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Maternal Deprivation Theory, John Bowlby (Description, AO1):
The Maternal Deprivation Theory was developed by John Bowlby (1951) and focuses on how the effects of early experiences may interfere with the usual process of attachment formation. Bowlby proposed that separation from the mother or mother-substitute has a serious effect on psychological development. Bowlby famously said that ‘mother-infant love in infancy and childhood is more important for mental health as are vitamins and proteins for physical health.’ Being separated from a mother in early childhood can have serious consequences according to Bowlby.
Definition of Maternal Deprivation:
The emotional and intellectual consequences of separation between a child and his/her mother of mother-substitute. Bowlby proposed that continuous care from a mother is essential for normal psychological development, and that prolonged separation from this adult causes serious damage to emotional and intellectual development.
Remember: Bowlby emphasised the importance of the critical period – he stated that if during the critical period (the first year of an infants life) a child was deprived of emotional care for a long period of time, this could lead to psychological damage.
Long Term Consequences of Maternal Deprivation – Bowlby’s 44 Thieves Study
Aim: To examine the link between affectionless psychopathy (individuals who have a lack of guilt and empathy) and maternal deprivation.
- Sample was 44 criminal teenagers accused of stealing.
- All ‘thieves’ were interviewed for signs of affectionless psychopathy (characterised as a lack of guilt about their actions, lack of empathy for their victims and a lack of affection.
- Their families were also interviewed in order to establish whether the ‘thieves’ had prolonged early separation from their mothers.
- A control group of non-criminals but emotionally disturbed individuals was set up to see how often maternal deprivation/separation occurred in children who were not thieves.
- 14 out of the 44 thieves could be described as affectionless psychopaths.
- Of this 14, 12 had experienced separation from their mothers in the first 2 years of their lives.
- In contrast, only 5 of the remaining 30 ‘thieves’ had experienced separations.
- Of the control group, only 2 out of 44 had experienced long term separations.
Conclusion: It was concluded that prolonged early separation/deprivation caused affectionless psychopathy.
Evaluation Bowlby’s Theory of Maternal Deprivation (Evaluation, AO3):
(1) POINT: Further research has supported Bowlby’s Maternal Deprivation Theory. EVIDENCE/EXAMPLE: For example, Goldfarb (1955) followed up 30 war orphaned children to age 12. Of his original sample, half had been fostered by the age of 4 whilst the other half remained in the orphanage. At the age of 12, both groups of orphans IQ was tested. The group fostered had an average IQ of 96, whereas the group that wasn’t fostered by age 4 had an average IQ of 68. EVALUATION: This is a strength because, Goldfarb’s findings reiterate the main assumptions of Bowlby’s theory showing that early separation and the deprivation can lead to long lasting effects on infant development and development in later life.
(1) POINT: However, Bowlby’s findings from the 44 thieves study can be criticised for investigator bias. EVIDENCE/EXAMPLE: For example, other Psychologists have suggested that Bowlby’s study had some major design flaws and most importantly bias. Bowlby himself carried out the investigation, the individual assessments for affectionless psychopathy and the family interviews knowing what he hoped to find. Developmental psychologists have suggested that Bowlby may have interpreted the findings in a bias way in order to generate support for his theory. EVALUATION: This is problematic because if Bowlby’s findings have been affected by investigator bias, this will mean that his theory is based on bias results and therefore can be criticised as being inaccurate.
(2) POINT: Research from Lewis (1954) challenges Bowlby’s findings into maternal deprivation. EVIDENCE/EXAMPLE: For example, Lewis partially replicated Bowlby’s 44 thieves study on a larger scale, looking at 500 young people. In her sample, a history of prolonged separation from the mother did not predict criminality or difficulty in forming close relationships. EVALUATION: This is a problem for the theory of maternal deprivation because it suggests that other factors may affect the outcome of early maternal deprivation.
Romanian Orphan Studies – The Effects of Institutionalisation, (Description, AO1):
Research into Maternal Deprivation has turned to orphan studies as a means of studying the effects of deprivation. An opportunity to look at the effects of deprivation and institutionalisation arose in Romania in the 1990s. The former president of Romania (Nicolai Ceaucescu) required Romanian women to have 5 children. Many Romania parents couldn’t afford to keep the children and so the children ended up in orphanages.
