Patterns of attachment


According to Vygotsky (1978) the concept of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) describes how cognitive development takes place between a child and parent. He believed that specific assistance provided by parents or a care giver develops a child potential. The interaction of an experienced adult with a child develops a child's capability beyond what it could do on its own Keenan (2002). The ZPD represents a child's performance supported by people who know more than the child and it is the difference that makes the impact (Seigler, Deloache, and Eisenberg 2006) ZPD plays a major role in understanding how cognitive development is dependent on the relationship and engagement between child and parents (Atherton 2009).Vygotsky (1978) argued that a child would experience limited cognitive development if no experienced caregiver has intervened. A child's cognitive ability such as memory and perception are considered as 'higher mental functions' (Keenan 2002).

The ZPD illustrates how Vygotsky believed cognition development was a process taking place Emphasizing how a child will move from one stage to next until they are able to do a task independently. It is noted by Keenan(2002) that Vygotsky theory did not attempt to describe how experienced person and a child interacted within the ZPD.

The role of ZPD has been modified to include the theory of scaffolding although its not a concept of Vygotsky. Scaffolding theory (Wood, Bruner and Ross 1976) is further development of the concept to assist in understanding the quality of interaction and instruction that takes place to supports a child's achievement The support provided takes into the account the size of child's ZPD.

Scaffolding takes place only within the ZPD. Rogoff (1990) proposed 'guided participation' as a process which experienced individuals set up activities that inexperienced person could take part in and that may not have taken part in on their own. This provided evidence that the quality of support from experienced individuals improves learning.

Wood, Bruner and Ross(1976) also established that he quality of instruction changed with the age of the child. Their studies outlined how instruction given to a six year old were different compared to instructions given to a four year old. Study found that six year olds were given verbal instruction, compared to four years olds were given physical instruction and five years old were given to complete tasks. The ZPD has been expanded to research other areas of competence (Tharp & Gallimore 1988).


  • ATHERTON J S (2009) Learning and Teaching; Constructivism in learning [On-line] UK: Available: Accessed: 27 March 2010
  • Keenan, T.(2002). An Introduction to Child Development. London: Sage. Publications.
  • Rogoff, B. (1990) Apprenticeship in Thinking: cognitive development in social context, New York, Oxford University Press.
  • Siegler, R., DeLoache, J., & Eisenberg, N. (2006).How Children Develop, 2nd edition. New York: Worth.
  • Tharp, R. G., & Gallimore, R. (1988). Rousing minds to life: Teaching, learning, and schooling in social context (p. 35). New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society:The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Wood, D., Bruner, J. S., & Ross, G. (1976).The role of tutoring in problem solving. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 17, 89-100.
Question TWO

The Preoperational stage is the second stage in Paiget's theory of development .This relates to toddlers or early childhood. A six year old child falls within the Preoperational Stage of Development. This stage forms part of the Paiget theory of development. It outlines the thought processes for the age group of 2-7 year old children. Children within this age group use pictures, drawings, pretend play, numbers, language. At this stage the six year old child mental operations(tasks) are still not fully developed (Keenan 2002).

According to Paiget (1972)a six year old child's thinking is based on their own perception of reality. This thinking leads to egocentricity, in which the child believes they are the centre of the universe. This limits the child thinking as the child would be unable to define other peoples viewpoint different from their own. This stage also lays emphasis on non-logical thinking, the tendency to characterise inanimate objects with life like qualities and capabilities to act(Seigler, DeLoache, Eisenberg 2006)

The Formal Operational stage is the highest and final stage of Paiget model of cognitive development. This stage equates to adolescence. Cognitive ability to hypothesis and think in an abstract way starts at this stage or age eleven. Within this stage a child's thinking has developed to have the capability of abstract thinking problem solving (Paiget 1958.) They have advanced beyond concrete operational stage and are capable of using hypothetical-deductive reasoning(Keenan 2002) drawing on the information available to them and arriving at conclusions.

