I will produce a case study

For this assignment I will produce a case study showing how psychological theories can be used to explain human behaviour.

In order for me to carry out my case study I am going on a work placement at a nursery. The psychological theories that I will use to explain child behaviour are attachment and separation.

The theories that I will look at closely are Ainsworth, Bowlby 1948, Lorenz 1952, Robertson and Bowlby, Schaffer and Emerson 1964, Spitz and Wolf 1964, Ainsworth and Bell 1970, Rutter 1981, Cockett and Tripp 1994.

Before I begin to explain these theorists I will define attachment and separation.

Attachment is a strong emotional tie that develops over time between an infant and their primary caregiver(s)

Cardwell, et al, 2000, page 29

Maurer and Maurer (1989) suggested that the form attachment takes depends on the interaction between two people (infant and caregiver) rather than just being together.

Separation means being separated from a caregiver. Deprivation means that there has been a disruption in the attachment bond, separation or loss of attachments.

Privation, on the other hand, implies that no attachment bond has been formed. I will explain about the effects of separation later on in this case study.

Attachment is assessed in terms of four aspects of the infant’s behaviour: –

Separation Anxiety: – This is the discomfort the child shows when left by their caregiver.

The infant’s willingness to explore: – It is assumed that a more securely attached child will explore more widely.

Stranger anxiety: – Security of attachment is assumed to be related to greater stranger anxiety.

Reunion behaviour: – Insecurely attachment children often greet their caregivers return by ignoring them or behaving ambivalently.

Ainsworth and Bell 1970

Mary Ainsworth developed a method to assess secure and insecure attachments between a child and its primary caregiver. This process is called ‘The Stranger Situation’. The importance of the stranger situation as a research appliance is that it allows researchers to assess whether or not children are securely attached. Ainsworth and Bell (1970) classified the children to be in one of three groups, which were secure, insecure and avoidant. The stranger situation takes place in a laboratory with a set arrangement of attractive toys and furniture. The infants have to be mobile and aged between 12-18 months.

In the stranger situation the following sequence of events take place:

1. The mother and child are introduced to the room.

2. The mother and child are left alone and the child can investigate the toys.

3. A stranger enters the room and talks to the mother. The stranger gradually approaches the infant with a toy.

4. The mother leaves the child alone with the stranger, and the stranger interacts with the child.

5. The mother returns to greet and comfort the child.

6. The mother leaves the child with the stranger.

7. The stranger tries to engage the child.

8. The mother returns.

Dr John Bowlby 1948

One of the first major investigations was carried out by a British child psychiatrist Dr John Bowlby. Bowlby looked into how and why babies make attachments. The main ideology of that period focussed on the importance to make a bond, which was seen as something natural. Bowlby also researched children’s emotional development, especially children who had been separated from their mothers.

Bowlby believed that if children’s attachment were broken then they did not develop healthy personalities, so therefore this provided evidence that attachment was a main ingredient for a healthy personality. Bowlby said that attachment is one of the main forms of survival. It helps to ensure protection, food and warmth. This allows the young to be around adults and learn how to look after themselves, this is done through imitation. This type of behaviour is predominantly seen in animals. Bowbly later suggests that attachment is seen as a ‘secure base’, which allows offspring to explore the environment around them, which helps cognitive development.

Bowlby believed that infants are born programmed to make an attachment with their caregivers and caregivers to make an attachment with their infants. Infants are born with natural tendency to express social behaviour and bring out social responses from caregivers. Bowlby suggests that an attachment before the age of 21/2 is vital, as it will be impossible to do later. A child with no attachment or a weak attachment will suffer from emotional damage and it may have an effect on future relationships. Bowlby argued that early attachments form templates for future relationships. This draws on ethological studies such as that of Lorenz.

Lorenz (1952) imprinting on non-human animals

Konrad Lorenz (1952) studied the behaviour of birds. Birds are precocial animals because they are mobile from the moment of hatching. The most likely imprinting occurs on the first moving object they see at that moment and these imprints have short and long term effects.

The short-term effect is that the young follow the mother figure everywhere, which is important for food and safety. Lorenz shows this by taking some gosling eggs and divided them into two groups. One group was left with the natural mother and the other in an incubator. When the groups hatched they imprinted on the first moving thing, for one group it was the natural mother and for the other group it was Lorenz. Lorenz group followed him around everywhere. Lorenz distinguished the two groups by marking them. He then placed them altogether with their mother. They both quickly separated, one followed the natural mother and the other followed Lorenz.

The long-term effect of imprinting is on the choice of partner for mating. If an individual mates with another member of another species, their offspring are invariably sterile.

Schaffer and Emerson 1964

Schaffer and Emerson (1964) studied the attachments that babies make with other people. They looked at things like who the baby smiles at and to whom the baby responds the most. Many of their findings contradicted Bowlby’s ideas about the way infants form attachments.

Schaffer and Emerson found that the infant not only forms an attachment with its primary caregiver (mother) but others such as the father and siblings. They found that infants in many situations formed multiple attachments.

Schaffer and Emerson found, in one third of the families the main attachment was not with the primary caregiver. Schaffer and Emerson looked into four areas to find their results, which were: –

Age of onset: – Half of the children showed main attachment between 6-8 months. Fear of strangers came a year later.

Intensity: – This took place one month after attachment behaviour first appeared. But there is a large individual difference. Schaffer and Emerson observed that intensely attached children had mothers who responded quickly to their demands and had more interactions. Infants that had a weak attachment had mothers who did not interact as much.

Objects of demand: – Soon after the infant has made one main attachment, the infant also becomes attached to other people. These were with other siblings, father, grandparents, aunties and uncles.

Time spent with infant: – In the majority of these situations, the person that fed, changed, bathed the infant was not the main carer. Therefore the mothers were not the ones to perform these tasks. Even though the mother is the main carer.

Cardwell, et al, 2000, page 32

Spitz and Wolf 1946

Spitz and Wolf supported Bowlby’s theory. They researched 123 babies whose mothers were in prison. In this situation the babies were cared for by their own mothers from birth to about nine months. For three months the mothers were transferred to another block and the babies were looked after at the prison nursery. The babies hardly saw the mothers. The infants had shown symptoms of distress, loss of appetite, crying and failure to gain weight. This demonstrates the short-term physical effects of maternal deprivation.

Rutter 1981 – The effects of discord versus separation

Rutter suggested that unsociable disorders are linked with broken homes not because of the separation involved but rather because of the dispute and disharmony. It is likely that affectionless mental disorder is due not to the breaking of relationships, but because of the primary failure to form bonds. Rutter tested this in his own research in the Isle of Wight study in 1976. More than 2000 boys aged between 9 and 12, and their families were interviewed. Some of the children that Rutter had interviewed experienced separation due to a physical illness or death of their mothers; others had experienced separation due to psychiatric illness or friction within the family. In the final case, the boys were four times more likely to become delinquent than when separation was due to illness. This research supports Rutter’s hypothesis that it is family conflicts that leads to delinquency and emotional maladjustments, rather than separation on its own.

Cockett and Tripp 1994

They researched the experiences of 152 children living in a variety of different families, including reordered families (those where parents had divorced and remarried with stepsiblings). Cockett and Tripp found out that children from reordered homes are more likely to have health problems, experienced friendship difficulties and suffered from low self-esteem. The children living in unbroken families, where there was marital conflict, did less well than children whose parents rarely argue but were better off than those from reordered families. In conclusion, reordering was the worst, followed by discord alone, but discord was found to be a major factor.

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