of Tom and Jerry may recall a 1955 episode called ‘That’ my
mommy’ in which a duck egg slips from a nest rolls under an
unsuspecting Tom and hatches out to produce Quacker a new born
duckling. In the absence of his real mother Quacker assumes
that Tom is mum and spends the rest of the episode trying to
foster an attachment whilst an ever desperate Jerry attempts to
rescue Quacker from the frying pan!
Now you may
think that even though we use the term ‘bird brained’ as a term of
abuse, that no creature would be so stupid, however, the ‘and finally’
light-hearted items you get at the end of news bulletins would suggest
otherwise since there are often tales of strange attachments of this
type. I seem to remember one from a few years ago in which an owl had
adopted a young kitten for example.
this sort in which a young creature forms an immediate attachment with a
mother figure is called imprinting and seems to be the norm in many
species, but can it be applied to humans? Why do we form attachments in
the first place and what happens if they are broken? How does this
relate to day care and affect social policy? These are just a few
questions hopefully answered in the pages that follow.
What is an
There are a
number of definitions offered by different psychologists but these two
(1993) ‘A close emotional relationship between two persons,
characterised by mutual affection and a desire to maintain proximity.’
In a similar
vein, Maccoby (1980) describes four characteristics of an attachment:
the desire to be close to the person to whom you are attached.
the distress that results from being separated from that person.
relief and observable joy when reunited with them.
orientation of behaviour towards the caregiver,
the child’s awareness of where the person is, and the reassurance
they feel by them being close.
these characteristics since they will reappear in later studies e.g. the
‘’Glasgow babies’ and the ‘strange situation.’
we form attachments?
This is best
broken into short term (immediate) benefits and longer term benefits.
Both, to some extent, can be explained in terms of benefits to the
reproductive success of the species or individual (depending whether you
favour Darwin or Dawkins; for the biologists).
emerge into the world unable to fend for themselves so require lots of
assistance in the early stages of life. This is particularly true of
the human infant that is helpless for many early years of its life.
close attachment with a caregiver therefore ensures that the offspring
will be fed, protected from harm, educated in various techniques of
survival and kept warm. It seems likely that the infant’s need to form
an attachment is innate. It is also worth considering that it is also in
the interests of the parent(s) to protect their offspring from harm.
Again in evolutionary terms they, particularly the mother, have invested
a lot of time and energy in producing offspring, it is in their best
interests to see the fruits of their labours reach maturity and
reproduce themselves. It therefore seems likely that adults also have
an innate tendency to form attachments with their offspring.
horses are on their feet within minutes
Humans are helpless for much longer
not so apparent. Bowlby (1969) proposed that early attachments provide
a template or schema, or a set of expectations that allow us to build
other attachments later in life. He called this template the ‘internal
working model.’ Early attachments are our first feel for what
constitutes an emotional bond and we use this in later life as a basis
for other attachments.
they also act as an anti-incest device. Incest, as well as being
morally repugnant in all societies, is biologically very dodgy, leading
to greatly increased risk of genetic abnormality. Any species or
individual that avoids incest is therefore more likely to successfully
propagate its offspring.
The ‘Westermarck effect’
This is more for general interest than inclusion in an answer.
Westermarck (1891) found that children that spend a lot of time with each
other in the first 6 years of life, will not go on to form sexual relationships
with those same people when they reach maturity. Westermarck believed that this is an anti-incest device
and in normal circumstances prevents us forming sexual relationships with close
Shepper (1971) found
that not one of the 3000 Israeli marriage records he studied was for couples who
had been reared together, as children in a Kibbutz. This provides evidence for
the Westermarck effect but also for this concept of early attachments
influencing later emotional and romantic attachments.
that different rules apply to animals and humans.
Imprinting as proposed by Konrad Lorenz
comes from the work of ethologists on non-human animals, particularly
physical characteristics of various species develop at certain stages of
growth, the ethologists claim that perhaps attachments will only form
during similar critical periods. The most famous examples of this are
birds forming attachments to the first thing they see upon hatching.
Think of Quackers!
refer to the phenomenon as imprinting. It has the following
during a critical period. With ducklings the strongest tendency,
according to Lorenz, is between 13 and 16 hours after emerging from the
egg. If no attachment has developed within 32 hours it’s unlikely any
attachment will ever develop.
irreversible: once the bond is formed it cannot be broken, nor can its
consequences both for short term survival and in the longer term forming
templates for later relationships.
Lorenz (1935) split a clutch of goose eggs and got half to be hatched by
their mother and the rest were placed in an incubator and saw Konrad on
hatching. The second group subsequently followed Konrad everywhere and
became distressed if they were separated from him.
Although of fragile and amiable appearance, Lorenz’s politics
did leave a lot to be desired. In 1938, at the age of 35 he
joined the Nazi party and devoted his research to the aims of
the National Socialists. Some of his later research supported
the idea of ‘racial hygiene’ proposed by the Nazis.
later life, he joined the Austrian Green Party and distanced
himself form his earlier politics. Some have claimed that his
research suggesting a genetic basis for many behaviours may have
been inspired by his National Socialist beliefs though there is
no evidence of any fudging or doctoring of results.
Lorenz and his imprinted ducks
(1972) imprinted newly hatched zebra finches on Bengalese finches.
Later in life the zebra finches ‘preferred’ to mate with Bengalese
finches rather than their own species. Evidence for the long term
Guiton et al
(1966) disagreed with the irreversible nature of imprinting. They
imprinted newly hatched chickens onto yellow rubber gloves (Marigolds if
you prefer). In later life, just as the theory predicts, they did
indeed try to mate with the gloves. However, when they had chance to
spend time with others of their own species, they developed a ‘taste’
for mating with these instead.
criticisms of the imprinting or critical period theory however, are
based on its application to humans.
argue for such a rigid period of attachments in humans. However, some,
for example Bowlby, have argued for a ‘watered down’ version, referred
to as a sensitive period. The idea being that there is a time in
an infant’s life when it is most likely to form an attachment, but it
can continue to form them outside this period. Bowlby argued that our
need to form attachments was innate and would occur in the sensitive
period between the ages of 1 and 3 years.
Skin to skin
Kennel (1976) looked at two groups of newly born infants:
one allowed contact with mother during feeding in the first 3 days
two allowed extended contact with mother lasting several hours a day
later when they returned to the hospital mothers in group two were found
to cuddle their babies more and make greater eye contact. The effects
were still noticeable a year later.
Kennel believed that this showed that greater contact led to stronger
and closer bond formation between mother and child and provided evidence
for the sensitive period.
Note: This research led to a change in social policy with
hospitals encouraged to room mother and infant together in the
days following birth rather than the previous tendency to keep
them apart. Also fathers were encouraged to be present at birth
so that they too could form an early attachment
(1995) pointed out that most of the mothers were unmarried and from poor
families so results may be difficult to generalise to the general
population. Perhaps the closer bond was due more to the extra attention
given to them during the experiment.
this is another one of those ‘catch-all’ evaluation comments that can be
applied in any situation when participants are chosen from a narrow
grouping, e.g. students).
Chateau et al (1987) repeated the procedure on middle class Swedish
mothers and found very similar results.
non-human animal species it seems that imprinting is more flexible than
Konrad Lorenz thought. Sluckin (1965) believes that the sensitive
period is a time when a young animal is most likely to form an
attachment, but that such responses can be learned at any stage in life.
Schaffer and Emerson’s stages of attachment
decided that humans have a sensitive period for development we next
consider the process by which the human bond develops
Schaffer & Emerson and
the Glasgow babies (1964)
find the age at which attachments start and how intense these
studied 60 babies from a working class area of Glasgow,
observing them every four weeks for the first year and then
again at 18 months.
measured strength of attachment by:
Separation anxiety: how distressed the child became when
separated from the main caregiver (which suggests an
attachment has been formed) and
Stranger anxiety: distress shown when the child was left
alone with an unfamiliar person (which suggests that the
child can recognise familiar and unfamiliar people).
