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Developmental Psychology: Attachment- The Psychology World Podcast Episode 19

Hi everyone, today’s episode of The Psychology World Podcast is on developmental and


This area of psychological area is highly influenced by biological psychology, social psychology and cognitive psychology.

Today’s Podcast show notes are taken from my Developmental Psychology book:

This has to be one of the most important behaviours in good child development as being attached to someone is important for many reasons.

Attachment refers to the emotional bond between the child as well as the caregiver (or another person if you wanted to create a universal definition and not a developmental one) that presents itself as being calm in their presence and distressed when not in their presence.

The biological basis for attachment:

Harlow (1958) was a researcher who set out to find a biological explanation for attachment.

He conducted two experiments.

The first experiment found that attachment is driven by the contact comfort and not the satisfaction of basic needs.

For example, a child forms attachment because they are comfortable around you and not because you provide their basic needs.

Off the top of my head, this explains and is further supported by the reason why a kidnap victim doesn’t always form an attachment to their kidnapper that effectively looks after them.

The second experiment is detailed below:

Harlow (1958)

· Baby monkeys were placed in a room filled with toys to play with. Interacting with a rich environment is important to cognitive development.

· In three conditions the monkeys were left in the room alone, with a mother made from wire or a mother made from cloth.

· Results showed that the monkeys explored the environment more with the cloth mother as they used it as a secure base. While in the other two conditions they were much more likely to freeze or go into the corner and cry.

Critical thinking:

The experiment has an effective method for measuring this hypothesis, so this increases the reliability of the results.

Although, the reliability of the results could be called into question as it used animals and it’s still hotly debated whether or not the animal and human behaviours are the same. Thus, the results of the experiment could only apply to monkeys as they were used in the experiment or the results could in fact only apply to humans to a certain extent, unless a follow-up experiment is done using human children we cannot say for sure if this hypothesis applies to humans.

Attachment in humans:

John Bowlby was the first researcher to formulate a theory about why attachment occurs.

His theory includes two components:

· Attachment behavioural system- referring to the pre-programmed instincts we have that are biologically encoded in us. These instincts are behaviours that occur in response to certain environmental triggers.

· Internal Working Model- referring to the psychological aspects of attachment. These include beliefs about the self, the caregiver as well as the relationship with the caregiver.

Bowlby believed that the internal working model is formed in early childhood and it influences future relationships.

For example: if your caregivers constantly neglect you despite you trying your best to get their attention. This could lead to the development of feelings of worthlessness. Possibly affecting your future relationships as you could always be trying to prove yourself worthy of your friends or partner’s attention, or you could become an attention seeker.


Attachment is an emotional bond between the child and caregiver.

Harlow (1958) demonstrated how contact comfort is the driving force of attachment and infants need a sense of security to explore the environment.

Bowlby’s theory involves the Attachment behavioural system and the internal working model.

I hope that you have enjoyed today’s podcast episode and I hope that you found how

biological psychology impacts attachment interesting.

If you want more information, then please check out my Developmental Psychology book.

Feel free to leave a comment below and sign up for my psychology newsletter for more information!

Have a great day everyone!

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