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Attachment Theory: Introduction and Critique


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: Dr Michael Mallaghan
  • Assessment: a 1.5-hour examination (60%) and 15-minute presentation (40%)

Module description

In this module we will outline the history of theories of attachment with particular reference to the Bowlby-Ainsworth ecological theory of attachment and show how attachment theory can explain behaviour under conditions of stress and anxiety.

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you should be able to:

  • demonstrate systematic and detailed knowledge of attachment theory
  • explain and use a range of qualitative and quantitative methodologies and findings to analysis the main claims of attachment theory
  • draw on a range of research methods appropriate to psychology to devise and sustain arguments concerning the relative strengths and weaknesses of attachment theory
  • describe and evaluate current research and theories concerning emotional regulation and interpersonal relationships
  • understand the problems and issues associated with researching and understanding relationships and emotional connections
  • plan and present a piece of research designed to investigate attachment
  • critically discuss ethical issues when conducting research in this area
  • demonstrate awareness of cultural considerations in the critical evaluation of theory and research
  • think critically about research findings and key conceptual issues
  • critically discuss popular beliefs, applications and misconceptions about attachment
  • critically evaluate the assumptions of attachment theory and identify associated problems and potential solutions
  • evaluate the ways in which attachment theory might increase understanding of the emotional development of young children and individuals throughout the lifespan
  • explain how your knowledge of attachment theory might increase your understanding of human behaviour in close relationships
  • evaluate and explain the extent to which attachment theory can explain behaviour in social relationships and identify associated weaknesses and identify potential solutions
  • apply theories and research to explain clinical and non-clinical problems associated with early childhood and adult interpersonal relationships
  • explain the strengths and weaknesses of attachment theory to specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • make suggestions of the professional and practical applications of attachment theory, including potential problems.