(Compare these to Maccoby’s defining characteristics of an
attachment (page 1) and to Mary Ainsworth’s characteristics for
measuring type of attachment in the strange situation).
first specific attachment was formed by 50% of infants between
25 and 32 weeks
Intensity peaked in the first month following the onset of the
Multiple attachments began soon after the first attachment had
been formed. By 18 months 31% had five or more attachments,
e.g. to grandparents etc.
human attachments develop in three distinct stages:
Stage and age
is short lived. Attention seeking behaviour such as crying and
smiling is not directed at anyone in particular, suggesting
attachments could be made with anyone.
(6weeks to 7 months)
Similar in that the child seeks attention from anyone and is
happy to receive attention from anyone. However, preferences
are shown to familiar faces that elicit a greater response from
to 11 months)
Child is primarily attached to the main caregiver. If they are
separated the child becomes distressed and the child is wary of
strangers. (See later notes on the Strange situation).
were observed in their own homes (a natural environment) we can assume
that the study is high in ecological validity; the findings can be
generalised to the real world.
accuracy of data collection by parents who were keeping daily diaries
whilst clearly being very busy could be questioned.
Explanations of attachment
babies form attachments?
behaviourists, behaviour is not innate but learned. Learning can be due
to associations being made between different stimuli (classical
conditioning) or behaviour can be altered by patterns of reinforcement
(reward) and punishment (operant conditioning).
suggest that we learn by watching others (social learning theory or SLT).
Social learning of this sort is particularly powerful when we see others
being reinforced or punished for their actions.
of conditioning as learning.
explanations of attachment:
Miller (1950) suggested that the attachment was due to drive
reduction. Hunger and cold have a strong motivating affect on the
child, driving the child to satisfy its need by eating or seeking
warmth. Obtaining food or warmth results in drive reduction
which in itself provides reward for the child.
cold (discomfort) are referred to as primary drives and food and warmth
are primary reinforcers. The person supplying the food and
warmth (usually the mother) becomes associated with the food and warmth
and acts as a secondary reinforcer. The attachment occurs
because the child wants the person providing the food and warmth.
the child is cold and hungry it cries. This is unpleasant for the
mother (punishment) who is likely to feed and cuddle the child. The
child stopping crying acts as a negative reinforcer for the mother
(something unpleasant has been taken away). Negative reinforcers make
the mother’s behaviour, feeding and cuddling, more likely in future!
a similar but simplified explanation of how food provides attachment.
The child simply associates food and mother together, much as Pavlov’s
dogs associated bell and food together.
If you want
this in technical terms:
an unconditioned stimulus that produces an unconditioned response
outset, mother is a neutral stimulus who produces no response
because she is continually paired with the unconditioned stimulus
(food) she slowly becomes associated with it until eventually mother
alone can produce pleasure.
has now become a conditioned stimulus and the pleasure she brings is
a conditioned response.
of conditioned as learned whereas unconditioned is something that was
there all the time).
always the behaviourist explanation is
takes a complex human behaviour and tries to explain it in the simplest
terms possible. It does not consider any internal processes or seek to
explain the emotional nature of attachments simply how they arise as
behaviourist theories of attachments (and Freud’s psychodynamic) are
sometimes referred to as cupboard love theories because of their
emphasis on food and feeding.
needed to create an attachment?
Glasgow babies study (Schaffer and Emerson): 39% of the babies formed
their first attachment with someone other than the person who fed them
(e.g. grandparent). This would suggest that food is not the main
requirement for forming attachments as the behaviourists suggest.
monkeys (1959): ‘The origins of love.’
used rhesus monkeys in his research into learning and noticed that many
of the young monkeys kept in isolation became distressed when he cleaned
out their cages. It seemed that the monkeys were forming an attachment
with the sanitary towels he used to line the base of the cages.
To find out
whether food or comfort was more important in developing attachments.
carried out a number of variations using sixteen young isolated
monkeys. Some where kept in cages with both a wire surrogate mother and
a softer one covered in Terry cloth whilst others were kept in cages
with just one. Sometimes the monkeys would be fed by the wire mother
and other times by the softer cuddlier mother. However, the important
variation was the one with a monkey in a cage with a wire mother that
provided food and a Terry cloth mother that didn’t (providing the monkey
with a choice; food or comfort).
Harlow noticed that the monkeys would spend most time clinging to the cloth
mother and occasionally feeding from the wire mother.
When the monkeys were stressed by a mechanical toy banging a drum the
monkeys would always run to the cloth mum for safety suggesting an attachment.
Also the monkeys with only wire mothers produced water faeces which was
attributed to stress.
suggested that warmth and comfort rather than food were more important
in nurturing an attachment and provided scientific evidence against the
behaviourist (and psychodynamic) cupboard love theories.
because Harlow used monkeys it is difficult to generalise the findings
and conclusions to humans. However, the Glasgow babies study also
suggested that babies didn’t always form attachments with the food
also serious ethical issues with this study. The young of an
intelligent species are reared in isolation and not allowed to form
attachments with their own species. The monkeys grew up unable to
socialise with other members of their species and were bullied as a
Learning Theory (SLT)
similar in some respects to learning theory, in that both emphasise the
role of reinforcement (an action that is rewarded being more likely to
be repeated). However, SLT emphasises the role of imitation. We watch
others and if they are rewarded for their behaviour we are likely to
copy it ourselves. Hay and Vespo (1988) suggested that attachments
develop because parents teach their children to love them. This can be
achieved in three ways:
children copy the affectionate behaviour that they see between their
parents teach their children to be affectionate.
parents watch their children and encourage appropriate behaviours.
(1995) does not believe that SLT can explain the intensity of emotion
that the attachment produces.
On the plus
side, the theory can be said to be influential in that it has
stimulated a lot of research into the interactions that take place
between parents and their children.
theory of attachment
impossible to study attachment and child development without considering
Bowlby’s work. His theories on attachment and on maternal deprivation
have been some of the most influential writings on the topic. Given the
nature of his theory I thought it would be worth including an abridged
biography of Bowlby’s early life which sheds light on his motivation to
produce the sort of theories he did.
worked for many years as a child psychoanalyst so was clearly very
influenced by Freud’s theories and child development. However, he also
liked the work of Lorenz on the innate nature of bonds through
imprinting and combined these two very different ideas to produce his
own evolutionary theory of attachments. Bowlby believed that attachment
is innate and adaptive. We are all born with an inherited need to form
attachments and this is to help us survive. In line with Darwin’s
theory of natural selection, any behaviour that helps you survive to
maturity and reproduce yourself will be maintained in the gene pool. In
human terms, the newborn infant is helpless and relies on its mother for
food, warmth etc. Similarly the mother inherits a genetic blueprint
that predisposes her to loving behaviour towards the infant.
believed that an attachment promotes survival in 3 ways:
the attachment keeps mother and child close to each other.
Separation results in feelings of anxiety.
base for exploration: the child is happy to wander and explore
(necessary for its cognitive development) knowing it has a safe
place to return to if things turn nasty. This also develops
independence necessary in later life.
working model: This was based on Freud’s idea of the mother-child
relationship acting as a prototype fro all future attachments.
Bowlby believed that this first relationship forms a template or
schema that gives the child a feel for what a relationship is. It
uses this in future years to develop other relationships and is
particularly important in determining the parenting skills in later
aspects of the theory (deary)
Bowlby believed there would be a period in which they were most likely
to develop, similar to the critical period for imprinting. Unlike a
critical period (the only time in which an attachment may form), a
sensitive period suggests a time when they are most likely to occur.
