3. Examine attachment in childhood and its role in the subsequent formation of relationships


Attachment in childhood

Attachment theory was suggested by Bowlby (1951) and it has become one of the most influential theories in understanding children’s emotional and social development as well as adult love relationships.



Attachment and internal working model

Bowlby (1973) claims that there is a continuity between childhood and adult relationships, i.e. early attachment patterns formed with parents continue in later relationships because they create an internal working model. The internal working model is a mental representation of the self, about the attachment figure, and how others will react (social life).




Mary Ainsworth and her Strange Situation

Ainsworth (1969) carried out the Ganda Project which was an observational study of 28 mothers interacting with their child performed in Uganda over nine months (longitudinal). The observations were naturalistic (in the family living room). Ainsworth interviewed the mothers and measured maternal sensitivity to the infant’s signals and needs as these were considered to be important factors in the development of attachment. Ainsworth replicated the study in the USA in 1971 with 26 families.

 Ainsworth et al (1978) suggested a classification system with three attachment patterns based on “The Strange Situation paradigm”, a procedure with several sequences performed in a laboratory to test a child’s attachment pattern to the mother. Key features of the procedure are:


  1. the child’s reaction to the mother’s departure
  2. how the child reacts to her when she returns
  3. how the child reacts to a stranger.

Different patterns of responses to the Strange Situation are assumed to show three particular attachment patterns:




Campos et al performed a review of American studies on infant attachment patterns and found the following distribution: secure (62%), ambivalent (15%), and avoidant (15%).

Now lets examine if that attachment we work so hard forming when we are younger, effects our future relationships......


Hazan and Shaver (1988)

The research consisted of two different studies.

Aim To investigate:


  1. whether the same distribution of childhood attachment patterns was manifested in a study on adult love relationships


  1. whether the difference in attachment patterns could be linked to different attachment histories


  1. whether respondents’ descriptions of their love relationships could be classified as secure, avoidant, or ambivalent.