Rutter’s ERA (English Romanian Adoptee) Study
Aim: To investigate the effects of early institutionalisation and deprivation on later life development.
Procedure: Rutter et al (2011) followed a group of 165 Romanian orphans adopted in Britain to test to what extent good care could make up for poor early experiences in institutions. Physical, Cognitive and Emotional development was assessed at ages 4, 6, 11 and 15 years old. A group of 15 English children adopted around the same time served as a control group.
Findings: When they first arrived in the UK, half the adoptees showed signs of mental retardation and were undernourished. At the age of 11, the children showed differential rates of recovery that were linked to their age of adoption.
|Age of Adoption||IQ Score|
|Before 6 months||102|
|6 months-2 years||86|
|After 2 years||77|
Those children who were adopted after 6 months showed signs of disinhibited attachment (attention seeking, clinginess and social behaviour directed indiscriminately towards all adults (familiar and unfamiliar). Those infants adopted before the age of 6 months rarely displayed this type of attachment.
Conclusion: This study concludes that early maternal deprivation and a failure to form an attachment within the critical period can lead to long lasting effects on development in later life (long term effects).
The Effects of Institutionalisation, (Description, AO1):
- Poor Parenting: A child who has experienced a lack of emotional care may grow up to be a poor parent. Quinton et al (1984) compared a group of 50 women who had been reared in institutions (children’s homes) with a control group of 50 women reared at home in a ‘normal’ environment. When the women were in their 20’s it was found that the ex-institutionalised women were experiencing extreme difficulties acting as parents. For example, more of the ex-institutionalised women had children who had spent time in care. Harlow witnessed the effects of poor parenting with the monkeys who had been placed with a surrogate during the first few months of their life. Harlow followed the monkeys into their adult life and found that when they became parents quite often they rejected their offspring and, in some extreme cases they killed their offspring.
- Deprivation Dwarfism: Gardner (1972) showed that children who have experienced a lack of emotional care may show physical underdevelopment as well as emotional problems e.g. they may be physically small. It is thought that the lack of emotional care itself (rather than poor nourishment) may be the cause of this. The production of hormones such as growth hormones are affected by the severe emotional disturbance resulting in physical underdevelopment (or dwarfism). The case study of Genie illustrates the possibility of deprivation dwarfism as a result of a lack of emotional care during the critical period.
- Attachment Disorder: This has recently been recognised as a ‘psychiatric condition’ and effects a child’s social and emotional development. Children show 3 things:
- No preferred attachment figure
- An inability to interact and relate to others shown before the age of 5
- Experience of severe neglect or frequent change of caregivers.
There are two kinds of attachment disorder – Reactive/Inhibited: a child will be shy and withdrawn, unable to cope with most social situations. Disinhibited – a child with this disorder will be over-friendly and attention seeking
Evaluation of Research into the Effects of Institutionalisation (Evaluation, AO3):
(1) POINT: A strength of this research is that studying the Romanian orphans has enhanced psychologist’s understanding of the effects of institutionalisation. EVIDENCE/EXAMPLE: Langton (2006) has suggested that such knowledge developed through this research has changed the way children in institutions are cared for. For example, orphanages and children’s homes now avoid having large numbers of caregivers for each child and instead ensure that a much smaller number of people, (perhaps only one or two people/keyworkers) play a central role for the child. EVALUATION: This is a strength because, having a key worker means that children have the chance to develop normal attachments and helps to avoid disinhibited attachment types. This shows that research into institutionalisation has been immensely valuable in practical terms.
(2) POINT: Another strength of this study is that there were fewer extraneous variables in the Romanian orphan studies in comparison to other orphan studies where infants involved had experienced a lot of trauma before they were institutionalised. EVIDENCE/EXAMPLE: For example, the children may have experienced neglect, abuse of bereavement. These children were often traumatised by their experiences. It was very hard for psychologists to observe the effects of institutionalisation in isolation because the children were dealing with multiple factors which functioned as confounding participant variables. EVALUATION: This is a strength because, in the case of the Romanian orphan study institutionalisation without these confounding variables, which means that the findings have high internal validity and a cause and effect relationship can be established.
