1.2 Some child development theories
Some people find theory a bit heavy going, although it is important in understanding child development. You do not have to spend long on the theory at this stage of your studies. The external links are optional and not included in the study time for this section.
Mali was less attached to Siân, her mother, than Siân would have liked because of Mali’s close attachment to her grandmother. Attachments are emotional bonds made between a young child and the people most involved with them. The reliability and consistency of care a baby receives appropriate to their needs impacts on how secure they feel in their attachments; if they feel secure, a firm bond is likely to be established with the person giving that care. However, inconsistency and unpredictability in a relationship can make a child feel very insecure, and this will have a negative impact on how well a bond is formed.
By 6 to 12 months a baby is capable of making a firm emotional relationship (attachment) with others and once an attachment is formed the baby becomes wary of strangers and upset if separated from the person(s) they are attached to.
Attachment theory and the Strange Situation Test
The Strange Situation Test has been used by child psychologists in Western Europe and the USA for many years to assess the quality of attachment relationships in young children. This has usually been done with mothers as the main carers.
Watch this video clip of the Strange Situation Test being carried out on baby Lisa by a psychologist. The video clip shows that baby Lisa is securely attached to her mother.
The Strange Situation – Mary Ainsworth
The Strange Situation Test has been criticised on several counts – for example, it cannot be easily repeated. The research has been mainly carried out on Western European and American children, so interpretations of what secure relationships should be like are very specific to European–American cultures.
There are societies and ethnic/cultural groups where babies are not encouraged to explore, play away from family or show curiosity, so would not behave in this way when young (Cole, 1998). In assessments of the security of their relationships, therefore, these babies may be wrongly assessed as being not secure.