P3 Attachment Theory

The Role of Attachment Theory
in Behaviour Acquisition
• Stages of attachment (Schaffer, Emerson)
• The Effects of Separation (Robertson &
• Effects of Deprivation (Bowlby & Ainsworth)
• ‘Privation’ (Rutter)
• Isolation (Koluchova)
Schaffer & Emerson
The Development of Attachments
The Asocial Stage:
Birth to 6 weeks
At this age babies don’t
care who you are!
They respond to humans
in the same way they
respond to inanimate
Primary care givers
sometimes get a bit fed
up at the lack of
response to them!
There is no attachment at
the moment.
Schaffer & Emerson
The Development of Attachments
Indiscriminate Attachment:
6 weeks to 7 months
Infants can distinguish
between people and
objects and are
becoming more sociable
with people
But, they have not yet
formed attachments are
happy to be held by
anyone, even Paris!!
Schaffer & Emerson
The Development of Attachments
Specific Attachment:
from 7 months
The infant show signs of having
formed a strong emotional bond
with a particular person (usually,
but not always, the mother).
Separation Anxiety – they cry
and protest when separated
from their attachment figure
Stranger Anxiety – they show
distress when left with strangers
and are unhappy until they are
reunited with their attachment
Robertson & Robertson
The Effects of Separation
James and Joyce Robertson
carried out observations on
children in the 1950s who were
admitted to hospital.
Parents were not allowed to
spend much time with their
children in hospital in the 1950s.
Their own daughter was
distraught when admitted to
hospital and separated from
them, and they realised that
separation at this young age
could have damaging effects.
Robertson identified 3 stages of
emotional distress - PDD
children showed
great distress,
calling and crying
for the absent care
giver and some
appeared panic
stricken. Anger &
fear were evident
Robertson identified 3 stages of
emotional distress - PDD
DESPAIR – the children
became calmer but
apathetic as they
showed little interest in
anything. Self
comforting behaviours
were observed such as
thumb sucking and
Robertson identified 3 stages
of emotional distress - PDD
DETACHMENT – the children appeared to be
coping with the separation as they showed
more interest in their surroundings but thy were
emotionally unresponsive.
They avoided forming
new attachments and
showed no interest
when the care giver
returned. Most
children reestablished the
relationship over time.
Bowlby – The Effects of Deprivation
& Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis
• If a child is deprived of its
mother between 6 months
and 5 years then this would
lead to difficulties later in
• They would be unable to
form attachments with
others and would be more
like to turn to crime.
• Separation experienced in
early childhood caused
affectionless psychopathy.
Do you think maternal
deprivation hypothesis
could explain their
behaviour? Did they form
an attachment to each
Bowlby: 44 Thieves Study
• He interviewed 88 children, 44 had
been reported for thieving and 44
had emotional problems but had not
committed any crimes.
• He found that the thieves lacked a
social conscience.
• 32% of thieves were diagnosed as
affectionless psychopaths and 86%
of this group had experienced
separation for at least a week before
the age of 5.
• Bowlby concluded that maternal
deprivation can seriously disrupt
healthy emotional development.
• What do you think?
The Artful
Rutter - Privation
• Privation occurs when a child
forms no bond at all with a
care giver. When might this
happen? (Baby P?)
• Children in orphanages
where there is low staff-tochild ratio have been found
to suffer from privation
because they have no
interaction with others.
Rutter - Privation
• Rutter found that if separation
was associated with illness it
was not associated with
delinquency, but if separation
was associated with stress,
children were four times as
likely to become delinquent.
Baby P
Do you think he was
Would he have suffered
from privation?
Were there others in his
life to form attachments?
• He said that Bowlby’s thieves
had probably suffered from
PRIVATION not deprivation.
• Privation involves a situation
where no bond is formed in the
first place. This much more
serious than deprivation where
a bond is disrupted but can,
with care, be re-formed.
Koluchova - Isolation
• In 1972 Koluchova reported the case of two identical
twins who ad been beaten, locked and cruelly
treated until the age of 7. They only communicated
using gestures and were terrified of the outside
• The were rescued and fostered by a devoted foster
mother and they both developed language and
social and cognitive skills. By 20 they were both in
employment and had good relationships with their
foster mother.
• Does this study show (as Koluchova says) that the
effects of early privation can be overcome if the
care provided is of sufficient quality?
Harlow – Rhesus Monkey
Harlow forced baby monkeys to be
separated from their mother,
provided them with two wire dolls,
one with just milk attached and one
that was comfy and nice. Surprise
surprise, the monkey spent most of it’s
time with the comfy ‘mum’ and only
fed off the wire ‘mum’. Harlow
concluded that feeding a child does
not necessarily form a bond.
The baby monkeys reared this way
could not form bonds with their own
offspring in later life.
• Questions: Does maternal deprivation hypothesis
explain delinquent behaviour? Is it a criminal’s
fault that they commit crime if they never formed
an attachment in early life?
• Is there any hope for an affectionless
• Is attachment theory nature or nurture?
• What hope is there for a child who has
experienced privation?