Lorenz Imprinting Evaluation Essay


Attachment is an emotional bond which we as people depend on for our sense of security . Attachment is not just a connection between two people; it is a bond that involves a desire for regular contact with that person we want to remain close to one another. But also we can have the distress of separation and joy and being reunited. As we form attachments throughout our lives there is a particular attachment between babies and their main primary carer According to psychologist Mary Ainsworth , attachment “may be defined as an affectional tie that one person or animal forms between himself and another specific one – a tie that binds them together in space and endures over time.” Attachment behaviour in adults towards a child includes responding sensitively and appropriately to the child’s needs. Such behaviour appears universal across cultures.

Attachment theory provides an explanation of how the parent-child relationship emerges and influences subsequent development. John Bowlby’s theory of attachment led to believe the importance of the child’s relationship with their mother in terms of their social, emotional and cognitive development. Specifically, it shaped his belief about the link between early infant separations with the mother and later, led Bowlby to formulate his attachment theory.

Rudolph Schaffer and Peggy Emerson studied the progress of 60 babies starting from a few weeks old to 18 months. These children were observed in their own home , and a pattern was identified in their development of attachment. They found that babies attachment developed in a sequence Up to 3 months of age – Indiscriminate attachments. The newborn is predisposed to attach to any human. Most babies respond equally to any caregiver After 4 months – Preference for certain people. Infants they learn to distinguish primary and secondary caregivers but accept care from anyone; After 7 months – Special preference for a single attachment figure. The baby looks to particular people for security, comfort and protection. It shows fear of strangers (stranger fear) and unhappiness when separated from a special person (separation anxiety).

Some babies show stranger fear and separation anxiety much more frequently and intensely than others, but nevertheless they are seen as evidence that the baby has formed an attachment. This has usually developed by one year of age. After 9 months – Multiple attachments. The baby becomes increasingly independent and forms several attachments The results of their study found that attachment were most likely to develop with carers who responded to their needs , rather than the person that spent most of their time with . Schaffer and Emerson called this sensitive responsivness .But the most important fact in forming attachments is not who feeds and changes the child but who plays and communicates with him or her.

Bartholomew gathered evidence that attachment behaviour exists across many different cultures . Bartholomew thought it was relevant to study adults as well as children and found evidence to suggests that adults have the desire for closeness with and attachment figure especially under certain conditions . Attachment has proved to be an invaluable in understanding the relationship between early experiences and later development. A secure attachment greatly advantages the child in its later development .


Is a rapid learning process by which a newborn or very young animal establishes a behaviour pattern of recognition and attraction to another animal of its own kind or to a substitute or an object identified as the parent. A form of imprinting is filial imprinting, in which a young animal acquires several of its behavioral characteristics from its parent. Imprinting is the term used in psychology to describe any kind of phase-sensitive learning (learning occurring at a particular age or a particular life stage) that is rapid and apparently independent of the consequences of behaviour. It was first used to describe situations in which an animal or person learns the characteristics of some stimulus, which is therefore said to be “imprinted” onto the subject.

However, in child development the term is used to refer to the process by which a baby learns who its mother and father are. The process is recognised as beginning in the womb, when the unborn baby starts to recognise its parents’ voices. Konrad Lorenz , a scientist who studied animals in their natural environment and their behaviour , found imprinting is an inbuilt tendency for a young animal to follow a moving object and form an attachment . Konrad Lorenz conducted an experiment with greylag goslings who were reared from an egg by humans and did not mix with their own speicies .

He found that they imprinted to the first large moving object that it sees Lorenz also found that imprinting occurs in other kinds of animals too . He found many types of birds , some insects , fishes and some mammmals , for example deer and sheep . However imprinting not occur in human infants but they do form close relationships with others . An infant will behave differently with its mother and recognise her voice when heard , or follow her movements round the room , stop crying when they are picked up by her , a baby will recognise its own mother

2 How can studies of animal behaviour and reactions be applied to human psychology ? .Write 500 words to elaborate and justify your answer.