Bowlby believed that for the human infant this was between the fourth
and sixth month. After this it becomes ever more difficult for the
child to form a first attachment.
the attachment cannot be broken.
the child has built in mechanisms for encouraging care-giving behaviour
from parents. Children have ‘baby faces’ and their noises and facial
expressions such as smiles encourage contact. It seems that adults are
genetically primed to respond to these releasers by offering care and
smiles are powerful things leaving
spellbound and enslaved. Who
that the baby who most readily
mother with a smile is the one
who is best
loved and best cared for?’
working model ensures that early attachments are reflected in later
relationship types. For example, a secure attachment as a child leads
to greater emotional and social stability as an adult, whereas an
insecure attachment is likely to lead to difficulties with later
relationships. As already mentioned this is likely to be reflected in
the parenting style when the child matures and has children of their
here is not as straight forward as it first appears. On the face of it
the debate is between many attachments or just the one. However, Bowlby,
who was in the ‘one’ camp, did not actually believe that only one
attachment was formed, rather that there was only one primary
attachment. The ‘many attachments’ approach believes there
are many attachments and that they are all similarly important to the
child. The text also claims that Bowlby did not believe that the main
attachment had to be the mother, saying that his words ‘maternal’ and
‘mothering’ were not intended to mean mother!
(1998) has made it clear that children will benefit from a variety of
attachment styles provided by different caregivers, so for example an
attachment to a father figure will provide benefits to the child that a
mother alone could not provide. In Caribbean and European culture,
infants seem to form many equally important attachments to different
(1969) claimed that there was a hierarchy of attachments, with a primary
caregiver, usually the mother at the top. The Efe, an African tribe,
share the care of their children so that women in the village breast
feed each another’s children. However, the infants still go on to form
their primary attachment with their biological mother.
Emerson’s Glasgow babies study found that nearly a third of infants had
five or more attachments by the age of 18 months.
evaluation points to make when discussing Bowlby
theory has been very influential. It has been widely studied with some
researchers agreeing, some suggesting modifications. It has been widely
applied in practical situations, particularly in hospitals, children’s
homes and fostering policy.
Bowlby seems to concentrate on the role of the mother and
neglected the father believing the latter to be of little
significance. Later research has shown that the father can play
a useful role and lamb (1983) suggests that often children
prefer the rough and tumble play they get with the father.
Bowlby seemed to overlook the relationships the child develops with its
brothers and sisters. Schaffer (1996) describes these as horizontal
relationships as opposed to the vertical relationships with parents,
teachers and other adults.
the internal working model is at best mixed. Zimmerman et al (2000)
assessed attachment style of children ages 12 to 18 months and then in a
longitudinal study checked again at the age of 16 years (using
interviews to determine the relationship the child had with its
parents). They found that early attachment style was not a good
predictor of later relationships and also discovered that life events
such as parental divorce had a much greater impact.
A poor early
start can be overcome by positive experiences at school and good adult
relationships (Rutter & Quinton 1988).
following study does provide support for the idea of an internal working
model but is itself a very poor piece of research:
Shaver (1987): The Love Quiz’
(pronounced lerrrrve obviously)
researchers asked people to volunteer to take part in the study.
given 2 questionnaires, one to determine their early relationships with
parents, the second their later, adult romantic attachments.
three basic types of childhood attachment and related these to later
Childhood experience with parent
Adult experience with partner
Close warm relationship with parents and between parents
Secure, stable and loving relationship with partner
Mother was cold and rejecting
of intimacy, emotional highs and lows, jealousy
Father was perceived as unfair
Obsessive, jealous and emotional highs and lows
attachments do affect later, romantic attachments.
of the Love Quiz
As I said a
poor piece of research because of the following reasons:
the participants volunteered after reading an advert in the Rocky
Mountain News. This is a poor way of selecting participants since you
are not getting a cross section of the public. Using this sampling
technique, for example, you are going to get people with an ‘axe to
grind’ or with extremes of experience or opinion.
People tend not to answer truthfully, particularly on issues of
relationships, instead wanting to make themselves look good.
As we saw in
memory our recollection of past events is not reliable, so it
seems unlikely that people’s memory of their childhood experiences will
The researchers have shown a relationship between early attachments and
later ones and are assuming that the childhood experience has caused
the adult experience. However, other factors could be involved. Kagan
(1984) suggested the temperament hypothesis. Children with a pleasant
disposition are more likely to form warm relationships with parents and
later in life, assuming they maintain their ‘niceness’, will form more
Note: from a
practical point of view, poor research like this is good when it comes
to writing essays or discussing points. You can explain why the study
offers support for Bowlby’s IWM but then criticise it using one or more
of the points above and then importantly suggest that these criticisms
question the extent to which it can really be seen as reliable support.
Easy AO2 marks!
study but with similar findings is McCarthy (1999). Forty women (aged
25 to 44) who had experienced insecure attachments as children were
given various tests (including Hazan and Shavers) to determine the
quality of their adult romantic attachments. Women classed as avoidant
as children tended to have less successful romantic attachments whereas
those classed as ambivalent were more likely to have problems forming
for background interest only
Bowlby’s father (Sir Anthony Bowlby) lost his own father at the
age of five and spent much of the rest of his life caring for
his mother (John’s grandma). John himself, as was common for
wealthy families at the time, was reared by a nanny til the age
of four when she left. According to Bowlby, his mother was cold
and reacted to his needs in the very opposite way that you’d
expect a mother to react. At the age of seven, again as was,
and still is common, John was sent to boarding school, so again
was separated from friends and family. In the introduction to
one of his many books Bowlby quotes Graham Greene;
‘Unhappiness in a child accumulates because he sees no end to
the dark tunnel. The thirteen weeks of a term may just as well
be thirteen years.’
very clear that his young life was not happy. He experienced
many separations, including his father going off to war when he
studied psychology at Cambridge but took time off, spending six
months in a school for maladjusted and delinquent children. He
later referred to this as the most important six months of his
life. Whilst there he noticed how many of the children had lost
their mothers at a very young age.
later trained in medicine but didn’t enjoy the experience of
medical practice. In 1939 he raised concerns about the
desirability of evacuating young children and separating them
from their mothers.
Unusually for a psychoanalyst (or any other psychologist for
that matter) he was keen to incorporate other approaches into
his theories. He was particularly fond of the work of Konrad
Lorenz (mentioned earlier) and his ethological work on the
evolutionary advantages of attachments. According to Ainsworth,
Bowlby’s theory appeared as a flash of inspiration after he had
read Lorenz’s “King Solomon’s Ring.”
of attachment including insecure and secure attachment
Much of what
we’ve seen in Psychology so far looks at ways in which we are similar.
It has tried to find models or theories that explain human behaviour but
without considering ways in which our behaviours differ. An important
area in the subject however is individual differences which, as
the title suggests seeks to explain the differences we find between
seeks to explain how:
Individuals differ in the types of attachment they form
Different cultures influence the types of attachment we form
This is a
method devised by Ainsworth and Bell to measure the type of attachment
that a child has formed. It uses many terms and concepts that you
should already be familiar with from earlier work in the topic, e.g.
Glasgow Babies and the Love Quiz.
experiment is set up in a small room with one way glass so the behaviour
of the child can be observed. Children were aged between 12 and 18
months. Each phase of the procedure lasts 3 minutes and a session
progresses as follows:
Parent (or caregiver) enters room with child, child explores for 3
Stranger enters and joins the parent and infant, talks to mother
Parent leaves the infant with the stranger
Parent returns and the stranger leaves. Parent settles the infant.
Parent leaves again
Parent returns and stranger leaves.
