Waters, Hamilton & Weinfield, (2000) conducted a study in 2000 investigating attachment security in infants and young children. Similar to the present study, the 2000 study was longitudinal testing subjects from an early age. However, the 2000 study did not retest the subjects until 20 years after their first participation. The 2000 study used a comparatively smaller sample size than the current study because the 20000 used 60 white middle-class kids.
This could result in a biased result because the 60 participants cannot be reflective of the entire population. Due to this, the present study uses infants from various cultures and backgrounds in order to generalize the results and investigate the issue further. In Waters, Hamilton & Weinfield, (2000) study, 60 infants participated in the Ainsworth strange situation task but only 50 were interviewed 20 years later using the Berkeley adult attachment interview. The research discovered that 72% of the infants had similar secure and insecure attachment classification during their early adulthood years.
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Children attachment analysis
Thus, as the attachment theory predicts, negative events in life were an important change factor. This is because, 44% of the subjects’ mothers accounted some negative life events that altered attachment classifications and only 22% of the mother reported no events changed attachment classifications (Waters, Hamilton & Weinfield, 2000)). The study results affirmed Bowlby’s hypothesis that individual differences in attachment security can be stable across lifespan portions and remain open to revision in light of experience (Waters, Merrick, Treboux, Crowell & Albersheim, 2000)). The study proposes that in understanding attachment classification change by a participant, it would be useful to examine attachment stability in other populations (Waters, Hamilton & Weinfield, 2000)). This was very significant to the present study as it introduced use of preschoolers from various cultures. Nevertheless, the present study did not consider an individual’s negative life events.
A study by Pearson & Child, (2007) investigated parental and peer attachment perceptions among individuals from various cultures. In the study, 182 students filled a parental and peer attachment style instrument. Puerto Rican subjects showed less attachment to their mothers compared to Indian and American subjects. Indian subjects showed a stronger attachment to fathers while US participants displayed stronger attachments to peers (Pearson & Child, 2007).
This recommends that the attachment theory principles are not general. This conclusion also applies to the Waters, Hamilton & Weinfield (2000), which shows that attachment styles differ in different individuals in their lifespan. This influence mainly made the present study to look into attachment and empathy throughout different cultures because the researcher wanted to prove if the attachment theory was true.
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One study limitation is that although findings indicate that individuals in various cultures view attachments with parents or peers differently, they do not depict a determinate relationship to individualism or collectivism (Pearson & Child, 2007). Another limitation was that the subjects from every culture were relatively small and only two collectivistic cultures were contrasted with only one individualistic culture. Additional examples of each culture would strengthen the study. In addition, cultural agents are crucial in collecting information about individuals from other countries because at times, contacts with local people are difficult to arrange (Pearson & Child, 2007).
Attachment theory suggests that the value of the mother-child relationship determines the value of other close relationships the child has. The study conducted by Park & Waters (1989) tested whether attachment to mother security’s relation to a preschooler’s quality of best friendships (Park & Waters, 1989). In the study, 33 four-year-olds and their friends participated and a composed Q-set data scored security of mother-child attachment. The Q-set data categorized the subjects’ friendships as secure-secure or secure-insecure. Findings indicated that secure-secure pairs were comparatively harmonious, responsive, and content than the secure-insecure pairs.
A limitation of the study was that, children interaction with best friends, rather than playmates, may depict an optimal rather than average performance (Park & Waters, 1989). The study’s conclusion agrees with the present study in that, attachment security is important in the development of a child. Nickerson, Mele & Princiotta (2007), investigated the role of empathy, attachment, and gender in determining conducts of students who described themselves as defenders wanting to end bullying or uninvolved outsiders.
The students’ attachment to their mother had the substantial distinct variance to the model, but father attachment did not. Empathy had a significant unique variance to the model even after considering other variables (Nickerson, Mele & Princiotta, 2007). The authors reported that the study was carried out in a school with a predominant white, middle-class sample. Thus, the findings cannot be generalized.