(1) POINT: However, a problem with the Romanian orphans is that they were not typical. EVIDENCE/EXAMPLE: For example, Romanian orphanages had particular poor standards of care, especially when it came to forming any new relationships with the children, and extremely low levels of intellectual stimulation. EVALUATION: This is a limitation of the Romanian orphans study because the unusual situational variables means that studies may lack generalisability and therefore, the findings cannot be applied to the understanding of the impact of better quality care institutions
I had a dream…and that dream was to try to make the lives of AS and A level psychology students that little bit easier by offering some notes (written specifically for the AQA psychology course) to help you with your revision. This website is in its early days and I am looking to expand the site quite rapidly by adding all the necessary study notes for the AS and A level paper 1 and 2. Once complete, I aim to add notes for paper 3 (issues and debates in psychology, stress, aggression and gender). From this (hopefully from September 2017) I will be looking to add notes on the remaining paper 3 topics.
In addition to this website, I also run a psychology hub Facebook page in which i frequently update with revision and study tips (proven to work with my own AS and A level psychology students) and offer ‘as the expert’ opportunities in which I take questions from psychology students about the main topics covered on the course/the content that you are struggling with.
In addition to supporting students, I am also passionate about supporting teachers (I know that the life of a teacher is pretty much a juggling act – will we ever achieve that work/life balance?) As a result, in order to support AS and A level psychology teachers, over the courser of the next few weeks, I am to upload some of my teacher resources that have helped me to effectively engage and support my psychology students over the years. In addition to this website, I’ve also set up a psychology teaching hub Facebook page – please follow this page to receive regular updates on resources that I have added to the website and suggestions on effective activities to use when teaching psychology.
To both teachers and AS/A level students – I know we are hitting that busy exam time of year again when the stress and pressure really kicks in! Hold your head up high and look forward, the summer holidays are not so far around the corner 🙂
There are two main explanations of infant attachment; The Learning Theory of Attachment, and the Evolutionary Theory of Attachment.
The Evolutionary Theory of Attachment as put forward by John Bowlby which focus on the biological processes in the formation of infant and primary caregiver attachments.
A Description (AO1) of the Evolutionary Explanation of Attachment:
Bowlby’s theory (1969) is an Evolutionary Theory. He proposed infants form an attachment to a caregiver because attachment is adaptive (aids survival). Attachment is seen as a biological process because he argues infants are born with an ‘attachment gene’ that programmes them to exhibit innate behaviours called ‘social releasers’ which increase their chances of receiving care such as clinging, crying and smiling. These behaviours ensure the infant stays close to their caregiver who will feed and protect them.
Similarly, the attachment gene also drives parents to provide care as this is also adaptive (increases chances of one’s genes continuing into the next generation). Parents instinctively protect their infant and care for them whilst they are young and defenceless during their ‘critical period’. Although Bowlby did not deny infants form lots of attachments, he argued one relationship (usually with their mother) is more important and the drive to have one main attachment is called ‘monotropy’.
Bowlby also proposed the mother-child relationship was important for future relationships. He argued this first relationship provides infants with an ‘internal working model’ or attachment ‘template’ for later relationships with others (this is also referred to as the ‘continuity hypothesis’ as the same attachment behaviours and abilities continue to follow the same template).
Evaluation (AO3) of Bowlby’s Explanation of Attachment:
(1) POINT: Lorenz’s imprinting study can be used as evidence to support Bowlby’s theory. EVIDENCE/EXAMPLE: Lorenz suggested that new-borns ‘imprint’ an image of the first moving object they see (usually their parents) within hours of being born which allows them to stick closely to this important source of protection and food. After carrying out his experiment on newly hatched Greylag geese, Lorenz found that when shortly after hatching he was the first image the geese saw they followed him everywhere as he became their ‘imprinted’ parent. EVALUATION: This is positive as Lorenz’s study supports Bowlby’s theory providing evidence that attachment is innate.
(2) POINT: Hazen and Shaver’s research supports Bowlby’s theory. EVIDENCE/EXAMPLE: They found that, after participants were asked to answer a series of questions as part of the ‘love quiz’ which assessed their adult romantic relationships as well as their childhood relationship with their parents, there was a strong correlation between childhood attachment type and adult relationships. EVALUATION: This is positive as it supports Bowlby’s theory that the ‘internal working model’ allows an infant to form an attachment template which then continues into adulthood.