In all the
stranger enters on average eight times, more if the child is okay, less
if it isshowing signs of distress.
the procedure the child is observed by a team of researchers who make
notes every 15 seconds about the following behaviours:
and contact-seeking behaviours
and contact-maintaining behaviours
To get more
reliable results Ainsworth and her co-workers combined the results of
several studies so that a total of 106 different child observations were
included in the final report. This combining of studies is called a
observations made allowed Ainsworth to judge the child’s reaction to the
following three variables:
how the child reacts when mother leaves
how the child reacts to being alone with a stranger
how the child behaves when mum returns
observations Ainsworth (Mary) concluded that there were three types of
Distressed when mother leaves
Infant shows signs of intense distress
Infant shows no sign of distress when mother leaves
Stranger is able to offer some comfort
Infant avoids the stranger
Infant is okay with the stranger and plays normally when
stranger is present
to mother and greets her enthusiastically
Child approaches mother but resists contact, may even push her
Infant shows little interest when mother returns.
Infant cries more and explores less than the other 2 types
Mother and stranger are able to comfort infant equally well
after reviewing a further 200 tapes of children in the strange situation
Main and Solomon (1986) added a fourth type of attachment that they
referred to as ‘disorganised.’ The infant’s behaviour is not consistent
and shows signs of indecisiveness and confusion. Sometimes the child
will freeze or rock back and forth.
of the Strange Situation
studies that have used the 'Strange Situation' have found it to be
reliable and valid.
Reliability refers to whether you can produce the same results if tested
Validity refers to the extent to which the 'Strange Situation' actually
measures what it is supposed to measure.
of the 'Strange Situation' was demonstrated by Main, Kaplan and Cassidy
(1985): They tested babies at 18 months and then retested them at 6
years of age. They found that 100% of the secure babies were still
classified as secure and 75% of the avoidant babies were still under the
called test-retest reliability and checks for consistency over
herself also tested inter-rater reliability (the extent to which
different observers score a behaviour in a similar way). This was also
found to be very high.
of the 'Strange Situation.' Some have argued that the strange situation
only measures the relationship between the child and one other person
(usually the mother) so rather than measuring attachment type it is
simple measuring relationship. However, Bowlby argued the case for
montropy, the idea that there is only one primary attachment figure (the
mum) and all others are of lesser importance anyway.
If the test
is a valid measure of attachment type then we should be able to use its
findings to predict the future stability of a child’s relationships
(again assuming Bowlby was right about the internal working model).
Secure attachments in childhood should result in more stable adult
here is not so conclusive, different researchers reaching different
(1983) found support for its validity. Infants that were rated as
secure went on to become more popular, have higher self esteem, and be
Bates, et al (1985) disagreed. They claimed that early attachment
styles did not predict the presence of behaviour problems at 3 years of
situation study seems to imply that attachment types influence
personality and therefore affect later attachments. However, the
strange situation may actually be testing the relationship between the
infant and the caregiver.
Weston (1981) found that children behaved differently depending on which
parent they were with. This suggests that attachment type is not
with the strange situation
The test was
devised by Ainsworth in the USA using American children. The test is
therefore culturally biased. Desirable attachments in the USA may not
be seen as desirable elsewhere. Nevertheless the test has been used
worldwide and used to judge infants in other cultures. This is an
example of imposed etic when we create a theory, test or
construct in one culture (usually Western) and impose it on the rest of
situation also seems to exaggerate behaviours. Children over-react when
placed in the strange situation so do not behave as they would normally
in the real world.
Ainsworth is criticised for over-simplification in her belief that
children can be categorised into only three groups. Other studies have
suggested that there big individual differences between children within
in attachment group.
the different attachment types
herself believed that the kind of attachment the child develops is due
entirely to the mother. Secure children have mothers who respond
appropriately to the child’s needs by picking up on the signals.
Insecure children on the other hand have mothers that are less
responsive and the attachments they develop are coping strategies that
enable them to deal with this lack of response.
the reason for a relationship between early attachment and later
relationships has nothing to do with the type of attachment formed.
Kagan (1984) believed it was all down to the temperament of the child.
Those who are naturally good at forming relationships do so early in
life and form close relationships with parents and this is true later in
life as well; because of their pleasant temperament they are more
popular with people in later life too.
Chess (1977) thought that children were born with a certain personality
type and suggested three main categories;
eat and sleep regularly and accept new experiences (under 50%)
eat and sleeping a problem, as is accepting anything new or different
Slow to warm
Take a while to get new to new experiences (15%)
go on to form secure attachments. Slow to warm up babies require a lot
more encouragement so will only form secure attachments with patient
Rovine (1987) found that babies in the first few days of life have
certain physiological characteristics that seemed to match later
attachment styles. Calmer and less anxious children at this age were
more likely to develop secure attachments a few months later.
believed that attachments were innate so the need to form this initial
bond should be genetic and as a result experienced by the infants of
every culture. However, the kind of attachment formed may vary between
societies and between cultures depending upon the child rearing
techniques seen most desirable within that community. This section (a
favourite for examiners) looks at different patterns of attachment found
in other cultures and possible explanations for the differences.
carried out most of her research in the USA but others have found broad
agreement with her findings in other parts of the World (worth
mentioning in an essay!). The ones I’ll mention below are exceptions in
that they are different and we shall consider possible explanations for
Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg (1988) carried out a meta-analysis combining
the findings of 32 other studies of the strange situation from a variety
of countries and based on the observation of over 2000 children.
Note: if the
question asks you to describe the procedure of a study into
cross-cultural differences in attachment describe the strange situation
but emphasise it was carried out in a variety of countries.
notable finding was the similarity in types of attachment across most
countries. Secure attachment is the norm in the overwhelming majority
However these three countries stood out from the rest.
Germany has a high percentage of avoidant attachments and
both Israel and Japan a much higher than normal percentage of
large number of studies combined in this meta-analysis over half (18 of
the 32) were still US. Only five of the 32 were carried out in *collectivist
We also have
the issue of imposed etic. The strange situation was designed by an
American, using American children for use on other Americans. Many
researchers have therefore questioned whether it can possibly be
suitable for testing the children of other cultures. Mary Ainsworth
assumed that separation anxiety was an indication of secure attachment
and this may be the case in some countries such as Britain and the USA.
However, separation anxiety in other societies and cultures may
represent other factors. The strange situation may therefore not always
be a suitable measure of attachment and may in fact be culturally
specific. This development of a test for one culture, then being used
in unfamiliar cultures is referred to in psychology as imposed etic,
and is most controversial in the testing of IQ.
al (2000) suggest that although the need for protection appears to be
universal (the same across all cultures) other factors differ. They
believe psychologists should be working at an emic level, producing
theories of attachment tailored to fit each individual culture. For
example, the Japanese have the concept of ‘amae’ (depending on
another’s love) which according to Doi (1973) leads to a sense of
oneness between mother and child.
explain why so many infants develop a seemingly more clingy resistant
attachment style and become so distressed when separated from mum.
Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg report that differences in attachment within
a culture are far greater than those found between cultures. They
conclude that it is wrong to think of everyone in a culture having the
same practices. Within a culture there are many sub-cultures, all with
their own way of rearing children. These may be ethnically or racially
based but also may be class specific, for example in the UK the so
called ‘middle classes’ having different child-rearing techniques to the
‘working classes.’ The upper classes traditionally have left child
rearing to nannies!
support of the strange situation, Bee (1999) believes that the most
striking feature of the cross cultural studies is their similarity.
With the exception of the countries mentioned earlier, most countries do
seem to have a similar pattern with most infants forming secure
attachments and the rest being split equally between avoidant and
Individualistic versus *Collectivist cultures:
A distinction that crops up frequently in psychology (we’ll see it
again in stress and again when we look at abnormality…oh and again
when we look at conformity).
