Attachment Figures

-One of the concerns in research is who the infants become attached to


– Traditionally we have thought of in terms of mother-infant interaction.

– Schaffer and Emerson (1964) found that the majority of babies did become attached to their mother first at around 7 months

– Within a few weeks or months form secondary attachments to other family members including the father.

– In 75% of the infants studied an attachment was formed with the father of my age of 18 months.

– This was determined by the fact that the infants protested when their father walked away, a sign of attachment


– Grossman (2002) carried out a longitudinal study looking at both parents’ behaviours and its relationship to the quality of children’s attachments into their teens.

– Quality of infant attachment with their mothers, but not fathers, is related to children’s attachments in adolescence, suggesting that the father’s attachment was less important.

– However, the quality of fathers play with the infants was related to the quality of adolescent attachment.

– This suggested that Fathers have a different role in attachment, one that is more to do with play and stimulation, and less to do with nurturing.


– There is some evidence to suggest that while father’s take on the role of the main caregiver they adopt behaviours that have in the past been associated with mothers.

– Tiffany Field (1978) filmed 4 month old babies in face-to-face interaction with primary caregiver mothers, secondary caregiver fathers and primary caregiver father’s.

– Primary caregiver fathers, like mothers, spent more time smiling, imitating and holding infants than secondary caregiver fathers.

– This behaviour appears to be more important in building an attachment with the infant.

– So, it seems that the fathers can be the more nurturing attachment figure.

– The key to attachments in relationships is the level of responsiveness not the gender of the parent.


Inconsistent Findings on Fathers

– Research into the role of fathers in attachment is confusing because different researchers are interested in different research questions.

– On one hand, some psychologists are interested in understanding the role of fathers have as secondary attachment figures, whereas others are more concerned with the fathers who are primary attachment figures.

– The former have tended to see fathers behaving differently from others and having a distinct role.

– The latter have tended to find the fathers can take on the maternal role.

– This is a problem because it mean psychologists can’t easily answer a simple question, what the role of the father actually is

Socially Sensitive

– Research into mother-infant interaction is socially sensitive because it suggests that children may be disadvantaged by particular child-rearing practices. I

– In particular, when a mother to returns to work shortly after having a child is born could restrict the opportunities for achieving interactional synchrony, which are important to develop infant caregiver attachment.

– This could be taken to suggest that mother’s should not return to work so soon

– And other research shows that working mothers have plenty of time for such interactions after working for hours

– Research like this can be used to restrict freedom of choice – in this case the choice of mothers of when to return to work.