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Example Answers for Attachment: A Level Psychology, Paper 1, June 2018 (AQA)


Last updated 14 Aug 2018

Section C – Attachment: Q10 [2 Marks]

One effect of institutionalisation is that orphans often show physical delays in development by being smaller in size and weighing less. A second effect of institutionalisation is having disinhibited attachment disorder.

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Section C – Attachment: Q11 [6 Marks]

Lorenz conducted an experiment where he randomly divided greylag goose eggs into two batches. The control group was hatched naturally by the mother and the second batch, the experimental group, were placed in an incubator, with Lorenz making sure he was the first large moving object that the goslings saw after hatching. The following behaviour, of either the mother goose or Lorenz, was recorded to indicate attachment. Lorenz then marked the goslings so he knew in which condition they were hatched and then placed them under an upside-down box. The box was then removed and their following behaviour of the mother goose and Lorenz was recorded again to see if they were attached to the mother or to Lorenz.

Harlow constructed two surrogate mothers: one harsh ‘wire mother’ and a second soft ‘towelling mother’. A sample of sixteen baby rhesus monkeys were used across the four caged conditions: 1. ‘wire mother’ dispensing milk and ‘towelling mother’ with no milk, 2. ‘wire mother’ with no milk and ‘towelling mother’ dispensing milk, 3. ‘wire mother’ dispensing milk, 4. ‘towelling mother’ dispensing milk. The amount of time the baby rhesus monkey spent with each mother was recorded alongside how long they spent feeding at each one as an indicator of their attachment. To test for mother preference (and therefore attachment) during periods of stress, the monkeys were startled with a loud noise and their responses recorded.

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Section C – Attachment: Q12 [16 Marks]

Learning theory explains how infants learn to become attached through the processes of classical or operant conditioning. It is sometimes called the ‘cupboard love’ theory because of the focus on food and in this case, breast milk from Millie’s mother.

Classical conditioning is learning by association. Before conditioning, food (breast milk) is an unconditioned stimulus (UCS) which produces an unconditioned response (UCR) of pleasure as a relief from hunger in Millie. The mother is a neutral stimulus (NS), who produces no conditioned response. During conditioning, the child associates the mother (NS) who feeds them with the food (UCS). Through repeated pairing, by regular breastfeeding, the mother becomes a conditioned stimulus (CS) who is associated with the pleasure from feeding. This results in the mother eliciting a conditioned response from the child and the formation of an attachment. The husband did not form this association with the infant, as he didn’t feed Millie.

There are methodological issues with the research evidence for learning theory as an explanation for attachment. Much of the supporting research, for example, Pavlov’s research on dogs, is criticised for its over-reliance on animals. This is an issue because psychologists argue that behaviourist explanations provide an oversimplified account of attachment formation, which is, in fact, a complex emotional bond between a human infant and their caregiver. As a result, the learning theory explanation may lack validity since it is difficult to generalise animal findings to humans with confidence that they would behave in the same way.

The learning theory explanation supports a nurture-based view of behaviour. Consequently, such theories are subject to environmental reductionism as they reduce a complex behaviour, the formation of an attachment between infants such as Millie and their caregivers, to a simple stimulus-response association. Many psychologists would argue that human attachments are far more complex and learning explanations provide an overly simplified account of human attachment, as suggested by the second mother in the conversation where something else, such as love, might be “important for future development”.

Bowlby monotropic theory proposes that infants have an innate readiness during the critical period to form an attachment to their caregiver to protect them from harm whilst they are young and vulnerable, in order to increase chances of survival. He believed that infants form one very special attachment with their primary caregiver, most frequently the mother and this special, intense attachment is called monotropy. If the mother isn’t available, the infant can bond with another ever-present adult, known as a mother-substitute. Through the monotropic attachment, the infant would form an internal working model which is an internal template for future relationship expectations and will affect future development, as the second mother suggests.

A strength of Bowlby’s monotropic theory of attachment comes from research by Hazan and Shaver (1987) who used a self-report questionnaire called ‘The Love Quiz’ to assess the internal working model. They found a positive correlation between early attachment types and later adult relationships. This supports Bowlby’s idea of an internal working model and suggests that our early childhood experiences do affect our later adult relationships.

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