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Study Notes

Stages of Attachment Identified by Schaffer

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Schaffer and Emerson (1964) studied 60 babies from Glasgow at monthly intervals for the first 18 months of life using a longitudinal method.

Children were all studied in their own homes and visited monthly for approximately one year. Interactions with their carers were analysed to establish if and when infants started to display separation anxiety.

Results revealed that attachments were most likely to form with carers who were sensitive to the baby's signals, rather than the person they spent the most time with.

By 10 months old, most of the babies had several attachments, including attachments to mothers, fathers, siblings and extended family. It was observed that the mother was the main attachment figure for roughly half of the babies when they were 18 months old and the father for most of the others.

Based on this finding, this would suggest that being sensitive and responsive (including playing and communicating an infant) is more instrumental in attachment development than physical care.

Schaffer’s observational research led to the formulation of four distinct stages of developmental progress that characterise infants’ attachments:

Asocial stage (0-6 weeks)

Similar responses to objects & people. Preference for faces/ eyes.

Indiscriminate attachments (6 weeks – 6 months)

Preference for human company. Ability to distinguish between people but comforted indiscriminately.

Specific (7 months +)

Infants show a preference for one caregiver, displaying separation and stranger anxiety. The baby looks to particular people for security, comfort and protection.

Multiple (10/11 months +)

Attachment behaviours are displayed towards several different people eg. siblings, grandparents etc.

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