(1) POINT: However, Howes et al (1994) provide evidence against Bowlby’s theory: EVIDENCE/EXAMPLE: Evidence to dispute this comes from Howes et al (1994) who found that parent-child relationships were not necessarily the same as child-peer relationships. This means that Bowlby argued that early attachment forms the template (internal working model) for future relationships which leads us to expect children to form similar relationships with others. EVALUATION: This is problematic because it suggests children may possess more than one ‘template’ which can’t be accounted for by Bowlby’s theory.
(2) POINT: The Evolutionary Explanation, in particular the monotropy can be considered to be a socially sensitive idea. EVIDENCE/EXAMPLE: Feminists like Erica Burman (1994) have pointed out that this places a terrible burden of responsibility on mothers, setting them up to take the blame for anything that goes wrong in the rest of their child’s life. It also pushes mothers into certain lifestyle choices like making the decision not to return to work when a child is born. EVALUATION: This is a weakness because the theory can be seen to be unethical if it’ key assumptions are seen to negatively discriminate against women/mothers.
One of the most important questions attachment research has to answer concerns over who infants become attached to. What is the role of the Father? What are the multiple attachments that infants form and why are these attachments important?
Description (AO1) of Research into Multiple Attachments and the Role of the Father:
Parent-Infant Attachment: Traditionally researchers have thought in terms of mother-infant attachment. Schaffer and Emerson (1964) found that the majority of babies did become attached to their mothers’ first – primary attachment (around 7 months) and within a few weeks or months formed secondary attachments to other family members including the father. In 75% of the infants studied an attachment was formed with the father by the age of 18 months. This was determined by the fact that the infants protested when their fathers walked away – a sign of attachment.
The Role of the Father: Grossman (2002) carried out a longitudinal study looking at both the parents’ behaviour and its relationship to the quality of the children’s attachment into their teens. Quality of infant attachment with mothers but not fathers was related to children’s attachment in adolescents suggesting that father attachment was less important. However, the quality of the fathers’ play with infants have a different role in attachment – one that is more to do with play and stimulation, and less to do with nurturing.
Fathers and Primary Caregivers: There is some evidence to suggest that when fathers do take on the role of being the main caregiver they adopt behaviours more typical of mothers. Field (1978) filmed 4 month old babies in face to face interaction with primary caregiver mothers, secondary caregiver fathers and primary caregiver fathers. Primary caregiver fathers, like mothers, spent more time smiling, imitating and holding infants than the secondary caregiver fathers. This behaviour appears to be important in building an attachment with the infant. It seems that fathers can be the more nurturing attachment figure. The key to the attachment relationship is the level of the responsiveness not the gender of the parent.
Evaluation (AO3) of Research into Multiple Attachments and the Role of the Father:
(1) POINT: The role of fathers as secondary attachment figures can be explained through biological processes and gender stereotyping. EXAMPLE/EVIDENCE: For example, the fact that fathers tend not to become the primary attachment figure could simply be down to the result of traditional gender roles, in which women are expected to be more caring and nurturing than men. On the other hand, it could be that females hormones (oestrogen) create higher levels of nurturing and therefore women are biologically pre-disposed to be the primary attachment figure. EVALUATION: This is a strength as it confirms that such difference between mothers and fathers in the role of rearing children can be down to an individual’s nature but also their experiences of nurture.
(1) POINT: A weakness of research into attachment figures is that there are inconsistent findings as to the role of the father in attachments. EVIDENCE/EXAMPLE: For example, research into the role of the father in attachment is confusing because different researchers are interested in different research questions. Some researchers are interested in understanding the role fathers have as secondary attachment figures, whereas others are more concerned with the father’s role as a primary attachment figure. The former have tended to see fathers behaving differently from mothers and having a distinct role. The latter have tended to find that fathers can take on a ‘maternal’ role. EVALUATION: This is a problem because it means psychologists cannot easily answer the questions ‘what is the role of the father?’ The findings from research being inconsistent means that firm conclusions cannot be drawn.
