Discuss the Differences Between Evolutionary and Behavioural Theories in Attachment

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Behavioural and Evolutionary theories of attachment in Psychology are two opposing ideas about the ways in which a child attaches to it's primary caregiver. In this essay I will demonstrate the differences between the two theories and use case studies to provide evidence for both the Behavioural and Evolutionary theories. The Evolutionary theory supports the Nature side of the argument, which basically suggests that attachment is something which is biologically pre-programmed into a child at birth. This means that an infant will emit something which is known as a 'social releaser' (e.g crying, smiling, laughing) because they know an adult will respond. However, the Behavioural theory is part of the Nurture debate, which suggests that attachment is a set of learned behaviours from the environment and is not something that a child is born with. Their explanation is based on Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning. Classical Conditioning: the infant associates feeding with the main carer who provides comfort and they then become the attachment figure. Operant Conditioning: the infant learns that demanding attention through crying or smiling brings either a positive or negative response from an adult, they then base who they see as their main caregiver on whoever responds most to them. Both of these conditions show us that the child forms attachments on the basis of primary care provision and that the strongest attachment will be with the person who provides the most care for the child. Evolutionary theorists believe that the reason for attachment is survival. They say that a child knows that it needs to attach to someone in order to live and survive and that this instinct is instilled in them from birth. The attachment is said to develop within either the Critical Period or Sensitive Period and is something which cannot be learned again. Critical
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