We are individualistic!
Western society encourages its citizens to be independent and not
reliant on others (some would say greedstern (and increasing
Eastern) Europe and Australia are all classed as Individualistic.
Collectivist cultures place the emphasis on the family or on
collective rather than the individual.
People are more dependent on those around them, more likely
to share worksponsibility and see the family as being more
important. Asian and
African countries tend to be collectivist.
Japan is a combination being financially individualistic but
collectivist when it comes to social situations (including child
of these cross cultural differences
children were reared in a Kibbutz so were used to being separated from
their mother. As a result they do not show anxiety when their mother
leaves. However, they are not used to strangers so get distressed when
left alone with the stranger. This explains the high percentage of
resistant behaviour. Fox (1977) tested children in the strange
situation using either their mother or the metapelet (Kibbutzim nurse).
The children appeared similarly attached to both except for reunion
behaviour where they were more pleased to see mother.
children show similar patterns of attachment to the Israeli children
but for different reasons. Japanese children are very rarely left
by their mother. So the distress they show when she leaves is probably
more due to shock than it is to insecure attachment. The distress they
show when left alone with the stranger is also more likely to be due to
absence of the mother.
study highlights a high percentage of avoidant behaviour, typical of
independent children. This is not surprising given that Grossmann et al
(1985) say that German parents seek ‘independent, non-clingy infants,
who do not make demands on parents, but obey their commands.’ Ah if
only it were true in Britain!
to explain the cultural differences is very useful AO2 stuff.
forget to emphasise the similarity between most other cultures!
are a number of situations in which an attachment can be broken either
temporarily, for example by hospitalisation or permanently through
death. A broken attachment like this is referred to as deprivation.
Unfortunately there are also cases of children being so badly treated,
perhaps being kept in total isolation for many years, that they never
have the opportunity to form an attachment and this is called
did not differentiate between the two in his maternal deprivation
hypothesis. Recent studies however suggest:
Deprivation and privation are
distinct, believing that the long term consequences of privation are far
more severe than the long term consequences of deprivation.
Children are generally far more
resilient to early separation than Bowlby originally proposed. Bowlby
himself later changed his views adopting this line.
Robertson & Bowlby (1952)
It is important to bear in
mind that the initial distress varies according to the temperament
of the child, especially its security. For example if a child is
used to short term separations they know the carer will return so
the effect of the separation is less severe.
The research for the PDD
model was carried out on children aged between 1 and 4.
Child cries and calls for its mother. Panic is usual. This can
last from a few hours to a few weeks!
Child becomes apathetic (i.e. uninterested in what is happening
around them). They continue to cry occasionally and call for
The child cries less and is more interested its surroundings.
Onlookers may think that the child is getting over the separation,
whereas in fact the child is hiding its feelings. When the mother
returns the child shows little interest and may even be angry or
push the mother away. However, the attachment is soon rebuilt.
It is important to note
that the carer may also suffer similar patterns of distress.
and Joyce and the not so famous five
often the case researchers in psychology get all loved up with fellow
workers. James and Joyce Robertson fostered four children (Jane, Kate,
Lucy and Tom) whilst their mothers were in hospital. They carried out a
detailed observation of how the children coped with this temporary
separation. Four of the children settled well and soon adapted to the
new regimen which the Robertson’s had tried to keep as similar to the
children’s home environment. However, a fifth child, John, was placed
in a residential nursery for nine days. At first all appeared well but
after two days John’s behaviour deteriorated has he became attention
seeking and spent lots of time crying. Not getting the attention he
needed he developed an attachment with a teddy bear. Whereas during the
first week he had appeared pleased to see his father by the second week
he seemed apathetic and would largely ignore him. When his mother
finally returned from hospital John screamed and tried to distance
himself from her.
(1997) looked at Robertson & Bowlby’s original study and found the
situation to be more complex than they had suggested.
If the child is securely attached it
copes better than the model predicts
If the child is avoidant then it gets
the full blown PDD effects.
effects are not inevitable as was initially predicted. The study by
Robertson and Robertson shows that if steps are taken to minimise the
separation, for example discussing their real mother and keeping to
familiar routines, the effects can be small.
result of research by psychologists, the care of children in hospitals
is very different to how it was 30 years ago. It is recognised that
good psychological care is vital for physical rehabilitation so steps
are taken to minimise bond disruption. More regular, even around the
clock, visiting hours are now available.
Long term effects
44 Thieves and MDH
Bowlby interviewed the
children, and their families, who attended a clinic where he
worked. He compared the backgrounds of 44 juvenile thieves with the
background of 44 other non-delinquent children.
32% of the thieves were
diagnosed by Bowlby as having affectionless psychopathy, the
main symptom of which is lack of moral conscience. Most of these
had experienced separation for at least one week before the age of
Separation in early life
led to long term ill effects, particularly adversely affecting
The data collection is
retrospective (i.e. the children and their parents had to think back
many years to the child’s younger days). This can produce
inaccuracies (as you will appreciate being experts on the memory
Some of the children were
only separated for short periods, so it is difficult to believe this
could have caused such emotional disturbances.
The results are
correlational, so we cannot prove cause and effect. Bowlby assumed
that the early separation had caused the later disturbance, but many
other factors could be responsible. For example children from poor
backgrounds are more likely to be hospitalised. Children from poor
families are also more likely to become delinquent. Attachments may
not be the cause but poverty may be.
this study Bowlby developed his Maternal deprivation hypothesis:
of bonds in early life leads to intellectual, social and emotional
problems in later life. Note, by ‘maternal’ it is usually assumed that
Bowlby meant mother figure. Bowlby originally believed the effects to
be permanent and irreversible.
ADDIDDAS (a mnemonic for the characteristics of Maternal deprivation):
Aggression, Delinquency, Dwarfism (no jokes!), Intellectual retardation,
Depression, Dependency, Affectionless, Social maladjustment.
the Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis (MDH)
Bowlby’s own 44 thieves
study (see above).
(1945) study of
orphanages in S. America. The children showed little affection with
many showing all the symptoms of anaclitic depression e.g. loss of
appetite and apathy.
& Wolf (1946) study
of 100 children who had become depressed after hospitalisation. A full
recovery was made if stay in hospital was less than 3 months. Note this
study was carried out in the 1940s when hospital care of children was
very different to that found today.
orphanage study. The research involved 2 groups of children:
Group 1: spent the first few
months in an orphanage and were then fostered.
Group 2: spent 3 years in an
orphanage before being fostered, (i.e. had little opportunity to form
attachments in early life).
Both groups were tested to the
age of 12.
The children who had spent 3
years at the orphanage performed less well on IQ tests were less social
and more likely to be aggressive.
of maternal deprivation hypothesis
Reversing the irreversible
studies have shown that many of the effects of early deprivation can be
overcome. They are not so permanent and irreversible as Bowlby seemed
Deprivation or conditions?
reared in institutions (Spitz, Goldfarb) were not only separated from
parents they were also kept in relatively poor conditions. This is
likely to have added to the effects.
(1981) in his book ‘Maternal Deprivation Reassessed’ (available in the
department) criticises Bowlby on two key counts:
and effect and the issue of poverty
a classic case of a study not being able to establish cause and effect.
Bowlby showed that children who are separated from their parents in
early life (usually due to spending time in hospital) are more likely to
be delinquent when they grow up. From this he assumed that early
breaking of the maternal bond will disrupt later development. This
cannot be proven using Bowlby’s method. An association or correlation
between two variables (in this case deprivation and delinquency) does
not establish a definite cause and effect relationship.
sadly, that poorer people are more likely to resort to crime
(delinquency). We also know, sadder still, that children who are reared
in poverty are far more likely to end up in hospital. Therefore it
seems natural to conclude that a third variable, poverty, caused many of
the issues for the 44. Poverty led them to be hospitalised and poverty
led them to crime.