(2) POINT: A further criticism is that research has left unanswered questions such as if fathers have a distinct role then why aren’t children without fathers different EVIDENCE/EXAMPLE: For example, as mentioned previously, Grossman’s study found that fathers as a secondary attachment figure have an important role in their children’s upbringing. However other studies such as MacCallum and Golombok (2004) have found that children growing up in single or same-sex parent families do not develop any differently from those in two parent heterosexual families. EVALUATION: This is a weakness because it suggests that the father’s role as a secondary attachment figure is not important.
Stages of Attachment (Schaffer):
Even though the time after birth is a very special, important time for parents to bond with their new baby, the overall process of the formation of attachments takes longer in human infants, and it is around 7 to 8 months before babies how their real first attachments. Schaffer and Emerson identified that infants go through a number of stages of attachment.
Key Research Study: Schaffer and Emerson (1964)
Aim: An investigation into the different stages of attachment.
- Longitudinal study of 60 babies drawn from a predominantly working class are of Glasgow.
- At the start of the instigation, infants ranged from 5 to 23 weeks of age.
- Infants were studied until the age of 1 year.
- Mothers were visited every four weeks.
- At each visit, the mother reported their infants response to separation in seven everyday situations (e.g. being left alone in a room, left with other people)
- Mother was asked to describe the intensity of any protest (e.g. a full blown cry or simple whimper) which was then rated on a four point scale.
- Finally, the mother was asked to say whom the protest was directed.
- Stranger anxiety was also measured by assessing the infant’s response to the interviewer at each visit.
- Between 25 and 32 weeks of age, about 50% of babies showed signs of separation anxiety towards a particular adult (usually the mother which signified a specific attachment).
- Attachment tended to be to the caregiver who was most interactive and sensitive to infant signals and facial expressions (reciprocity). This was not necessarily the person the infant spent most time with.
- By the age of 40 weeks 80% of the babies had a specific attachment and almost 30% displayed multiple attachments.
Conclusions: The conclusion of the study was that attachment develops in stages. These findings led Schaffer and Emerson to develop the Stages of Attachment.
|Stage and Age||Characteristics|
|Asocial Stage |
(First few weeks)
|·Baby is recognising and forming bonds with its carers
·Baby’s behaviour towards humans and non-human objects is similar.
·Show some preference for familiar adults in that those individuals find it easier to calm them.
·Babies are also happy when they are in the presence of other humans.
|·Display more observable social behaviour.
·Show a preference for people rather than inanimate objects and recognise and prefer familiar adults.
·Usually accept cuddles and comfort from any adult
·Don’t show separation or stranger anxiety
·Indiscriminate because it is not different towards any one person.
(7 months onwards)
|·Baby begins to show separation anxiety (protests when primary caregiver leaves them)
·Fear of strangers develop.
·Began to form specific attachments (not necessarily the individual who spends the most time with the infant but the one who interacts with the infant the most).
(by 1 year)
|·Multiple attachments follow soon after the first attachment is made.
·Baby shows attachment behaviours towards several different people – secondary attachments (e.g. siblings, grandparents, child-minders etc…)
Evaluation of the Research into the Stages of Attachment (AO3, Evaluation):
(1) POINT: A problem with Schaffer and Emerson’s theory of the stages of attachment is that the asocial stage is difficult to study. EXAMPLE/EVIDENCE: For example, young babies in this stage have poor co-ordination and are generally pretty much immobile. It is therefore very difficult to make any judgements about the infants based on observations of their behaviour (there isn’t much observable behaviour).EVALUATION: This is a weakness because the evidence obtained from the observations cannot be relied upon and therefore it is difficult to draw any firm conclusions.
(2) POINT: A further weakness is that there is conflicting evidence from different cultures on multiple attachments. EVIDENCE/EXAMPLE: For example, there is no doubt that children become capable of multiple attachments however; it is not clear at what age this happens. Some research seems to indicate that most babies form attachments to a single main carer before they become capable of developing multiple attachments. Other Psychologists, in particular those who work in those cultural context were multiple care givers are the norm, believe babies form multiple attachments from the outset. EVALUATION: This is a problem because the presence of cross-cultural differences in child-rearing means that it is difficult to produce a theory that is applicable to all cultures (collectivist and individualist), therefore Schaffer and Emerson’s theory can be criticised as being ethnocentric.
