants needed the comfort not the food
- Harlow also found that when infant monkeys were put in unfamiliar situation without
surrogate mother they would cower and self-comfort ie. rocking and sucking thumb
o When cloth surrogate was introduced, they would cling to mum and then
eventually explore room, periodically returning to mothers
o Mothers functioned as a source of security and base
- Harlow’s experiments were really unethical and cruel so they wouldn’t fly now
Attachment and the Strange Situation
- An enduring emotional bond with a specific person
- Typically discussed in relation to infants and caregivers
- Quality of attachment varies based on infant’s experience with caregiver (attachment
- Attachments formed early in life lay groundwork for later relationships across lifespan
- Purpose of attachment
o Enhances infant’s chance of survival by keeping caregiver in close proximity

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PSYC 251 March 23, 2018
Module 10
o Helps child feel emotionally secure and allows them to explore world without
crippling fear
o A form of co-regulation that helps children manage their levels of arousal and
their emotions
John Bowlby: The Father of Attachment
- Influenced by Freud and agreed that relationships with mothers influence later
o Replaced Freud’s nation of a needy, dependent infant with the idea of a
competence-motivated infant with caregiver as secure base
- Attachment Theory: children are biologically predisposed to develop attachments to
- Believed that attachment motivation evolved because there is an evolutionary advantage
(increases child’s changes of survival)
o This idea was influenced by Konrad Lorenz’ concept of imprinting
o Attachment process has an innate basis (favour faces from own species) but is
highly dependent on nature of their experiences with caregivers
- Secure base: presence of a trusted caregiver provides sense of security
o Child feels comfortable exploring surrounding environment
- Caregiver = source of comfort and safety when child feels scared/threatened
- Internal Working Model: mental representation constructed early in life based on
experiences with caregivers
o Provides information on the self, the attachment figure, and what to expect from
relationships in general
o Influence children’s future relationships and interactions with others
o Example. If child develops internal working model that people are unreliable an
can’t be trusts to provide support and love produce a much different life than a
child who learns that people are caring, sensitive, reliable sources of support and
Bowlby’s Phases of Attachment
- Preattachment
o Birth to 6 weeks
o Infant produces innate signals, most notably crying, that summons caregivers and
infant is comforted by ensuing interaction
- Attachment-in-the-making
o 6 weeks to 6-8 months
o Infants respond preferentially to familiar people
o Infants smile, laugh, babble more frequently in presence of their primary
caregiver and are more soothed by that person
o Like Freud and Erikson, Bowlby saw this phase as a time when infants form
expectations about how caregiver will respond to their needs
This allows them to develop (or not) a sense of trust in them
- Clear-cut attachment

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PSYC 251 March 23, 2018
Module 10
o 6-8 months to 1.5 years
o Infants actively seek contact with their regular caregivers
o Happily greet mother when she appears and can exhibit separation anxiety when
she departs
o Mother (most often) is now the secure base and facilitates infant’s exploration and
mastery of the environment
- Reciprocal relationships
o 1.5 to 2 years
o Toddlers’ rapidly increasing cognitive and language skills enable them to
understand parents’ feelings, goals, and motives
o Use this understanding to organize efforts to be near parents
o More mutually regulated relationship emerges as child takes an increasingly
active role in developing working partnership with their parents
o Separation distress declines
- Outcome of these phases is an enduring emotional tie between child and caregiver
- Allows child to develop an internal working model of attachment based on their
perception of the extent to which their caregiver can be depended on to satisfy the child’s
needs and provide security
o Believed that internal working model guide’s expectations about relationships
throughout life
Mary Ainsworth
- Member of Bowlby’s research team
- Built on Bowlby’s work to develop theory of attachment styles
- Developed the “strange situation” paradigm
o Designed to measure different attachment styles
Strange Situation Paradigm
- Designed to heighten child’s need for their caregiver so the researcher can see and
classify the child’s behaviour based on attachment patterns
- Caregiver and infant (12 months+) play in a room with age-appropriate toys
o Researchers observe how infant acts with caregiver in room
- Stranger enters room and eventually tries to interact with infant
- Primary caregiver then leaves the room after a few minutes so that infant is alone in room
with stranger
o Child’s reaction is observed
- Caregiver returns and infant’s reaction is observed, stranger leave
- Caregiver leaves and stranger enters and attempts to comfort the infant
- Caregiver returns and infants reaction is observed
- Found that 3 aspects of infant behaviour were particularly informative:
o The extent to which infant used parent as secure base during the first step
o How infant reacted to brief separations from caregiver (2 instances0
o How infant reacted to reunions with caregiver (2 instances)
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