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Outline and Evaluate the Behavioural Theory of Attachments

  • Date Submitted: 02/10/2014 01:22 PM
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Outline and evaluate the behavioural theory of attachments
Behavioural explanations suggest that all human behaviour is learnt in terms of stimulus (e.g. food) and response, (e.g. being fed is rewarding).
Learning theory suggests that we acquire all behaviours through nurture. In the behaviourist explanation of attachment there are 2 main assumptions; classical and operant conditioning. 
Classical conditioning suggests that we form attachments through associations.  
The stimulus of milk (Uncontrolled Stimulus) produces a response of pleasure (Uncontrolled Stimulus). The primary caregiver, who provides the milk becomes associated with the milk and becomes the conditioned stimulus, then also becomes a source of pleasure which is the basis of the attachment. 
Operant conditioning; Dollard and Miller (1950), support the idea that food/milk is always the basis of attachment. 
In Operant conditioning we learn attachment behaviours through negative reinforcement.
When the infant is hungry they enter a drive state that makes them cry (a social releaser). Being fed satisfies the hunger and therefore is relieving for the child. The primary caregiver is the source of reinforcement and therefore an attachment bond is made to them.

Harlow suggests that attachment is not always based on feeding. Evidence of this comes from their experiments investigating the attachment of baby monkeys, and the observation that the monkeys became attached to surrogate ‘cloth’ mothers, more than wire surrogates that provided milk for them. 
However, when considering this research it is important to note that there are problems using animals in research as findings cannot be concluded, and the experiments were not always ethical in their treatment of the animals.
Furthermore, Schaffer and Emerson (1964) provide evidence that the first attachment formed by 39% of babies in their study was not to the person who provided their physical care, including feeding. This demonstrates that there...


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