Development of attachment
Development of attachment
Schaffer's stages of attachment
Schaffer and Emerson (1964) studied 60 Glaswegian infants from mainly working-class homes. at the start of the study infants ranged from 5-23 weeks and were studied up to their first birthday. Mothers were visited every 4 weeks during which they reported their infant's response to separation in seven everyday situations, such as being left alone in a room or with other people. Intensity of protest and who the protest was directed at were recorded. Stranger anxiety was assesed through the infants response to the interviewer.
Findings were used to construct a description of how attachment develops from stage 1 (indiscriminate), to stage 2 (beginnings of attachment), stage 3 (discriminate), through to stage 4 (multiple attachments)
Stage 1- Indiscriminate attachment:Birth - 2 months
Infants produce similar responses to inanimate and animate objects. Towards the end of this period they begin to show greater preference for social stimuli and tend to be more content when with people. Reciprocity and interactional synchrony help establish relationaships with others.
Stage 2- The beginnings of attachment: 4 months
Infants show general sociability preferring human comapny over inanimate objects. They are able to distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar people but do not show stranger anxiety: they can be easily comforted by anyone.
Stage 3- Discriminate attachment: 7 months
infants show separation anxiety (distinctly different protest when separated from their primary attachment figure). They show joy when reunited with that particular person and are ost comforted by that person. Infants also show stranger anxiety during this period. Quality of the relationship determines attachment formation: mothers who responded quickly and sensitively to the infant's needs and offered the most interactions had intensely attached infants. Schaffer and Emerson found for 65% of the children the first specific attachment was the mother while 30% showed a joint attachment to the mother and one other person.
Stage 4: Multiple attachments
Soon after the primary attachment is formed, the infant develops a wider circle of multiple attachments. Schaffer and Emerson found that, within one month of first becoming attached, 29% of infants had multiple attachments. Within 6 months this had risen to 78% and by the age of one year most infants had developed multiple attachments, with one-third of infants forming five or more secondary attachments. Infants also showed separation anxiety in their secondary attachments.
Schaffer and Emerson's data may be unreliable as it was based on mothers' reports of their infants. Mothers who are less sensitive to their infant's protest may be less likely to report them. This would create a systematic bias which would challenge the validity of the data.
The unique characteristics of the families included in the sample may have biased the sample. A working-class sample from the 1960s may not apply to other social groups in modern society. Today, more women work, meaning children are cared for outside the home. There has also been a rise in stay at home fathers in the past 25 years (Cohn et al., 2014)
Are multiple attachments equivalent?
Bowlby believed the infant forms one special emotional relationship, with secondary attachments forming an emotional safety net. Rutter (1995) argues all attachment figures are equivalent. Attachments are intergrated to form an infant's attachment type.
The stage model might only apply to individuallistic cultures. Sagi et al. (1994) compared attachments in infants raised in a kibbutz with infants raised in family-based sleeping arrangements. Closeness of attachment with mothers was almost twice as common in family-based arrangements than the communal care of the kibbutz in collectivist cultures multiple attachments may be more common.
Stage theories suggest development is rather inflexible
For example, Schaffer's stages suggests single attachments are gained before multiple attachments. The problem is that the stage theory becomes a standard by which families are judged as normal. In some situations and cultures multiple attachments may develop first-applying the stage theory risks labelling this abnormal.
Gender differences may not exist
While some research suggests men are less sensitive to infant cues compared to mothers others have found no gender differences.
Men do form secure attachments
Despite possible differences in sensitivity there is evidence that men do form secure attachments with their children, as in the case of single (male) parent families. Frank et al. (1977) found that in two-parent families where the father is the primary caregiver, the mother and father are joint primary attachment figures.
Fathers play an important role as secondary caregivers
Fathers play an important role as secondary caregivers. Fathers have cosistently been found to be more playful, physically active and better at providing challenging situations. a lack of sensitivity may play a positive role in development as it fosters problem-solving by making greater communicative and cognitive demands on children (White and Woollett, 1992)
The role of the father
Schaffer and Emerson found fathers were more likely to be a joint first attachment figure (27%) than an infant's first attachment (3%). This may be because fathers spend less time with their infants. However, studies have shown little relationship between father accessibility and attachment.
Sensitivity to infant's needs
Fathers may lack the emotional sensitivity needed to form an intense attachment. Biologically, the female hormone oestrogen underlies caring behaviour, making women more orientated towards interpersonal goals than men. Socially, sex stereotypes may still affect male behaviour.
The distress shown by an infant when approached or held by someone who is unfamiliar.