The studies by the Harlows showed that young monkeys preferred the warm mother that provided a secure base to the cold mother that provided food. Both monkeys and human babies need a secure base that allows them to feel safe. From this base, they can gain the confidence they need to venture out and explore their worlds.
Erikson Table 7. Developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth, a student of John Bowlby, was interested in studying the development of attachment in infants. During the procedure, which lasts about 20 minutes, the parent and the infant are first left alone, while the infant explores the room full of toys. Then a strange adult enters the room and talks for a minute to the parent, after which the parent leaves the room.
The stranger stays with the infant for a few minutes, and then the parent again enters and the stranger leaves the room. In the strange situation, children are observed responding to the comings and goings of parents and unfamiliar adults in their environments. On the basis of their behaviours, the children are categorized into one of four groups, where each group reflects a different kind of attachment relationship with the caregiver.
A child with a secure attachment style usually explores freely while the mother is present and engages with the stranger. The child may be upset when the mother departs but is also happy to see the mother return.
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A child with an ambivalent sometimes called insecure-resistant attachment style is wary about the situation in general, particularly the stranger, and stays close or even clings to the mother rather than exploring the toys. When the mother leaves, the child is extremely distressed and is ambivalent when she returns.
The child may rush to the mother but then fail to cling to her when she picks up the child. A child with an avoidant sometimes called insecure-avoidant attachment style will avoid or ignore the mother, showing little emotion when the mother departs or returns. The child may run away from the mother when she approaches. The child will not explore very much, regardless of who is there, and the stranger will not be treated much differently from the mother. Finally, a child with a disorganized attachment style seems to have no consistent way of coping with the stress of the strange situation — the child may cry during the separation but avoid the mother when she returns, or the child may approach the mother but then freeze or fall to the floor.
You might wonder whether differences in attachment style are determined more by the child nature or more by the parents nurture. But the attachment behaviour of the child is also likely influenced, at least in part, by temperament , the innate personality characteristics of the infant. Some children are warm, friendly, and responsive, whereas others tend to be more irritable, less manageable, and difficult to console. Taken together, it seems safe to say that attachment, like most other developmental processes, is affected by an interplay of genetic and socialization influences.
You might wonder whether the attachment style displayed by infants has much influence later in life. Psychologists have studied the persistence of attachment styles over time using longitudinal research designs — research designs in which individuals in the sample are followed and contacted over an extended period of time, often over multiple developmental stages. The adults who changed categorization usually from secure to insecure were primarily those who had experienced traumatic events, such as the death or divorce of parents, severe illnesses contracted by the parents or the children themselves , or physical or sexual abuse by a family member.
In addition to finding that people generally display the same attachment style over time, longitudinal studies have also found that the attachment classification received in infancy as assessed using the strange situation or other measures predicts many childhood and adult behaviours.
Conducting longitudinal research is a very difficult task, but one that has substantial rewards. When the sample is large enough and the time frame long enough, the potential findings of such a study can provide rich and important information about how people change over time and the causes of those changes.
The drawbacks of longitudinal studies include the cost and the difficulty of finding a large sample that can be tracked accurately over time, and the time many years that it takes to get the data. In addition, because the results are delayed over an extended period, the research questions posed at the beginning of the study may become less relevant over time as the research continues.
Cross-sectional research designs represent an alternative to longitudinal designs.
In a cross-sectional research design, age comparisons are made between samples of different people at different ages at one time. They found that genetics played a more significant role in the older group of twins, suggesting that genetics became more significant for personality in later adulthood. Cross-sectional studies have a major advantage in that the scientist does not have to wait for years to pass to get results. On the other hand, the interpretation of the results in a cross-sectional study is not as clear as those from a longitudinal study, in which the same individuals are studied over time.
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Most important, the interpretations drawn from cross-sectional studies may be confounded by cohort effects. Cohort effects refer to the possibility that differences in cognition or behaviour at two points in time may be caused by differences that are unrelated to the changes in age. The differences might instead be due to environmental factors that affect an entire age group. The two groups of adults necessarily grew up in different time periods, and they may have been differentially influenced by societal experiences, such as economic hardship, the presence of wars, or the introduction of new technology.
As a result, it is difficult in cross-sectional studies such as this one to determine whether the differences between the groups e. Ainsworth, M. Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Aronson, E. The jigsaw classroom. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
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Infant salt taste: Developmental, methodological, and contextual factors. Developmental Psychology, 27 , — Blass, E. Differential effects of sucrose, fructose, glucose, and lactose on crying in 1- to 3-day-old human infants: Qualitative and quantitative considerations. Developmental Psychology, 28 , — Bowlby, J. Some pathological processes set in train by early mother-child separation. Journal of Mental Science, 99 , — Boysen, S. Current issues and emerging theories in animal cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 50 , — Brown, A.
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From infant to child: The dynamics of cognitive change in the second year of life. Psychological Bulletin, 2 , — Dasen, P.
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Gillath, O. Genetic correlates of adult attachment style.
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