Secure attachment

Is the ideal form of attachment; the mother is seen as a secure base of exploration, children show distress on separation but are easily comforted and the children show joy on reunion. This is related to sensitive response from caregiver. Insecure attachment is split into two groups, insecure resistant and insecure avoidant. Insecure resistant shows distress at separation and resistant to contact at reunion. Insecure avoidant is indifferent at separation and avoidant of contact at reunion. Both are related to lack of sensitive responsiveness at separation.

One explanation of attachment is the learning theory; this states that attachment is learnt through classical or operant conditioning. Classical conditioning states that attachment is learnt through association; food (unconditioned stimulus) is bought by the caregiver and produces pleasure (unconditioned response). Eventually the caregiver gets associated with the pleasure for the food that so that the caregiver (conditioned stimulus) produces pleasure (conditioned response).

Operant conditioning brings drive states into the theory; this states that when a child is hungry feel discomfort so enter a drive to reduce that discomfort; the child therefore moans and cries. When the caregiver responds the child feels a sense of satisfaction or pleasure and the caregiver becomes associated with that sense of satisfaction.

C. Hodges and Tizard (1989) conducted a longitudinal study of 65 children placed in an institution when less then 4 months old; they probably never formed any attachments. At age four, 24 children had been adopted, 15 returned to their homes and the rest remained in the institution. At age 16 the sample was 39 children who were given questionnaires and the children, parents and teachers were interviewed. They found that at age 16 the restored group were less likely to be closely attached then adopted children. All of the ex-institutional children were less likely to have a special friend, to be part of a crowd or to be liked by other children; they were more likely to be bullies. This supports the maternal privation hypothesis; early privation had a negative effect on the child.

However, this research carries many flaws; the main one being attrition, in a longitudinal study people drop out and that creates a possible bias sample, a reason for dropping out in this study can be because you are less well adjusted and the researchers have to then be careful about the conclusions drawn from the research.

It is also important to raise the problem that adopted children may have been the nicer ones, which is why they were adopted; this will also change the results as the "bad" children may have been left at the institution. This will act as a confounding variable as it adds another independent variable. Therefore cause and effect cannot be inferred from this study