Attachment (Development (Biological processes:
Viewed as evolved…
- Viewed as evolved behavioural system- infants seek proximity when distressed as it promotes survival to reproductive success; insecure attachment also adaptive- encourage search for alternative attachment figures if adults consistently unresponsive/resistant
- Belsky et al. (1991) applied to life history theory- quality of parental care sensitises to the supportiveness/aversiveness of E, and this easy experience --> security of attachment and reproductive success adaptations (e.g. timing of pubertal maturation, onset of sexual activity, preferences in pair bonding, eventual parental investment in own offspring)
= children in high stress/insecure families --> develop reproductive strategies that are low-investment and opportunistic. Secure, low stress families opposite pattern.
- Thompson (2015): early experiences of chronic stress (e.g. maternal depression, emotional inaccessibility & abusive events) alter the neurocircuitry of stress reactivity = develop dysregulated patterns of stress responding that determine self-regulation, threat vigilance and blunt attentional focus
- Social support buffers against the effect of stress = can explain insecure/secure attachment --> secure enables better emotion regulation and cognitive functioning
- Fearon et al. (2010) meta analysis, 69 samples --> sig. association between insecure attachment and externalising problems. Larger effects for boys, clinical samples, observation-based outcome assessments, and attachment assessments other than the SS. Disorganised children at risk, with weaker effects for avoidant and resistant attachment styles
- Groh et al. (2012) meta analysis of 42 samples looking at association between attachment and internalising symptoms --> only small association with insecurity but was sig. Not moderated by assessment age. Avoidance, but not resistance or disorganisation sig. associated with internalising symptoms. Insecurity and disorganisation more strongly associated with externalizing than internalizing symptoms.
- Bohlin et al. (2012) disorganised attachment at age 5 predicted CU traits at age 7 --> linked to CP
- Dadds et al. (2011) children w/ high levels CU traits made less eye contact with both mother and farther, and also lower levels of physical and verbal affection in a free play situation = attribute to attachment issues
- Minnesota Study of Risk and Adaptation from Birth to Adulthood (Sroufe et al. 2005), largest study of attachment and development. Children followed from infancy-34, with SS conducted at 12 & 18m and personality characteristics regularly assessed through observations, observer ratings and self-reports.
-Sig. association b/ early attachment and personality through childhood and adolescence --> emotional health, self-esteem, agency and self-confidence, positive affect, ego resiliency and social competence in interactions with peers, teachers, romantic partners and others.
-As children matured, importance of early attachment was determined by subsequent developmental influences e.g. as time progressed between Strange Situation assessments and later personality outcomes, the effects of early security were more likely to be indirect—mediated and/or moderated by subsequent relational influences
Association between security of attachment and later measures of cognitive performance and IQ
- more carefully designed mediational studies show that this is because of differences in parental quality of assistance, peer relationships, and children’s cooperativeness at school—mediators that are fully consistent with attachment theory (Drake et al. 2014)
- Thompson (2015) children in secure relationships are stronger in emotion regulation than children in insecure relationships (parents more dismissive, punitive, or critical of the children’s emotional expressions)
- Gilliom et al. (2002) reported that boys who were securely attached at age 1.5 were observed to use more constructive anger management strategies at age 3.5. Securely attached more likely to use distraction, ask questions about the frustration task, and wait quietly than were insecurely attached boys.
- Contreras et al. (2000) security in middle childhood sig. associated with children’s constructive coping with stress, and that the measure of coping mediated the association between attachment and children’s peer competence.
= association between secure attachment and emotion regulation is apparent from infancy to adolescence
- Securely attached better at enacting behavioural strategies e.g. proximity seeking = likely to result in better emotion management – Leerkes & Wong (2012)
- Mothers in secure relationships more likely to perceive/interpret more sensitively their children’s emotions = securely attached children have greater depth in their emotion understanding, including their appreciation of effective emotion regulation strategies (Waters & Thompson, 2014)
- Secure children are more proficient at identifying emotions in others and, in some cases, empathizing with them (Murphy & Laible, 2013) --> link to CPs
- Raikes & Thompson (2008): children deemed resistantly attached at 36 months were more likely to make negative motivational attributions to peers as first graders than were secure children. Securely attached at 24 and 36 months more likely to identify socially competent and relevant solutions to social problem-solving tasks than insecure children.
- controlled for influence of parenting (including maternal sensitivity and depressive symptoms) at multiple assessments to make sure outcomes were a result of early security rather than continuity in parenting
BUT, consistency in parent-child relationship:
- Securely attached children showed greater enthusiasm, compliance, and positive affect—and less frustration and aggression—during shared tasks with their mothers during the second year (Frankel & Bates, 1990)
- But longer-term associations between infant security and parent–child interaction at ages 3 (Youngblade & Belsky, 1992) and 5 (Van IJzendoorn 1987) were inconsistent. =depends on consistency in quality of interaction
- Consistency is mediated by intervening events e.g. family stress, significant changes in family circumstances (such as parental separation or divorce), or other conditions affecting relational harmony (Thompson, 2006)
What is it?
