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Psychology Glossary of Terms

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Attachment

Definition:
Close emotional relationship between two people/animals, characterised by mutual affection and a desire to remain close in proximity.
 
Example:
Susan has a two year old son named Tom. They spend a lot of time together. Whenever Susan is gardening or in the kitchen, Tom wants to be close to her. He loves it when she is affectionate and wants to hug and hold him. He often reaches out to hug her.
 
Background:
Psychologists have been very interested in how attachment develops between babies and their primary caregivers early in life. Social development begins when attachment to a primary caregiver is established. For it to occur, there must be a close interaction with a primary caregiver during the critical period of the first year of life. Attachment is usually evident by about 6-9 months, and is inferred from such behaviours as a child seeking to be close to a parent/caregiver, resisting separation from this person, and uses the caregiver as a home base when investigating unfamiliar situations, as well as clinging to that person when fearful of something. Research findings have indicated that children tend to develop stronger attachments when mothers are sensitive and responsive to their needs. There are different quality of attachments.
 
Further Reading:

Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Hilsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Schaffer, H. R., & Emerson, P. E. (1964). The development of social attachments in infancy. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development. 29 (3, Serial No. 94).

 
Related Terms:
Separation anxiety

Self-Instructional Resources:
Take a 2-item self-test over this concept.

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