The study of animal behaviour can lead to a deeper and broader understanding of human psychology. Research on animal behaviour has led to numerous discoveries about human behaviour, such as Ivan Pavlov’s research on classical conditioning or Harry Harlow’s work with rhesus monkeys. Many psychologists studied animals to gain an insight into human development so they could understand human behaviour without studying humans for moral and ethical reasons . This would also restrict the type of research that they could use on a human being. They also found you could control the animals environment and animals are quicker at reaching adulthood allowing them to research in a short time . Harlow did a study/experiment on young rhesus monkeys were he separated them from their mother at birth , he wanted to show the importance of a mother’s love for a healthy childhood .

His study was cruel yet they uncovered truths that influence our understanding of child development .Harlow’s most famous experiment was when he separated two monkeys at birth and placed them with two artifical surrogate mothers, a wire mesh “mother” and a cloth “mother” one was not so nice to cuddle and the other ( cloth mother) was more soft and cuddly. . Both had tubes in which the monkeys could obtain food . the experiment discovered that the monkeys spent more time with their cloth mother than their wire mother , which concluded that “ contact comfort” was important in the development of affection. Harlow also found the attachment of infant monkeys to their surrogate in other experiments that he did . An example is that he placed a moving toy into the cage ,the monkeys reaction would be of one of fear or they would scream or cry, however if the wire mother was present it would stop , but with the cloth mother they showed initial fear but would quickly calm down when close to her and would explore the object with the security of the cloth mother .

Harlows experiments showed proof that love is vital for normal childhood development “These data make it obvious that contact comfort is a variable of overwhelming importance in the development of affectional response, whereas lactation is a variable of negligible importance,” Harlow explained (1958). Ivan Pavlov classical conditional theory is based on his observations, he focused on investigating exactly how these conditioned responses are learned or acquired. Classical conditioning is often used to treat phobias, anxiety and panic disorders. It’s important to note that classical conditioning involves placing a neutral signal before a naturally occurring reflex. In Pavlov’s classic experiment with dogs, the neutral signal was the sound of a tone and the naturally occurring reflex was salivating in response to food.

Behaviorism is based on the assumption that learning occurs through interactions with the environment. Two other assumptions of this theory are that the environment shapes behavior and that taking internal mental states such as thoughts, feelings, and emotions into consideration is useless in explaining behaviour. A understanding of human behaviour and development through studies of social behaviour in monkeys has relevance for general and child psychology . Especially in Harlow’s learning research it demonstrates that animals , like humans are able to learn and apply stategies to situations , so we have a better understanding on why we behave the way we do .


A-level Revision Notes AQA(A)

by Saul Mcleod published 2017, updated 2018


Attachment can be defined as an emotional bond between two people in which each seeks closeness and feels more secure when in the presence of the attachment figure.

Caregiver-Infant Interactions in Humans

Interactions between very young babies and their parents are baby led, with the adult responding to the behavior of the baby.



The word reciprocal means two-way, or something that is mutual. Infant and caregiver are both active contributors in the interaction and are responding to each other.

Reciprocity is a form of interaction between infant and caregiver involving mutual responsiveness, with both parties being able to produce response from each other. Smiling is an example of reciprocity – when a smile occurs in the infant it triggers a smile in the caregiver, and vice versa.


Reciprocity influences the child’s physical, social and cognitive development. It becomes the basis for development of basic trust or mistrust, and shapes how the child will relate to the world, learn, and form relationships throughout life.

Interactional Synchrony


Interactional synchrony is form of rhythmic interaction between infant and caregiver involving mutual focus, reciprocity and mirroring of emotion or behavior. Infants coordinate their actions with caregivers in a kind of conversation.

From birth babies move in a rhythm when interacting with an adult almost as if they were taking turns. Infant and caregiver are able to anticipate how each other will behave and can elicit a particular response from the other.

For example, a caregiver who laughs in response to their infants giggling sound and tickles them, is experiencing synchronised interaction.

Interactional synchrony is most likely to develop if the caregiver attends fully to the baby's state, provides playful stimulation when the infant is alert and attentive, and avoids pushing things when an overexcited or tired infant is fussy and sending the message 'Cool it. I just need a break from all this excitement'.


Heimann showed that infants who demonstrate a lot of imitation from birth onwards have been found to have a better quality of relationship at 3 months. However, it isn’t clear whether the imitation is a cause or an effect of this early synchrony.

