Here are some example answers to the written Paper 1 questions on Attachment in the 2019 AQA exams.
Findings from research into the role of the fathers has centred on discovering the father’s role both in terms of if they are a primary or secondary attachment figure, and if they have a distinct role separate to mothers. Shaffer and Emerson’s research concluded that in only 3% of cases fathers were the primary attachment figure in comparison to 85% of mothers, however 27% of the time they shared the primary attachment figure status with the mother. In addition they found that by the age of one children most children had formed secondary attachments to other family members such as the father. Showing that the mother is more likely to be a primary attachment figure than the father but fathers will become attached to. Field also found that the interaction of fathers who were primary caretakers were different to that of secondary caretakers. Fathers who were secondary caretakers played more and held their infants less but when they were the primary caretaker they took on a role more similar to traditional mother behaviour – smiling more, making more engaging in more reciprocity in terms of facial expressions and vocalisations. This suggests the difference in the role of fathers is less to do with them being fathers per se and more to do with whether they take a primary attachment role within the family.
Research into the role of fathers has far reaching implications for the economy due to its impact on employments laws and policy. Showing the relative importance of fathers and their ability to play an equal role of caregiver sensitivity and therefore welfare of children could impact the paternity laws. This research has already influenced a shift towards shared parental leave and increased paternity leave for new fathers. This has implications for the employers in terms of paying for productivity which they are not seeing. In addition parental leave is partially funded by both the employer and the government which has implications for funding if both partners seek to take leave. The shared parental leave however is a double edged sword, whilst it may reduce males in the workforce as they seek to take more leave when they have children, this would allow mothers to take less leave and therefore return to work, allowing them to resume contribution to the employer. Or is some cases parents may choose to divide the leave so each works part time, which may mean less cover issues in some workforces. Consequently the impact is likely to be one which levels the gender pay gap as parents seek more equality in the workplace and childcare – taking equal advantage of the roles played by mothers and fathers or taking joint primary attachment status.
Bowlby’s internal working model suggests that the first attachment (usually to the mother) would become a blueprint for future relationships. It gives the infants a view of themselves as lovable or otherwise, a model of other people as basically trustworthy or not to be relied upon, and a model of the relationship between the two which allow them to predict how others will act in relationships and allows them to control their environment. According to Bowlby this follows us through childhood and into later adulthood. Research has suggested that Hazan and Shaver aimed to investigate the accuracy of the continuity hypothesis by devising a love quiz questionnaire. They found that roughly 60% of their population surveyed were securely attached supporting the original Ainsworth finding, additionally the distribution of insecure resistant and insecure avoidant styles were in line with previous findings. This suggests that there is a level of continuity from childhood to adult hood. They also found that this correlated to the reports of the parenting they had received with securely attached adults reporting they had loving and responsive parents which would support that this later adult attachment style is a result of the earlier one. Finally they found the adult attachment style influenced reports on participants own self-perception and perceptions of their romantic partners. With securely attached people more likely to believe in lasting love, findings others trustworthy, and having confidence in themselves as likeable. Whereas insecure avoidant are a bit more doubtful about whether this kind of love exists. They also think that you don’t need a love partner in order to be happy. The insecure resistant however express more self-doubt and insecurity in their relationships.
An issue with Hazan and Shaver’s research is that it aims to test the continuity hypothesis and the influence of childhood on later adult relationships, however it does not track individuals from their childhood. Instead it relies on retrospective accounts of the parenting they received and includes forced choice descriptions in order to judge this parenting style. This may compromise the validity of the judgements made and therefore the findings that our childhoods are so influential. However, research conducted by Simpson aimed to address this by conducting longitudinal research on a small sample of individuals tracked over 25 years which supported the consistency of attachment style from childhood to adulthood and the influence it has on later adult relationships. Meta-analyses have further supported these correlations.
However a large criticism of how influential childhood really is comes from the determinism debate. Bowlby’s original assertions are incredibly deterministic as the internal working model is set within the critical period and will go on to influence later childhood relationships with friends and later adult friendships and romantic relationships. This suggests that the outcome of these relationships is fixed from a very early point and there is no ability to change them. This minimises the possible impact of a range of factors in someone’s intervening years and may oversimplify the issue. For example Zimmerman found that childhood attachment did not predict later adult relationships, instead it was major life events in childhood such as the death of a parent or divorce which shows a more movable state for attachment. In addition Feeny et al discovered that individuals changed attachment style between partners, suggesting that having a securely attached childhood did not exclude the possibility of later insecure relationships, which in turn did not exclude the possibility of a secure one later on. This was based on the individual interactions, lending more criticism to the deterministic and fixed nature of the internal working model.
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