Deprivation or privation?
did not distinguish between the effects of separation and privation. We
now know that the long term effects of privation are far more severe
than the effects of deprivation. Rutter believes the effects Bowlby
attributed to separation may well have been due to privation.
Children in institutions such as orphanages never had the opportunity to
form attachments because of the high turn over of staff so were
effectively suffering privation as opposed to the deprivation that Bowlby had assumed.
Privation is the failure to form an attachment and can be caused
following the death of both parents (most likely during times of war)
resulting in children being raised in institutions or it can be caused
by extreme neglect in which children are raised in isolation. We shall
look at the latter first and consider the findings, the ethical issues
raised and also the methodological problems and benefits of using case
studies in psychology.
Genie (as reported by
Found at the age of 13, she had been kept tied to a potty chair
for much of her life. She had been severely punished for making
a noise. When found she had the appearance of a six or seven
year old. Curtiss described her as ‘unsocialised, primitive and
Following her discovery she continued to be mistreated at the
hands of doctors and psychologists who were more interested in
furthering their own careers than in Genie’s welfare. She never
acquired full language skills and failed to adjust socially.
Unfortunately we have no way of knowing whether Genie was, as
her father suggested, brain damaged at birth. If this had been
the case this could partly explain her lack of progress.
PM and JM (as
reported by Koluchova 1976).
JM were male identical twins born in the former Czechoslovakia 1960.
Their mother died at birth. They spent 11 months in a children's home
before being reared by their father and stepmother. The father was of
low intellect and the stepmother was particularly brutal in her
treatment of the twins. They were kept in a small closet or cellar.
They were discovered at the age of 7. Their speech was poor and they
had rickets (due to vitamin D deficiency caused by poor diet), so
consequently could not walk. They were subsequently adopted by two
sisters and were well cared for. They were tested at the age of 14 and
showed no long term ill effects. In later life they both found
employment and ‘enjoyed warm relationships.’
the outcome of these two cases is very different. However, it does
appear that given favourable care a near full recovery from early
privation is possible. There are a number of reasons why Genie’s
outcome was not good:
The possibility that
she may have been brain damaged at birth as her father had suggested
The later age at
which she was discovered.
She had been reared
alone whereas the twins had each other.
The better care the
twins received after being rescued.
Dann (1951) and the concentration camp victims
children whose parents had been murdered in concentration camps were
adopted into English families after the war. Despite having no adult
attachment figures in their early lives, having no speech and witnessing
all types of atrocities the children went on to make reasonable
to describe the procedure of a study investigating privation do
not use case studies!
studies; the issues
studies provide ideal opportunities for psychologists to study
situations that could not be created in any other way. However, in so
doing they need to keep the best interests of their participants in
mind. This doesn’t appear to have been the case with Genie. In the
case of privation we usually have young children who because of their
age or mental state are unable to give full consent to research. Carers
may also feel pressurised into allowing access to psychologists even
though it may not be in the child’s interest. Psychologists on the
other hand have a double-obligation dilemma. They have a duty to
carry out research into this area but also a duty of care to those being
studies can provide lots of detailed and intimate information about a
particular condition and its causes. However, by their nature they are
one-offs and involve patients who have been exposed to a unique set of
conditions and are therefore suffering unique symptoms. Although a case
study can provide detailed information about one individual case it is
difficult to then generalise findings to others or to come up with a
theory based on what is likely to be one disturbed individual. The two
studies above highlight this perfectly. Two cases of extreme privation
but with very different outcomes and no way of knowing why.
institutionalised privation provide less detailed information and appear
less interesting, but do allow for much greater levels of control and
probably tell us more as a result.
famously claimed that a bad home was better than a good institution
because of the poor psychological care children receive in such places.
Skodak & Skeels (1949) compared two groups of mentally retarded children
brought up in an institution. One group were transferred to a home to
be cared for, the other group remained in the institution. Those
removed to a home showed improvement in their IQ (up from 64 to 91),
those remaining in the institution showed a drop in IQ (down from 87 to
61). I don’t know why their IQs were so different at the start! Twenty
years later the difference was still present. This would appear to lend
support to Bowlby. However, most studies suggest Bowlby was wrong:
Hodges and *Tizard (1989))
useful study both in its findings and in its design!
a natural experiment. All experiments have an IV and a DV.
Usually the IV is manipulated by the experimenter (for example time
spent counting backwards in the Brown-Peterson procedure). However,
with a natural experiment researchers take advantage of an IV that
changes naturally, in this case children in care either being fostered
or being returned home.
also longitudinal. The researchers study the same group of
children on a number of occasions at different stages in their
The aim of
Hodges and Tizard's study was to examine the effect of institutional
upbringing on later attachments.
children in a care home were assessed over a 16 year period. The
participants in the study were all aged 16 and had all been in
institutional care until the age of four. During this time they had not
been able to form attachments because of the high turn over of staff.
By the age of two the children had on average 24 different carers each!
At the age of four:
the children were returned to their biological parents
remained in the institution with occasional fostering
categories (form of care) are the IV for this experiment.
Five main methods were used to collect data on all the adolescents
(including those in the comparison groups):
interview with the adolescent;
interview with the mother (in some cases with their father present);
self-report questionnaire concerning 'social difficulties';
questionnaire completed by the participants' school teacher about
their relationships with their peers and their teachers;
'B' scale which is a type of psychometric test which identifies
psychiatric problems such as depression.
At 16 the
majority of the adoptive mothers (17/21) felt that their child was
deeply attached to them, whereas only a half of the restored children
were described as deeply attached. Adopted adolescents were also more
often said by their mothers to be attached to their father than the
Ex-institutional children had greater problems with siblings than a
no differences regarding the number of contacts with opposite sex
friends, or whether the 16 year-old currently had a boy/girl friend
compared to non-institutionalised adolescents.
ex-institutional children had poorer relationships with peers than a
comparison group. Teachers rated the ex-institutionalised group as more
often quarrelsome, less often liked by other children and as bullying
other children more than the comparison group.
Tizard believed that their findings demonstrate that children who are
deprived of close and lasting attachments to adults in their first years
of life can make such attachments later, although this does depend on
the adults concerned and how much they nurture such attachments. Hodges
and Tizard offer an explanation for why the adopted children were more
likely to overcome some of the problems of early institutional
upbringing better than the restored children. The financial situation
of the adoptive families was often better, they had on average fewer
children to provide for, and the adoptive parents were particularly
highly motivated to have a child and to develop a relationship with that
child. The biological parents in Hodges and Tizard's sample seemed to
have been 'more ambivalent about their child living with them'.
natural experiment this is very high in ecological validity.
being a natural experiment the researchers would have had little control
over confounding variables. For example in this study at the age of
four the children were split with some returning to parents and others
being adopted whilst seven stayed mostly in care. It is unlikely that
this would have been a random process! It is most likely that the more
personable children with the better social skills would have been
fostered. The ones with the most problems are likely to have remained
in care. As a result it is difficult to be certain that the resulting
behaviours at the age of sixteen were down to type of care. They could
have been due to temperament of the child.
Longitudinal studies can suffer from attrition. Not all participants
starting the procedure see it through to the end. Families move to
other areas, no longer want to take part or simply can’t be traced. In
the case of Hodges and Tizard only 51 of the original 65 were questioned
at the age of eight. The ones who are left may not be representative of
the initial sample.
effects of institutionalisation
Reactive detachment disorder
seen ‘Good Will Hunting?” Matt Damon plays a character with this
condition. An extreme lack of sensitive responsiveness from a parent in
early life can lead to a child growing up unable to trust or love
others. They become isolated and very selfish and unable to understand
the needs of others can become sociopathic without a conscience.
condition in which children select attachment figures indiscriminately
and behave in an overly familiar fashion with complete strangers. It
seems to be caused by long periods of institutional care in early life.
