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Attachment in the early years

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This free course, Attachment in the early years, covers theory and research in the area of attachment in early childhood. In the 1950s, John Bowlby was the first person to develop a theory about the significance of early attachments between caregivers and very young children. His work has stimulated a massive and very productive field of research with important implications for childcare. This OpenLearn course describes Bowlby's theory and the work that has built on it, illustrated with video recordings of the assessment of attachment in a laboratory setting and a talk by an eminent attachment researcher.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • describe attachment classifications and how they are assessed
  • describe the features of caregiving that influence attachment, and the significance of attachment for lifespan development
  • discuss why the attachment system is an adapted and adaptive mechanism
  • recognise the need for ethical conduct in research carried out with children
  • describe the ethics principles of the British Psychological Society (BPS) and explain how research can be conducted ethically in line with these principles.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 6 hours
  • Updated Tuesday 16th February 2016
  • Intermediate level
  • Posted under Early Years, Psychology
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Attachment in the early years


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For most, if not all, people, the attachments we have with others are at the centre of our lives and play a large part in determining how happy and contented we are. Attachments are two-way, dynamic processes between people and start from the beginning of life. John Bowlby, often called ‘the father of attachment theory’, was the key figure in developing a complex model of the attachment system and proposing how it serves to provide security to individuals while also encouraging them to be active in the world. Research based on this theory is revealing the significance of the early years of life in the formation of attachments that go on to be central throughout life. This free course gives an introduction to this exciting area of contemporary study and the ethics of research with children.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course E219 Psychology of childhood and youth [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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