Many studies involving observation of interactions between mothers and infants have shown the same patterns of interaction. However, what is being observed is merely hand movements or changes in expression. It is extremely difficult to be certain, based on these onservations, what is taking place from the infant’s perspective. Is, for example, the infants imitation of adult signals conscious and deliberate?

This means that we cannot really know for certain that behaviors seen in mother-infant interaction have a special meaning.

Observations of mother-infant interactions are generally well-controlled procedures, with both mother and infant being filmed, often from multiple angles. This ensures that very fine details of behavior can be recorded and later analysed.

Furthermore, babies don’t know or care that they are being observed so their behavior does not change in response to controlled observation which is generally a problem for observational research. This is a strength of this line of research because it means the research has good validity.


Rudolph Schaffer and Peggy Emerson (1964) studied 60 babies at monthly intervals for the first 18 months of life (this is known as a longitudinal study).

The children were all studied in their own home and a regular pattern was identified in the development of attachment.  The babies were visited monthly for approximately one year, their interactions with their carers were observed, and carers were interviewed. 

A diary was kept by the mother to examine evidence for the development of an attachment. The following measures were recorded:

• - response to arrival of a stranger.

• - distress level when separated from carer, degree of comfort needed on return.

• - degree that child looks at carer to check how they should respond to something new (secure base).

They discovered that baby's attachments develop in the following sequence:

Asocial (0 - 6 weeks)

Very young infants are asocial in that many kinds of stimuli, both social and non-social, produce a favourable reaction, such as a smile.

Indiscriminate Attachments (6 weeks to 7 months)

Infants indiscriminately enjoy human company and most babies respond equally to any caregiver. They get upset when an individual ceases to interact with them.

From 3 months infants smile more at familiar faces and can be easily comfortable by a regular caregiver.

Specific Attachment (7 - 9 months)

Special preference for a single attachment figure.  The baby looks to particular people for security, comfort and protection.  It shows fear of strangers (stranger fear) and unhappiness when separated from a special person (separation anxiety). 

Some babies show stranger fear and separation anxiety much more frequently and intensely than others, but nevertheless they are seen as evidence that the baby has formed an attachment.  This has usually developed by one year of age.

Multiple Attachment (10 months and onwards)

The baby becomes increasingly independent and forms several attachments. By 18 months the majority of infants have form multiple attachments.

The results of the study indicated that attachments were most likely to form with those who responded accurately to the baby's signals, not the person they spent more time with.  Schaffer and Emerson called this sensitive responsiveness.

Intensely attached infants had mothers who responded quickly to their demands and, interacted with their child Infants who were weakly attached had mothers who failed to interact.

The results of the study indicated that attachments were most likely to form with those who responded accurately to the baby's signals, not the person they spent more time with.  Schaffer and Emerson called this sensitive responsiveness.

Intensely attached infants had mothers who responded quickly to their demands and, interacted with their child Infants who were weakly attached had mothers who failed to interact.

The most important fact in forming attachments is not who feeds and changes the child but who plays and communicates with him or her. Therefore, responsiveness appeared to be the key to attachment.

AO2 Scenario Question

Laura is 7 months old she is looked after by a child minder, Jackie, while her parents are at work.

Recently she has started to show great distress when her mother drops her off and cries inconsolably. Use your knowledge of the stages of development of attachment to explain her behavior.

How long is this behavior likely to last? Explain your answer.

Multiple Attachments


Many of the babies from the Schaffer and Emerson study had multiple attachments by 10 months old, including attachments to mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings and neighbours. 

By 18 months 31% had five or more attachments.  The mother was the main attachment figure for about half of the children at 18 months old and the father for most of the others.

The multiple attachments formed by most infants vary in their strength and importance to the infant. Attachments are often structured in a hierarchy, whereby an infant may have formed three attachments but one may be stronger than the other two, and one may be the weakest.


The Schaffer and Emerson study has low population validity. The infants in the study all came from Glasgow and were mostly from working class families. In addition, the small sample size of 60 families reduces the strength of the conclusion we can draw from the study.

However, accuracy of data collection by parents who were keeping daily diaries whilst clearly being very busy could be questioned. A diary like this is also very unreliable with demand characteristics and social desirability being major issues. Mothers are not lkely to report negative experiences in their daily write up.


