There are many explanations for attachment such as learning theory and evolutionary perspective (Bowlby). Discuss one explanation of attachment (8 marks)
A01 – Description (4 marks)
Bowlby’s attachment theory states that attachment is adaptive and innate (genetic). Infants elicit care giving and become attached to those individuals who respond sensitively to their signals (social releasers). The relationship with the primary attachment figure (monotropy) acts like a framework for future adult relationships through the internal working model.
Bowlby stated that infants are born with innate social releasers, e.g. crying, smiling and cute faces (big eyes and large foreheads), which encourage (or elicit) the caregiver to provide care. Attachment is a two-way process, depending on the involvement of the parent and the infant and social releasers.
Bowlby claimed that infants need one special relationship, this he called primary attachment ...view middle of the document...
Whatever the primary relationship was like, the child will have similar expectations about their other relationships. The link between early attachment and later adult relationships is continuity hypothesis. Hazan and Shaver (1987) found that a secure infant will form secure romantic adult relationships.
A02 – Explanation (4 marks)
There are a number of strengths and weaknesses to Bowlby’s evolutionary theory. Schaffer and Emerson’s research of 60 infants in Glasgow concluded that all infants made a primary attachment, this supports Bowlby’s assumption of monotropy. However they also found that infants made multiple attachments which undermine the theory because these attachments were equal whereas Bowlby made an assumption that a hierarchy exists.
Other studies that support Bowlby is research by Erikson et al (1985) on secure base. When they observed pre-school children they found that securely attached children were less dependent on their teacher and more confident at undertaking tasks independently. This proves that if the primary attachment figure provides a secure base then the child will be confident to explore the world. Ainsworth et al (1970) supported secure base with the strange situation test.
Alternatively research that undermines Bowlby’s theory includes that on internal working model. According to Bowlby it is expected that children would form similar relationships with all people because they are working from the same internal model or framework. Lamb (1977) found that some infants form secure relationships with their mothers and insecure relationships with their fathers. This suggests that there is more to attachment than just a sensitive response to a social releaser. Kagan (1984) found that infants have an innate temperament, e.g. easy going or difficult, that influences early attachments with their caregivers and later relationships when they are adults. This is called temperament hypothesis. This means that attachments form as a result of temperament not an innate gene for attachment.
Although some psychologists have sought to undermine the evolutionary theory we must remember that Bowlby was the psychologist who developed the most influential theory of attachment.