- Intimate bond between baby and primary caregivers
- Behaviour serving to maintain proximity to a selective caregiver(s) in times of stress --> triggered by cues of danger, brings about proximity and feeling of safety
- Theorised evolutionary basis, develops early in infancy, most clearly evident at 7-9m by proximity seeking and stranger anxiety
- Ainsworth (1967, 1973) proposed that differences in the security of infant–mother attachment have sig. long-term implications for later intimate relationships, self-understanding, and even risk for psychopathology.
Child usually has more than one caregiver/attachment figure = can have more than one attachment pattern, e.g. is it more important to have secure attachment with mother than father
- Secure Attachment: seek proximity, communicate need for comfort, contact is effective
- Avoidant Attachment: avoids contact, minimizes expressions of need for contact
- Resistant Attachment: intense expression of distress, angry upon contact, contact not effective
- Disorganized Attachment: contradictory, fragmented, disoriented or fearful behaviour upon contact e.g. wondering around the room, other stereotypical behaviours (pulling on hair)
- Disinhibited Attachment: extreme social disinhibition, lack of stranger caution, approach and receive comfort from strangers
Westernised phenomenon – very different family dynamics in the East e.g. more children per family, not typical mother father dynamic
In secure attachment, potential threat = avoidance of threat and proximity seeking towards caregiver
- Security associated with sensitivity, defined by awareness of infant attachment cues, accurate interpretation of infant cues, responsive to cues, appropriate response
- Insecurity associated with insensitive care --> negative/rejecting, interfering/intrusive, inconsistent availability
- Disorganization associated with frightening, frightened parenting, maltreatment
- Disinhibited Attachment associated with institutional care, extreme neglect
If source of danger is coming from caregiver then they want proximity from their caregiver yet as they get closer avoid because the caregiver is the source of the fear = causes a behavioural paradox --> frightened of the person you should go to when you’re frightened
- Bokhorst et al. (2003) 157 pairs MZ and DZ twins.
52% of the variance in attachment security was explained by shared environment (vs. nonsecure) and 48% of the variance was explained by unique environmental factors and measurement error.
Little evidence of genetic or shared E influence on disorganisation.
Genetic factors explained 77% of the variance in temperamental reactivity, and unique environmental factors and measurement error explained 23% --> not associated with attachment concordance.
- Luijk et al (2011) 2 large samples: Generation R study (N = 663), NICHD Study of Early Child Care (N = 478-522), 12 different genes (including DRD4, 5HTTLPR) --> No consistent genetic effects or gene x parenting interactions across either sample except small effect of COMT gene
= attachment and parenting are strongly shared environmental variables with little evidence of genetic influence (= attachment provides a psychological and environmental account of intergenerational transmission)
Attachment sensitivity--> Internal Working Models --> self confidence, empathy/moral development, social attributions, emotion-regulations, prosociality --> behaviour problems
Internal working models: key concept in attachment theory
- According to Bowlby- attachment security influences psychological growth through children's developing mental representations (IWMs) of the social world, based on the accessibility and responsiveness of their caregivers
- These expectations --> broader representations of their attachment figures, interpretations of their relational experiences, guidelines about how to interact with others, and even beliefs about themselves as relational partners
--> reconstruct experience of new relationships in ways consistent with past experiences, and expectations arising from secure/insecure attachments = choose new partners and behave with them in ways consistent with expectations created from earlier attachments
Different in how they function:
- 1) IWMs govern information processing – securely attached more likely to process a broad range of +ve and -ve info related to attachment concerns in a +vely biased manner, but insecure attached more likely to defensively exclude info that leads to psychological pain (e.g. forgets abandonment in childhood) but if other info this will be processed in negatively biased fashion (Dykas & Cassidy, 2011)
- 2) focus on content of IWMs (Thompson, 2006, 2010)- secure likely to have more constructive representations of other people, more +ve expectations for social interaction, greater social and emotional understanding, more +ve self-concept, and more advanced conscience development com- pared to insecurely attached individuals.
Means IWMs are shaped by secondary representations, including conversation with adult caregivers, others thoughts, feelings and motivations rather than just the child’s direct relational experience
- not necessarily mutually exclusive, just have different implications for how IWMs influence social behaviour
- IWMs directly related to child’s ability to create and maintain successful close relationships, establish positive self-image and constructive social representations of people and relationships
- BUT, concept doesn’t have a rigorously defined theoretical construct (uncertainty about its defining features, functioning and measurement) --> question of whether IWMs are just used for almost anything which a secure attachment is found to be associated with (Belsky & Cassidy, 1994)