They often have other behavioural disorders too including attention
Rutter et al (2007) and the Romanian orphans
an on-going longitudinal study which began in 1998.
Romanian orphans were adopted into British families. Rutter wanted to
see if good care could compensate for the privation the children had
suffered before the overthrow of the Communist dictator Ceaucescu.
this has been run as a natural experiment with age of adoption being the
naturally occurring independent variable (IV). Rutter is studying three
Adopted before the age
of 6 months
Adopted between 6 months
and 2 years
Adopted after the age of
two (late adoptees).
age of six years children were making very good recoveries, however,
those adopted later (older than two years) had a much higher level of
disinhibited attachment. In 2007 Rutter returned to the children (then
aged eleven years) and found that some had made recoveries but about
half of those diagnosed with the condition at the age of six still had
it at the age of eleven.
exposed to privation are more likely to make a fuller recovery if
adopted into a caring environment at an earlier age.
How does day
care affect children’s social development
Bowlby believed that short term separation in the first few years of
life could produce long term and irreversible negative effects on the
child’s social, emotional and cognitive development. If this really
were the case then surely placing children in day care would be damaging
years the issue of day care has become increasingly important with more
mothers of young children working longer and longer hours. In the 1950s
it was almost unheard of for mums to work. By the 1970s 50% of women in
the UK between the ages of 25 and 44 were in work or seeking work. By
the 1990s this had risen to 75 %. More importantly 80% of non-working
mothers would work if they could find and afford good quality day care.
Recent figures from the USA show that 80% children below the age of six
spend an average of 40 hours a week in non-parental care.
This section of the topic looks at the types of day care available and
crucially at the evidence for and against day care being damaging.
look after and educate children from a few months old to 5 years old
through play opportunities. There are different types of day care
including: private, community, workplace or local authority run. All of
them will be registered and inspected by OfSTED, to ensure quality care
for your child. Some nurseries offer after school and holiday care for
children of school age.
Day nurseries are staffed by qualified and experienced people and can
offer either part-time or full-time day care.
is someone (other than a parent, relative, person with parental
responsibility, or foster parent) looking after one or more children
under 8 years of age, in their own home for over two hours a day, for
reward. Under the terms of the 1989 Children Act childminders must
register with Ofsted. It is illegal for an unregistered person to look
after children for reward
Childminders provide care for babies, toddlers and school age children
in the childminders own home. Childminding is a professional career
providing consistent high standards of care in partnership with parents.
operate in a variety of community venues and provide integrated care and
education for children aged 2 to 5 years on a sessional basis during
term time. Sessions usually last 2.5 hours to 4 hours and provide a wide
range of activities which offer children the opportunity to learn
through play. Some groups will offer wraparound care to extend the
sessions. Through well-planned play, children will develop skills such
as language, listening, concentration, learning to work together and to
co-operate with other children. They will also learn skills to help them
with reading, writing and numbers. Pre-schools are registered and
regularly inspected by OfSTED.
Others include crèches, nannies and play schemes, nursery classes and
out of school clubs
of day care on social development.
This is the main thrust of this section and as already stated is based
on the work of Bowlby who would have predicted that daycare is bad for
the emotional attachment and future development of the child. In 1994
Violata and Russell reviewed the findings of 88 previous studies (this
is called a…….?) and concluded that regular day care for more than 20
hours a week had an ‘unmistakeably negative effect on socio-emotional
development, behaviour and attachment of young children.’
In fact the evidence is not clear with some studies agreeing with
Violata and Russell and others coming down in favour of day care. In
fact it is difficult to come to clear conclusions for all sorts of
reasons and mentioning some of these will qualify you for those pesky
hard to get AO2 marks!
Some texts lump social development together as one amalgam, however for
the purposes of revision I think it would be easier to do as other texts
suggest and break it down into its component parts: effects on;
attachment, aggressiveness and peer relations.
Belsky and Rovine (1988) found support for Bowlby’s theory of permanent
harm. If the child is in day care for more than four months in their
first year they are significantly more likely to develop insecure
attachments. Sroufe (1990) suggested therefore that children should not
be placed in daycare until at least the age of one.
(By positive here I mean there are no negative effects)
Clarke-Stewart et al (1994)
in a study
of 500 children found that children receiving up to 30 hours a week of
day care were no more distressed than other children who had attended
much lower intensity day care when separated from parents in the strange
situation. Roggman et al (1994) compared infants who had attended day
care in the first year with those who had remained at home and found no
difference in attachment with mothers.
studies suggest that day care has no ill effects on attachment or social
In a recent study Erel et al compared day care-attenders with
home-reared on six measures including type of attachment with mother,
self-esteem and interaction with peers. Again they found no significant
differences between the two groups suggesting no negative (or positive)
effects from attending day care.
Common sense would suggest that early opportunities to mix with lots of
other children of similar age would help with peer relationships and
most evidence seems to support this idea:
Shea (1981) videotaped children in a day nursery and compared the
behaviours of those attending for different lengths of time.
(Interesting for two reasons: clear ethical issues with taping young
children playing and also the very early days of video!).
He found that children who attended more regularly were more active,
more sociable in that they went looking for people to talk to, and made
more contact with others. This increase was greatest in those attending
day care most often (every week day) suggesting a correlation between
time spent in day care and sociability.
Clarke-Stewart et al (1994), already covered, found that increased time
in day care seemed to speed up social development, so children who had
experienced more day care learned their social skills at an earlier age.
There is no direct evidence suggesting that day care harms peer
relations. However, Sroufe et al (2005) in their Minnesota longitudinal
study did find support for Bowlby’s continuity hypothesis. This would
suggest that children forming secure attachments with parents were more
likely to form close relations with others later in life. Since day
care may increase the likelihood of insecure attachments it seems
logical to assume that day care may have a negative impact on relations
with peers later in life.
Effects on aggression
Vandell and Corasaniti (1990) found that eight year olds who had
spent their early years in day care were rated as more
‘non-compliant’ by both their teachers and their parents. A
number of studies e.g. Belsky (1999) have tended to support this
finding that long periods of day care in the first five years
can lead to raised levels of aggressive behaviour in later
childhood. Haskins (1985) found that children kept in larger
groups were more likely to be aggressive
However, as always, things aren’t quite so clear cut. Borge et al
(2004) carried out a questionnaire study of over 3000 Canadian children
comparing day care children with children reared at home. Mothers were
asked to rate their lovelies on measures such as frequency of hitting
and biting other children and how they react when accidentally hurt by
others. These researchers found that children kept at home appeared to
be more aggressive. However, the results are difficult to interpret
since those being kept at home were more likely to be from disadvantaged
backgrounds. As a result it is difficult to know whether the day care
is preventing aggression or poverty is causing it!
Clarke-Stewart (again) argue that much of the research into aggression
(e.g. Vandell and Corasaniti) fail to distinguish non-compliance from
assertiveness from aggression. What is being reported as more
aggressive behaviour in the daycare children could simply be children
that have greater confidence and have learned to assert themselves
studies and drawing conclusions
This is the AO2 stuff!