There is now an expectation in Western cultures that the father should play a greater role in bringing up children than was previously the case. Also, the number of mothers working full time has increased in recent decades, and this has also led to fathers having a more active role.

However, whereas mothers usually adopt a more caregiving and nurturing role compared to father, fathers adopt a more play-mate role than mothers. For example, fathers are more likely than mothers to encourage risk taking in their children by engaging them in physical games.

Most infants prefer contact with their father when in a positive emotional state and wanting to play. In contrast most infants prefer contact with their mother when they are distressed and need comforting.


Numerous factors effect the father's role and the impact he has on his child's emotional development. For example, culture, father's age, and the amount of time the father spends away from home. The existence of so many factors means it difficult to make generalisations about the father's role.

Cultural Factors

There are also cultural differences in the role of the father. Until very recently men were expected to be breadwinners and not to have direct involvement in their children’s care. However this might be a very stereotypical view rather than reflect reality as fathers might not have been directly involved in the day to day care but they were involved in factors like play, instruction and guidance.

In modern familie, fathers are less likely to engage in physical play in middle class Indian families.

Social Policy

In the UK, fathers until last year were not given any paternal leave so the responsibility for child care was implicitly given to the mothers. This could change the attachment the children make with their fathers. However this is not the case in every country so the pattern of attachment between father and children might be different.

Biological factors

Men seem to lack the emotional sensitivity to infant cues (Heerman, et al. 1994) that women offer spontaneously this could be due to the fact that women produce a hormone, oestrogen which increases emotional response to other’s needs. However Frodi et al. (1978) found that men’s physiological response was the same than women’s.

The child

Age and gender: Freeman et al. (2010) found that male children are more likely to prefer their father as an attachment figure than female children. He also found that children are more likely to be attached to their father during their late childhood to early adolescence. Infants and young adults are less likely to seek attachment to their fathers.

Temperament: According to Manlove et al. (2002) fathers are less likely to be involved with their infant if the infant has a difficult temperament.

Animal Studies of Attachment



Harlow wanted to study the mechanisms by which newborn rhesus monkeys bond with their mothers.

These infants were highly dependent on their mothers for nutrition, protection, comfort and socialization.  What, exactly, though, was the basis of the bond?

The behavioral theory of attachment would suggest that an infant would form an attachment with a carer that provides food.  In contrast Harlow’s explanation was that attachment develops as a result of the mother providing “tactile comfort”, suggesting that infants have an innate (biological) need to touch and cling to something for emotional comfort.

16 monkeys were separated from their mothers immediately after birth and placed in cages with access to two surrogate mothers, one made of wire and one covered in soft terry towelling cloth.

• Eight of the monkeys could get milk from the wire mother

• Eight monkeys could get milk from the cloth mother

The animals were studied for various length of time.

Both groups of monkeys spent more time with the cloth mother (even if she had no milk). The infants of the second group would only go to the wire mother when hungry. Once fed they would return to the cloth mother for most of the day. If a frightening object was placed in the cage the infant took refuge with the cloth mother. The infant would explore more when the cloth mother was present.

Then Harlow observed the difference in behavior differences between the monkeys who had grown up with surrogate mothers and those with normal mothers. They found that:

a) They were much more timid.

b) They didn’t know how to act with other monkeys.

c) They were easily bullied and wouldn’t stand up for themselves.

d) They had difficulty with mating.

e) The females were inadequate mothers.

These behaviors were observed only in the monkeys who were left with the surrogate mothers for more than 90 days. For those left less than 90 days the effects could be reversed if placed in a normal environment where they could form attachments.

Harlow concluded that “contact comfort” (provided by the cloth mother) was more important than food in the formation of attachment. This also shows that contact comfort is preferable to food but not sufficient for healthy development.

He also concluded that early maternal deprivation leads to emotional damage but that its impact could be reversed in monkeys if an attachment was made before the end of the critical period. However if maternal deprivation lasted after the end of the critical period then no amount of exposure to mothers or peers could alter the emotional damage that had already occurred.

Harlow found therefore that it was social deprivation rather than maternal deprivation that the young monkeys were suffering from.  When he brought some other infant monkeys up on their own, but with 20 minutes a day in a playroom with three other monkeys, he found they grew up to be quite normal emotionally and socially.