(3) POINT: Another weakness is that there are difficulties in how multiple attachments is assessed. EVIDENCE/EXAMPLE: For example, just because a baby gets distressed when an individual leaves the room it does not necessarily mean that the individual is a ‘true’ attachment figure. Bowlby (1969) pointed out that children have playmates as well as attachment figures and may get distressed when a playmate leaves. EVALUATION: This is a problem for Schaffer and Emerson’s stages because their observation does not leave us a way to distinguish between behaviour shown towards secondary attachment figures and shown towards playmates.
Next, take a look at the role of the father in attachment formation with infants and multiple attachment formation.
This page looks at the roles of reciprocity and interactional synchrony through caregiver and infant interactions (in humans).
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Definition of Attachment (AO1, Description):
Attachment is a two-way, enduring, emotional tie between two people (usually and infant and their primary caregiver). An attachment is usually shown in the behaviour between two people. An attachment between an infant and primary caregiver is usually reciprocal (responding to the action of another with a similar action). This attachment (tie) usually develops in set stages within a fairly set timescale.
Reciprocity and Interactional Synchrony (AO1, Description):
A description of how two people interact. Mother-infant interaction is reciprocal in that both mother and infant respond to each other’s signal and each elicits a response from the other. Babies have periods of ‘alert phases’ and signal to their mother that they are ready for interaction. Mother’s typical pick up on this signal and respond two-thirds of the time. From around three months the interactions tend to be increasingly frequent and involves close attention to each other’s verbal signals and facial expressions. An interaction is reciprocal when each person responds to the other and elicits a response from them.
Interactional Synchrony Definition (AO1, Description): Mother and baby reflect both the actions and the emotions of the other and do this in a co-ordinated (synchronised way).
Research into Interactional Synchrony: Meltzoff and Moore (1997) (AO1, Description):
Click here for a key exam tip – how to effectively outline a study!!
Aim: To investigate reciprocity between infants and their caregivers.
Meltzoof and Moore (1997) conducted a series of controlled observations using babies (aged 6 to 27 days old) and 12 babies (aged 16-21 days old). The Babies were exposed to four different stimuli; three facial gestures (e.g. sticking tongue out) and one manual gesture (e.g. waving fingers). The babies response to each of these gestures were observed and their actions were video recorded. An independent observer (who had no knowledge of what the infant had just seen) was asked to note all instances of tongue protrusion and head movements using a number of behavioural categories. Each observer scored the recordings twice (allowing for both inter-rater reliability and intra-observer reliability to be assessed).
Findings: The results indicated that babies aged 12 to 27 days old could imitate both facial expressions and manual gestures.
Conclusions: Meltzoff and Moore concluded that the ability to imitate serves as an important building block for later social and cognitive development.
Evaluation of Research into Caregiver-Infant Interactions (Evaluation, AO3):
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- POINT: A strength is that controlled observations often capture fine details as they are generally well-controlled procedures. EVIDENCE/EXAMPLE: For example, both the mother and the infant are filmed, often from multiple angles, this ensures that fine details of behaviour can be recorded and later analysed. Furthermore, babies are unaware that they are being observed so their behaviour does not change in response to controlled observations which is generally a problem for observational research. EVALUATION: This is positive because it means that in general the research has high internal validity – it is measuring what it is intending to measure.
- POINT: However, observations don’t tell us the purpose if synchrony and reciprocity. EVIDENCE/EXAMPLE: For example, Fieldman (2012) points out that synchrony (and by implication reciprocity) simply describe behaviours that occur at the same time. EVALUATION: This is a weakness because these are robust phenomena in the sense that they can be reliably observed, but this may not be particularly useful as it does not tell us their purpose.
- POINT: It is hard to know what is happening when observing infants. EXAMPLE/EVIDENCE: For example, is the infant’s imitation of the adult conscious and deliberate or a coincidence? What is being observed is merely hand movements or changes in expressions. It is extremely difficult to be certain, based on these observations, what is taking place from the infant’s perspective.EVALUATION: This is a weakness because we cannot really know for certain that behaviours seen in mother-infant interactions have special meaning.
Move on and have a look at the Stages of Attachment as identified by Schaffer.