The studies covered above have come to a variety of sometimes
complimentary and sometimes conflicting conclusions. However, when we
look at the studies we are not comparing like with like for all sorts of
The types of
used differ between studies, sometimes looking at childminders and
sometimes nurseries etc. Because of this the adult-child ratios and
number of peers present will vary between studies and will impact on the
is a crucial variable, sometimes being provided by qualified and
experienced professionals and unfortunately sometimes not. Much
research has shown that only high quality daycare will be beneficial to
the child. Children who get good quality daycare tend to come from
well-educated middle class backgrounds (Marshall 2004).
of commencing daycare and
also vary between studies with some looking at children who started in
their first year and are spending 40 hours a week in daycare whilst
others start later and spend perhaps only a couple of days a week away
personality (temperament) of the child
is hardly ever mentioned in the studies but is clearly going to affect
how the child reacts to separation.
for those attending and not attending daycare are likely to be very
different. Wealthier middle class children are more likely to spend
longer time in good quality care whilst children from poorer and
one-parent families are more likely to remain at home. Therefore as
with the Borge study, comparisons between daycare and home reared are
not comparing like with like.
But there is
some good news!
The NICHD (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) are
carrying out a HOOOOOGE longitudinal study of the effects of daycare and
hopefully taking many of these variables into account.
The NICHD study began with over 1000 children from a variety of
backgrounds in 1991 and being a longitudinal study is ongoing with
results still coming in.
More time in daycare resulted in more assertive, non-compliant and
Children in full-time daycare were three times more likely to show
behavioural problems such as tantrums, lying and arguing.
Higher quality daycare was associated with higher levels of cognitive
development (reading etc).
The sensitivity of the mother was a much better indicator of social
competence and aggression than time spent in daycare. More sensitive
mothers were far more likely to be producing children with fewer social
The latest findings from the study (reported by Jay Belsky 2007) with
the children aged twelve years, still found a link between extended
daycare and aggressiveness. However, latest findings by Belsky also
reinforce earlier conclusions that the home environment is far more
Lamb and Hwang (2000)
Another longitudinal study, this time of Swedish children, some of whom
attended daycare and some who’s parents had requested daycare but been
At the outset (children aged 18 months) before starting daycare, the
children were assessed on a variety of measures including quality of
parenting, play behaviour, home environment. They were then observed
after they had just started daycare. These measures provided a baseline
for future observations.
At the ages of 21/2 and 31/2 these observations were repeated.
At 6 their carers were asked to judge the child’s social competence.
At 8 their teachers were asked to judge their social behaviour
At 15 they were given questionnaires to assess their social style,
development and friendship quality.
Children who had spent long days in daycare were found to be less
Conversely, those who spent shorter periods but many times a week in
daycare were found to be more socially competent.
Quality of daycare was vital. Those attending good quality daycare
before the age of three had increased social competence.
Crucially they found a high correlation between social competence aged 3
and aged 15. This suggests that social abilities are formed at an early
age and once developed are unlikely to change in later life. We call
these stable characteristics.
Good quality early daycare is essential for the development of social
Individual needs of the child
All the above studies are suggesting that early daycare is related in
some way to later social development (either in a positive or negative
way). However, all the studies are correlational so we cannot assume a
causal link. As an example: children who attend daycare become more
socially competent and outgoing. We therefore assume daycare is causing
extrovert behaviour in later life.
However, it could be that shy children have shy mothers (perhaps
introversion is inherited) who prefer not to work but stay at home and
care for their children. As a result only outgoing children attend
daycare in the first place!
Egeland & Heister (1995)
studied 70 children from poor backgrounds.
Half entered day care before the age of one, the other
half stayed at home with mothers.
The Strange situationess the se attachment of the
childrn. They were
assessed at the age of one and 3 1/2.
Day care seemed to have negative effects for securely
had a positive effect for insecure children.
Insecure children needed the extra attention so benefited
from day care.
Securely attached children did not need the extra attention.
of research into attachments and day care
In the UK in 2004 the Government announced the National Childcare
Strategy offering free state nursery to all three and four year olds and
providing guidelines for what they should be taught! Much of this and
other government and state initiatives in the past 50 years has stemmed
from psychological research into the importance of attachments and what
constitute good day care.
If as a child you were unfortunate enough to be hospitalised, even as
late as the 1960s, there would be strict rules applied to parental
visiting times and limits placed on our long parents could spend with
their children. Following the findings of Robertson and Robertson’s
study that children require continuing emotional care and as much
contact as possible with natural parents, visiting hours were extended.
Today hospitals sometimes allow around the clock visiting hours.
Mothers who were intent on having their children adopted used to still
be encouraged to nurse them in the first few weeks and months of life
before they were adopted. This would result in either a broken bond
when they were moved or in no attachment being made at all because of
the lack of sensitive responsiveness on the part of the unwilling
mother. Today, thanks to research into attachment behaviour, adoption
usually occurs in the first few weeks of life.
mother to suck eggs
Some psychologists have suggested that knowledge of attachments can be
used to improve parenting skills. For example:
Juffer et al (1997) conducted a study aimed at seeing whether adoptive
parents could be taught sensitive responsiveness.
Ninety families were split into three groups of thirty. Thirty received
no training, thirty received training via a self-help booklet and thirty
received training via being filmed interacting with children and then
watching the footage with an expert who advised on better techniques.
Findings and conclusions
The first two groups control and training via a booklet showed no
differences in responsiveness to the general population, whereas those
trained by human intervention were significantly improved which
crucially led to a more secure bond being formed. The researchers
concluded that not only could sensitive responsiveness be taught but it
did indeed improve quality of attachment.
staff to child ratio
of adult-child interaction
Consistency of care
of stimulating toys
Mixed age groups
The most researched area of policy based on attachment research however
has been into ways of improving day care. What constitutes good care
isn’t easy to define (Schaffer) but the following variables seem
especially between the child and carer which seems to result in higher
quality day care. However, it is important to mention that verbal
interaction between parent and child tend to be more complex and
beneficial simply because they can provide undivided attention to their
children rather than have to divide it between man y.
of the carers is, according to the NICHD, the single most important
factor. In one survey they discovered that only 23% of carers provided
‘highly sensitive’ care with 20% being ‘emotionally detached’ from the
children in their care.
Consistency of care
is also important. Low staff turnover provides opportunities for
children to form attachments with the care givers whereas, higher staff
turnover can result either in failure to form an attachment or in broken
attachments if a regular care-provider leaves.
Staff should be
in caring for children. Sylva et al (2003) found it was particularly
important for the day care centre manager to be wee trained.
should be kept low. The NICHD recommend no higher than 3 children to
each carer. Similarly children should be kept in small groups so fewer
strangers need to be dealt with.
are also good for the child’s social development since, according to
Clarke-Stewart et al (1994) younger children get the opportunity to
watch and learn from the social interactions of the older children.
Similarly plenty of
will help improve the child’s cognitive development. We will look at
this briefly in year 13 when we consider the environmental factors of
Some children will benefit more from day care than others. Similarly
the type of day care required will vary from child to child, depending
on their temperament and upon the home environment. Parents should
therefore, whenever possible try to find the appropriate day care for
For example, more aggressive children may be better off placed in day
care homes or receive at home care rather than be placed in larger day
However, children from very poor backgrounds seem to be less aggressive
when in larger groups than when kept at home. Perhaps for these larger
day care centres may be beneficial.
Children who attend group day care tend to develop better social skills
since they are mixing with larger groups of peers. An only-child may
benefit more from this opportunity than a child from a larger family who
has lots of siblings to play with.
thought for the mothers
It isn’t just the child who may suffer the effects of day care but also
the parents and particularly the mother. Mothers who return to
full-time employment within a year of giving birth often feel guilt and
anxiety, worrying that their child may become less securely attached.
However, by staying at home they run the risk (Brown and Harris 1978) of
becoming depressed, presumably because of the social isolation they
The provision of workplace nurseries may help reduce the worst effects
providing opportunities for mothers to spend more time with their
kiddies whilst at work.