A limitation of the study was in children’s self-report on their roles in bullying activities. By questioning children on their behaviors rather than reading, describing, and selecting roles that best described them, results would be different (Nickerson, Mele & Princiotta, 2007). Another limitation is that the study requires exploration of the ways in which children react to bullying situations. For instance, a longitudinal study conducted by Zhou, Eisenberg, Losoya, Fabes, Reiser, Guthrie, et al. (2002) discovered that parental cordiality and receptiveness determined children’s empathy, which in turn and related to their social functioning.
Wayment (2006) investigated the relationship between avoidant and ambivalent attachments, empathy and helping behavior in an example of collective loss in the USA. In this study, 314 college students filled questionnaires about 20 and 42 days after September 11 terrorist attacks in the US. Findings showed that attachment might relate to individuals’ ability to empathize and engage in assisting behavior (Wayment, 2006). Securely attached participants depicted more empathy with the bereaved. The Wayment (2006) study supports the present study because; individuals with secure attachment to their mothers have a better empathetic understanding.
Nevertheless, one limitation of the study is that the college students did not represent the entire population, thus the findings could not be generalized. Another limitation was the cross sectional approach, which made the self-reported attachment style to be evaluated in the early weeks following the attack and may have been affected by the events that occurred on that day. In future studies, attachment style should be assessed before to a collective loss to raise confidence that attachment style affect empathy in the real world (Wayment, 2006).
Britton and Fuendeling 2005 investigated that recalls of infant attachments, parental ties, or romantic attachments relate to emotional constituents of empathy (Britton & Fuendeling, 2005)). In the study, 178 undergraduate subjects filled in self-report questionnaires. Findings depicted that overprotection by parents, and romantic anxiety depicted distress; parental care, and romantic concern projected empathic concern while romantic avoidance depicted fantasy.
The results suggested that attachment might influence empathy negatively than positively. Moreover, the relationship between empathy and attachment may be more emotional than cognitive. Thus, developing an attachment in early childhood is crucial for emotional development. One limitation of Britton and Fuendeling (2005) study is that the Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI) does not involve attachment terms and may not give an accurate parent-child attachment assessment (Britton & Fuendeling, 2005). In addition, the sample size could be enlarged to be representative of the entire population.
The study by Knight (2010) that used a partial replication to investigate attachment security and empathy in infants further has been the most influential study to date. However, the present study incorporates infants from four cultures. Knight used 58 infants but the present study has used 400 participants to make the findings representative of the entire population. In addition, the current study diversified the cultures to gauge Pearson and Child (2007)’s proposal that “attachment theory is not universal”. Knight used three images for each emotion to show the children, but the current study tested each child thrice for each emotion to confirm clear empathy understanding and support the results. Knight’s results also affirm Britton & Fuendeling (2005) and Wayment (2006) that there is a relationship between attachment security and empathetic understanding.
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If the hypothesis were supported, then the current study’s results would be of benefit for the targeted group. Studying attachment security is central to a child’s development because the early tie between the mother and the child helps the child to be trustful, communicate of their feelings with ease, and be in loving relationships in future. The fact that children get a better empathetic understanding with a secure attachment makes the topic important to investigate among all infants from all cultures.
The information from more research would teach mothers that it is important to bond with their child in the first few months the child’s of life. In addition, if a child does not acquire empathy at an early age, he/she could develop an antisocial personality disorder. Hospitals worldwide could urge mothers to bond properly with children during the first few months and emphasize on the benefit of having a secure attachment.
A longitudinal design is fundamental to this research because it allows monitor empathetic understanding of the child throughout childhood. If a child’s empathy level reduces, it could be due to other factors other than attachment. For instance, school and family circumstances may influence a child’s empathetic understanding level. One problem in using a longitudinal design is participants’ drop out after a couple of years. The current study’s limitation is that the mother’s “Attachment Q-sort” responses may be biased making a good impression and showing closeness to the child.
Another limitation is that it is hard to get 400 infants from four cultures in the North West of England and makes the study very long. The fact that the children may have guessed the answers is a confounding variable that could have affected the study. A pilot study before the experiment would have been crucial to eliminate some limitations. Future research could investigate the participants until they are 10 years of age in order to discover better understanding of their empathetic development. It may be also beneficial to investigate the children in the various countries to make sure for their different culture than English. Finally, the research could test other feelings of forgiveness and morality to find the relationship between the emotions and attachment security.