Describe and evaluate research into attachment and/or sociability in the first few years of life

Essay by Jo CartwrightCollege, UndergraduateA, May 2004

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Sociability is the desire to seek out and interact with others whereas attachment refers to the formation of a relatively strong and enduring emotional relationship between people. While these appear to be separate behaviours they are in fact interdependent. In that if someone responds in an unsociable manner to another then it is highly unlikely that an emotional relationship will be formed. Conversely if someone responds sociably towards another and this is reciprocated then it is probable that they will choose to interact on future occasions thus increasing the probability that they will form a strong enduring emotional relationship. Thus sociability is a prerequisite for attachments.

Both sociability and attachment are very important behaviours as they increase the probability that an infant will survive long enough to produce viable offspring. The function of sociability is therefore to gain the attention of potential caregivers and increase the probability that they will interact in future.

Attachments serve a number of functions in that they create a safe base from which the infant can explore its environment and return to especially in potentially threatening situations. Establish a first emotional relationship that acts as the basis for later emotional relationships. Enable a gradual detachment of dependency from the attachment figure(s) so that they are able to function as independent adults. Reduces distress and promotes emotional development and development of the self-image.

Research has shown that babies exhibit sociable behaviours almost from birth - long before they have formed an attachment. Moreover research has shown that sociability is not a sudden process but instead a gradual one that develops in six consecutive stages involving behaviours that increase the probability of future interactions and opportunities for attachment to occur. These stages and related social behaviours are as follows:

The first stage occurs between the age of...