Outline and Evaluate the Learning Theory as an Explanation of Attachment

312 Words2 Pages
Outline and evaluate the learning theory as an explanation of attachment. According to learning theories, attachment like all behaviours is stimulated by the environment. Based on the behavioural explanations of classical conditioning and apparent conditioning, attachment is a consequence of reward and association. Classical conditioning is associating the mother with food. This conditioning is how attachments form between the mother and the source of pleasure according to the learning theory. Operant conditioning is when the mother is a source of positive reinforcement (rewards). The mother is reinforced through the reward of having a happy baby. Harlow’s research contradicts the learning theory. He suggests that attachment is innate. This is because his experiment on the orphaned monkeys shown that no behaviour could have been learnt. The monkeys did not learn that the mother will offer comfort because it was orphaned. Therefore “behaviour must be innate.” Some may argue that the learning theory is too simplistic. Other people are involved in the baby’s life and it is possible for them to form attachments to their other family members/friends. Babies can think for themselves. These factors are also involved in the formation of attachment. Bowlby’s theory was influenced by Freud’s and the evolutionary theory in 1951. He was supported by the work of Lorenz and he suggested that attachment must be formed within a critical period before the child is 2 years old. Attachment promotes survival and the relationship with the primary caregiver acts as a template for all future relationships. Monotropy is part of this theory and this is where attachments form a hierarchy with the primary care-giver. To conclude Bowlby’s evolutionary theory is based on innate information whereas the learning theory suggests all behaviour is learnt. I think most behaviour is learnt
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