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Contrast of Attachment & Social Learning Theory



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    Attachment Theory

    Attachment theory is about human relations, it confers the emotional attachment of individuals. The main principle of attachment theory is that a child at his early stage of development is dependent on primary care giver. A primary care giver can be his mother or anyone close to him. For normal development of child it is necessary that a caregiver set a positive influence on him which can result in productive emotional & social development of a child.

    This theory was designed by Bowlby J.  (1988) whose perspective is, if certain flaws in the nurturing of the child in his early stage occur it can lead to permanent psychological or social destruction. This theory states that a child at his early stage of development, which is from six months to two years, seeks his primary care giver’s propinquity in difficult situations, reason for this behavior is the consistent concerned attitude and support from the caregiver during this period. Due to which child dependency on care giver increases.

    The attachment behavior and dependency of the child on primary caregiver changes by the passage of time due to gradual cognitive development. Moreover in attachment theory certain behavioral patterns are elucidated which defines nature of child’s attachment towards his primary caregiver in different psychological states. These behavioral attachment patterns were presented by Ainsworth M. (1967) in her research she described four behavioral patterns that a child adopts while interacting with the caregiver that are secure, avoidant, ambivalent and disorganized behavior. These types of behavioral patterns of child are highly dependent on the quality of the affection and care they receive from their primary caregivers.

    Social Learning Theory

    Social learning theory states that behavior of people is the outcome of their observation, punishment and reinforcement. Theory suggests that people behave according to what they have learnt through their observation and experiences. Rotter J. B. (1954) it was suggested that the result of a particular behavior indulges motivates or force people to get engage in that specific behavior.

    For instance if certain negative outcomes or consequences are not desired, then people will behave in a way that such a situation or outcome can be avoided. If a student does not want to be punished in the class so this desire to avoid punishment or penalty by the teacher forces him to study well and prepare him for the assignment. Similarly a worker in an organization wants to get rewarded in the form of appreciation of his boss. For that purpose he behaves in way by which he can earn appreciation like working effectively and efficiently and anything he considers could serve the purpose.

    If a person feels that getting engaged in particular behavior is benefitting him, he will try to do it again. It means that nature of consequence is the reason why person behave in a certain manner. Theory explains that not only personal traits, his own norms, values and preferences are responsible for making up his behavior but this social learning process is also a factor that contributes toward the behavior building.

    Bandura A. (1977) lengthened the justification given by the Julian Rotter by arguing that human behavior is affected by the social, environmental as well as the psychological traits of people.

    Social learning theory suggests that people do it by:

    ·         Attention to what they see and retention of the same.

    ·         Reproduction means imitating what influenced them and what  was retained  via observation

    ·         Motivation means the reason of getting engaged into that particular behavior. It can be anything like positive results, appreciation, financial benefits, love ,or affection etc Bandura A. (1977)

    Difference in Theories

    There are various differences among social learning and attachment theory; firstly in social learning theory a person’s acts are dependent upon or influenced by its consequences. But in attachment theory acts, behavior or attitude of child are influenced by the attitude, affection and support given by the primary care giver only. Social learning process seems to start after the attachment phase of child’s development from his primary caregiver, under whose influence his early development takes place.  In social learning process a person learns from his surroundings which includes his caregivers, peer group, environment, society, culture etc. but in attachment theory the early source of nurturing is only primary caregiver which can be one or two individuals.  This visibly shows that in social learning many people other than caregiver are influencing the development process but in attachment theory only primary caregivers are involved. Through observation it was found that in course of learning in attachment phase child’s unintentional learning is dominant which involves things that are taught by the primary caregiver for instance eating, walking etc but in social learning process individual both intentionally and unintentionally observe (learn), retain what was observed and is preserved in his memory and imitate the same and get motivated by the positive or negative reinforcement.


    Attachment phase is extremely important in a way that whatever one learns in it either positive or negative highly affects an individual’s performance in social setup. A psychological concept states that an individual’s cognitive and physical behavior such as offensive, violent, deviant and productive etc all are some what influenced by the past childhood experiences. How he behaves, his perceptions are generally developed and based on his past experiences therefore; we can conclude that a violent past or experience will negatively affect the development process and this is the reason why people behave in socially unacceptable, offensive, delinquent and deviant manner. That specific person who has a troubled childhood is more prone to do the same violent or criminal acts in his practical life what he had experienced in his childhood. In another scenario if a child has a fine attachment phase with his caregivers the probability of his effective and positive social learning increases and he positively performs in society.


    Ainsworth M (1967). Infancy in Uganda: Infant Care and the Growth of Love. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0801800102

    Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. General Learning Press

    Battle, E. S. & Rotter, J. B. (1963). children’s feelings of personal control as related to social class and ethnic group, Vol. 31, 482-490

    Bowlby J. (1988). A Secure Base: Clinical Applications of Attachment Theory. London: Routledge. ISBN 0415006406 (pbk).

    Rotter, J. B. (1945). Social Learning and Clinical Psychology. Prentice-Hall.

    Rotter, J. B. (1953). Clinical Methods: Psychodiagnostics, Vol. 4, 295-316


    Contrast of Attachment & Social Learning Theory. (2016, Aug 05). Retrieved from

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