AO2 Scenario Question

In Japan mothers have great difficulties finding child care for their babies. Government officials say that "eventually, robots will be able to take up and assume many of these tasks that women are currently doing at present".

Based on Harlow’s research explain the effects this could have on children.


Harlow’s work has been criticized.  His experiments have been seen as unnecessarily cruel (unethical) and of limited value in attempting to understand the effects of deprivation on human infants.

It was clear that the monkeys in this study suffered from emotional harm from being reared in isolation.  This was evident when the monkeys were placed with a normal monkey (reared by a mother), they sat huddled in a corner in a state of persistent fear and depression.

In addition Harlow created a state of anxiety in female monkeys which had implications once they became parents.  Such monkeys became so neurotic that they smashed their infant's face into the floor and rubbed it back and forth.

Harlow's experiment is sometimes justified as providing a valuable insight into the development of attachment and social behavior. At the time of the research there was a dominant belief that attachment was related to physical (i.e. food) rather than emotional care.

It could be argued that the benefits of the research outweigh the costs (the suffering of the animals).  For example, the research influenced the theoretical work of John Bowlby, the most important psychologist in attachment theory.  It could also be seen a vital in convincing people about the importance of emotional care in hospitals, children's homes and day care.

Lorenz's Imprinting Theory


Lorenz (1935) took a large clutch of goose eggs and kept them until they were about to hatch out.  Half of the eggs were then placed under a goose mother, while Lorenz kept the other half beside himself for several hours.

When the geese hatched Lorenz imitated a mother duck's quacking sound, upon which the young birds regarded him as their mother and followed him accordingly.  The other group followed the mother goose.

Lorenz found that geese follow the first moving object they see, during a 12-17 hour critical period after hatching.  This process is known as imprinting, and suggests that attachment is innate and programmed genetically.

Imprinting has consequences, both for short term survival, and in the longer term forming internal templates for later relationships.  Imprinting occurs without any feeding taking place.  If no attachment has developed within 32 hours it’s unlikely any attachment will ever develop.

To ensure imprinting had occurred Lorenz put all the goslings together under an upturned box and allowed them to mix.  When the box was removed the two groups separated to go to their respective 'mothers' - half to the goose, and half to Lorenz.

Imprinting does not appear to be active immediately after hatching, although there seems to be a critical period during which imprinting can occur.  Hess (1958) showed that although the imprinting process could occur as early as one hour after hatching, the strongest responses occurred between 12 and 17 hours after hatching, and that after 32 hours the response was unlikely to occur at all.  Lorenz and Hess believe that once imprinting has occurred it cannot be reversed, nor can a gosling imprint on anything else.

Explanations of Attachment

Learning Theory


Dollard & Miller (1950) state attachment is a learned behavior that is acquired through both classical and operant conditioning. It is a nurture theory. According to classical conditioning food (UCS) produces pleasure (UCR). The child simply associates food and mother together. The mother becomes the conditioned stimulus and happiness becomes the conditioned response…attachment has formed.

Attachment can also be learned by operant conditioning. The presence of the caregiver is reinforcing for the infant. The infant gains pleasure / reward as they are being fed. The behavior of the infant is reinforcing for the caregiver (the caregiver gains pleasure from smiles etc. – reward). The reinforcement process is therefore reciprocal (two way) and strengthens the emotional bond / attachment between the two.

Dollard & Miller (1950) used the term secondary drive hypothesis to describe the processes of learning an attachment through operant and classical conditioning. Secondary drive hypothesis explains how primary drives which are essential for survival, such as eating when hungry, become associated with secondary drives such as emotional closeness. They extended the theory to explain that attachment is a two way process that the caregiver must also learn, and this occurs through negative reinforcement when the caregiver feels pleasure because the infant is no longer distressed.


Schaffer and Emerson found less than half of infants had a primary attachment to the person who usually fed them.

Harlow’s research suggested monkeys became attached to the soft surrogate mother rather than the one who fed it. This goes against the learning theory of attachment.

Lorenz found goslings imprinted on the first moving object they saw which suggest attachment is innate and not learnt.

Bowlby's Monotropic Theory


Bowlby’s monotropic theory of attachment suggests attachment is important for a child’s survival. Attachment behaviors in both babies and their caregivers have evolved through natural selection.This means infants are biologically programmed with innate behaviors that ensure that attachment occurs.

