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Theories of Attachment Explanations of the underlying mechanisms of attachment formation (how & why) Two major approaches: Learning theory (Dollard & Miller)

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Presentation on theme: "Theories of Attachment Explanations of the underlying mechanisms of attachment formation (how & why) Two major approaches: Learning theory (Dollard & Miller)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Theories of Attachment Explanations of the underlying mechanisms of attachment formation (how & why) Two major approaches: Learning theory (Dollard & Miller) Learning theory (Dollard & Miller) Evolutionary theory (Bowlby) Evolutionary theory (Bowlby)

2 Learning Theory Dollard & Miller (1949) Attachment is a set of learned behaviours (i.e. results from experience of the environment, not innate processes) Classical conditioning (association) Classical conditioning (association) Operant conditioning (consequences) Operant conditioning (consequences)

3 Learning Theory Classical conditioning Infant learns to associate feeding/comfort with primary carer/mother Infant learns to associate feeding/comfort with primary carer/mother Mother acquires comforting properties by association Mother acquires comforting properties by association Operant conditioning Infant learns that crying, smiling brings positive response from adults (reinforcement) Infant learns that crying, smiling brings positive response from adults (reinforcement) Adult learns that responding to cries etc. brings relief from noise (negative reinforcement) Adult learns that responding to cries etc. brings relief from noise (negative reinforcement)

4 Learning Theory Main predictions: The child will form attachments on the basis of primary care provision (feeding etc.) The child will form attachments on the basis of primary care provision (feeding etc.) Attachment behaviour should increase steadily from birth Attachment behaviour should increase steadily from birth The strongest attachments will be with those who provide the most primary care The strongest attachments will be with those who provide the most primary care

5 Evolutionary Theory Bowlby (1953) Attachment is biologically pre-programmed into children at birth Encoded in the human genes Encoded in the human genes Evolves and persists because of its adaptiveness (i.e. it is evolutionarily useful) Evolves and persists because of its adaptiveness (i.e. it is evolutionarily useful)

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12 Evolutionary Theory Infants emit social releasers, to which adults are biologically attuned Physical appearance Physical appearance Crying, smiling etc. Crying, smiling etc. These stimulate caregiving from adults

13 Evolutionary Theory Infants are programmed to attach to whomever responds to their releasing stimuli They select one special attachment figure (monotropy), who is used as a safe base for exploring the world They select one special attachment figure (monotropy), who is used as a safe base for exploring the world The primary attachment is the template for future social relationships The primary attachment is the template for future social relationships

14 Evolutionary Theory Main hypotheses: Attachments will form with those who respond to child’s signals Attachments will form with those who respond to child’s signals Attachment will correlate with other aspects of (biological) development Attachment will correlate with other aspects of (biological) development There will be a special attachment figure that is more important than others There will be a special attachment figure that is more important than others Disruption of attachments will have developmental consequences Disruption of attachments will have developmental consequences


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