A specific difference that occurs from preoperational to formal operational stage is the Hypotheses thinking and testing. This has been challenged by researchers such as Ruffman (1993). Researchers such as Ruffman have established Paiget had underestimated the abilities of children and their thinking skills which fall within the preoperational stage. Ruffman (1993) challenges Paiget's theory regarding hypothesis thinking. According to Paiget children are unable to carry out hypothetical thinking before the age of eleven years old. Yet Ruffman study results illustrated that children as young as six years old have the ability to undertake hypothetical thinking, which Paiget argued only happen when they became an adolescent. The study concluded that children as young as six years old demonstrate the ability within certain conditions.


  • Piaget, J., Gruber, H., (Ed.), & Voneche, J. J. (Ed.). The essential Piaget (100th Anniversary Ed.). New York: Jason AronsonS
  • Piaget, J. (1972). The Psychology of the Child. New York: Basic Books.
  • Piaget, J. (1990).The Child's Conception of the World. New York: Littlefield Adams.
  • Siegler, R., DeLoache, J.,& Eisenberg, N. (2006). How Children Develop, 2nd edition. New York: Worth.

In the Strange Situation the child demonstrates an insecure ambivalent attachment style. This style is defined as when a child is 'extremely distressed and upset by separation from the caregiver" (Keenan,2002).The child shows high levels of upset with persistent crying for a long period of time. When the caregiver leaves the room, the child remains at the door, banging at the door in anger. He is very clingy to his mother when she returns and continually cries even when the mother reunites with him by entering the room and remains available.

Aspects of the child's behaviour that led to the conclusion of anxious attachment are the child reluctance to explore and play with toys whilst still in close proximity to the mother, the child's reaction to the mother leaving the room, and how the child responds when his mother returns to the room after being briefly separated from her.

The Strange Situation represents empirical research by Ainsworth (1973) that contributes to the attachment theory of Bowlby(1958). This methodology expands the theory by offering a theory of attachment that explains mother and child attachment through the observation of consequences of separation of the child from its secure base the caregiver. Ainsworth contributed a classification of three types of relationships attachments and child behaviour: Secure attachment, Insecure attachment which could be resistant or Ambivalent Attachment, Insecure Avoidant attachment and a further category developed later disorganized/disorientated attachment (Seigler,Deloache,Eisenberg 2006) Briefly in the Strange Situation a secure infant would explore their surroundings fairly confidently. They would be upset if their mother leaves but they would not be too distressed as they see the mother as a secure base. So the mother's presence would be comforting. Insecure ambivalent attached child would act very clingy and would feel scared to explore the environment. In the Strange Situation insecure ambivalent child behaviour would be very upset if mother leaves the room and when the mother returns they are not so easily comforted, so continue to be distressed. Insecure avoidant attachment child behaviour would avoid or be indifferent towards the mother to cope with the stress of separation. Further to Ainsworth research researchers found responses that did not fit into the Ainsworth categories. This was type of insecure attachment in which there was no typical way of dealing with the separation. Their behaviour was observed as wanting their mother but also reacting to the mother in fear (Seigler, Deloache, Eisenberg 2006)

Field (1996)raised a number of limitations with the attachment theory. Firstly empirical research should include observation of how the mother and child interact in everyday non- stressful situations to give a better understanding of how the model works as it is limited to just stressful situations in a 20 minute time period. In addition the observed behaviour of the child is based just on behaviour in relation to the mother and not to other types of caregivers, these are limiting the definitions of attachment as children have other attachments and may show attachement patterns to others such as siblings.


  • Ainsworth,M., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, (1978). Patterns of attachment: A Psychological Study of the Strange Situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Bowlby,J.(1958), The nature of the child's tie to his mother. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, XXXIX, 1-23.
  • Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss: Attachment (Vol. 1). New York: Basic
  • Bretherton,I(1992) The Origins of Attachment Theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth Developmental Psychology (1992), 28, 759-775.
  • Field, T. (1996). Attachment and separation in young children. Annual Review of Psychology, 47, 541-562.

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