Critical Period

This theory also suggests that there is a critical period for developing at attachment (about 0 - 2.5 years). If an attachment has not developed during this time period then hen it may well not happen at all.


A child has an innate (i.e. inborn) need to attach to one main attachment figure. This is called monotropy. This concept of monotropy suggests that there is one relationship which is more important than all the rest. Although Bowlby did not rule out the possibility of other attachment figures for a child, he did believe that there should be a primary bond which was much more important than any other (usually the mother).

Other attachments may develop in a hierarchy below this. An infant may therefore have a primary monotropy attachment to its mother, and below her the hierarchy of attachments my include its father, siblings, grandparents, etc.

Internal Working Model

The child’s relationship with a primary caregiver provides an internal working model which influences later relationships. This internal working model is a cognitive framework comprising mental representations for understanding the world, self and others. A person’s interaction with others is guided by memories and expectations from their internal model which influence and help evaluate their contact with others.

There are three main features of the internal working model: (1) a model of others as being trustworthy, (2) a model of the self as valuable, and (3) a model of the self as effective when interacting with others. Around the age of three these seem to become part of a child’s personality and thus affects their understanding of the world and future interactions with others.


Konrad Lorenz (1935) supports Bowlby's monotropic theory as the attachment process of imprinting is an innate process which has a critical period. Also, the geese also attached to a single person/animal or object, thus showing monotropic behavior. However, Rutter's Romanian Orphan Study showed that attachments can form after the critical period.

The idea of monotropy and hierarchy is supported by research into attachments formed by the Efe tribe of Congo. Efe women share the care of infants in the tribe and take turns to breast feed them, however the infants return to their natural mother at night and form a stable bond with the mother.

Use of contradictory evidence: eg Schaffer and Emerson’s findings re multiple attachments

Mary Ainsworth's Strange Situation study provides evidence for the existence of internal working model. A secure child will develop a positive internal working model of itself because it has received sensitive emotional care from its primary attachment figure. An insecure-avoidant child will develop an internal working model in which it sees itself as unworthy because its primary attachment figure has reacted negatively to it during the sensitive period for attachment formation.

Implications (including economic implications) of monotropy theory: eg role of fathers, mothers returning to employment, use of daycare etc.

Ainsworth’s Strange Situation



Ainsworth and Bell (1971) conducted a controlled observation recording the reactions of a child and mother (caregiver), who were introduced to a strange room with toys. In the strange situation about 100 middle-class American infants and their mothers took part. The infant’s behavior was observed during a set of pre-determined activities.

The Strange Situation procedure involved the child experiencing eight ‘episodes’ of approximately 3 minutes each.

The child is observed playing for 20 minutes while caregivers and strangers enter and leave the room, recreating the flow of the familiar and unfamiliar presence in most children's lives. Observers noted the child’s willingness to explore, separation anxiety, stranger anxiety and reunion behavior.

Ainsworth & Bell observed from the other side of a one-way mirror so that the children did not know that they were being observed.


Secure Resistant Avoidant
Separation Anxiety Distressed when mother leaves Intense distress when the mother leaves No sign of distress when the the mother leaves
Stranger Anxiety Avoidant of stranger when alone, but friendly when the mother is present The infant avoids the stranger - shows fear of the stranger The infant is okay with the stranger and plays normally when the stranger is present
Reunion Behavior Positive and happy when mother returns The infant approaches the mother, but resists contact, may even push her away The Infant shows little interest when the mother returns
Other Uses the mother as a safe base to explore their environment The infant cries more and explores less than the other two types The mother and stranger are able to comfort the infant equally well
% of infants 70% 15% 15%

This type of attachment occurs because the mother meets the emotional needs of the infant.

This type of attachment occurs because the mother ignores the emotional needs of the infant.

This type of attachment occurs because the mother sometime meets the needs of the infant and sometimes ignores their emotional needs, i.e. the mother's behavior is inconsistent.

A problem of the study is that it lacks of population validity. The original study used American infants. The study tells us about how this particular group behaves and cannot be generalised to the wider population and other cultures.

Another criticism of the study is that it has low ecological validity, and the results may not be applicable outside of the lab. The environment of the study was controlled and the eight scripted stages of the procedure (e.g. mum and stranger entering and leaving the room at set times) would be unlikely to happen in real life.

One strength of the study is that it is easy to replicate. This is because it follows a standardised procedure involving the 8 episodes of the mother and stranger entering the leaving the room.

Van Ijzendoorn & Kroonenberg (1988) wanted to investigate if attachment styles (secure and insecure) are universal (the same) across cultures, or culturally specific (vary considerably from place to place, due to traditions, the social environment, or beliefs about children).

THey did not collect the data for their study, instead they analysed data from other studies using a method called meta analysis. Data from 32 studies in 8 different countries was analyzed.

All the 32 studies used the strange situation procedure to study attachment. Using a meta analysis (statistical technique) they calculated the average percentage for the different attachment styles (e.g. secure, avoidant, resistant) in each country.

Van Ijzendoorn & Kroonenberg found that secure attachment was the majority of infants (70%). The lowest percentage of secure attachments was shown in China, and the highest in Great Britain. It was also found that Western countries that support independence such as Germany had high levels of insecure avoidant.

Whereas Eastern countries that are more culturally close, such as Japan, had quite high levels of insecure resistant. The exception to the pattern was China which an equal number of avoidant and resistant infants.

One problem is that many of the studies used in the meta analysis had biased samples which cannot claim to be representative of each culture. For example, only 36 infants where used in the Chinese study which is a very small sample size for such a populated country. Also most of the studies analyzed where from Western cultures.

The Strange Situation was created and tested in the USA, which means that it may be culturally biased (ethnocentric), as it will reflect the norms and values of American culture. This is a problem as it assumes that attachment behavior has the same meaning in all cultures, when in fact cultural perception and understanding of behavior differ greatly. For example, the belief that attachment is related to anxiety on separation. This may not be the case in other cultures, e.g. Japan.

There is significant variation of attachments within cultures: Van Ijzendoorn looked at multiple studies in each country, and found that every study produced different levels of each attachment classification. This intra-cultural variation suggests that it is an over simplification to assume all children are brought up in the same way in particular country.

Bowlby’s Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis suggests that continual disruption of the attachment between infant and primary caregiver (i.e. mother) could result in long term cognitive, social, and emotional difficulties for that infant. Bowlby originally believed the effects to be permanent and irreversible.

He argued that the first 2.5 years of life, the critical period, were crucial. If the child was separated from their primary attachment figure (often the mother) for an extended period of time and in the absence of substitute care damage was inevitable.

Use the acronym - ADDIDDAS to remember the effects of maternal deprivation: Aggression, Delinquency, Dwarfism, Intellectual retardation, Depression, Dependency, Affectionless Psychopathy, Social maladjustment.

Affectionless psychopathy is an inability show affection or concern for others, lack of shame or sense of responsibility. Such individuals act on impulse with little regard for the consequences of their actions. For example, showing no guilt for antisocial behavior.

Bowlby's Maternal Deprivation is supported by Harlow's (1958) research with monkeys. He showed that monkeys reared in isolation from their mother suffered emotional and social problems in older age. The monkey's never formed an attachment (privation) and as such grew up to be aggressive and had problems interacting with other monkeys.

Due to Bowlby’s theory a number of real life applications have been made: In orphanages now they have to take account of emotional needs, fostered children have to be kept in one stable home rather than being moved around. In maternity units mothers are now allowed to spend more time with their babies as well as if they have a sick child the visiting hours in hospital have been extended, parents can even stay overnight if they wish.

Critics such as Rutter have also accused Bowlby of not distinguishing between deprivation and privation – the complete lack of an attachment bond, rather than its loss. Rutter stresses that the quality of the attachment bond is the most important factor, rather than just deprivation in the critical period.

Bowlby assumed that physical separation on its own could lead to deprivation but Rutter argues that it is the disruption of the attachment bond rather than the physical separation. This is supported by Radke-Yarrow (1985) who found that 52% of children whose mothers suffered with depression were insecurely attached. This figure raised to 80% when this occurred in a context of poverty (Lyons-Ruth,1988).

This shows the influence of social factors. Bowlby did not take into account the quality of the substitute care. Deprivation can be avoided if there is good emotional care after separation. Hodges and Tizard's research (on privation / institutional care) shows that the effects of deprivation can be reserved.


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