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Cultural Psychology on Attachment Theory - Dictionary of Arguments

Upton I 58
Attachment Theory/Cultural Psychology/Upton: cross-cultural research has highlighted variations in attachment classifications, even in Western cultures (van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg, 1988)(1). >Strange Situation/Attachment Theory.

Ratios of Secure (%)/ Insecure-avoidant (%) / Insecure-resistant (%) – patterns of attachment:
USA: 65 – 21 - 14
Germany: 57 – 35 - 8
Japan: 68 – 26 - 27
UK: 75 – 22 – 3(1)
Upton I 59
However, in each country the majority of attachments are rated secure and this has been demonstrated in other studies (e.g. Thompson, 2006)(2). This is often taken as evidence that the meaning of attachment relationships is universal and cultural variations simply illustrate how different caregiving patterns lead to varying percentages of secure and insecure attachments.
Secure/insecure attachment/Interpretation: another interpretation of this data is that what qualifies as secure or insecure attachment varies across cultures.
Japan: In Japan, for example, mothers respond differently to their babies when compared to Western mothers (Rothbaum et al., 2000)(3). Japanese mothers usually have much closer contact with their infants and strive to anticipate their infants’ needs rather than react to their infants’ cries as Western mothers tend to do. Social routines and independent exploration are given less emphasis than in the West.
VsAinsworth: The Strange Situation has been criticised for being ethnocentric in its approach and assumptions, as it does not take into account the
Upton I 60
diversity of socialising contexts that exist in the world. Cultural values influence the nature on
attachment. (Cole and Tan, 2007)(4).
Africa: in Nigeria, for example, Hausa infants are traditionally cared for by the grandmother and siblings as well as the mother and tend to develop attachments to a large number of carers (Harkness and Super, 1995)(5).
Western countries: In Western cultures, increasing numbers of children spend time being looked after by someone other than the mother – either with relatives or in day care (Hochschild and Machong, 1989)(6). Might this influence their response to maternal separation? What does this then suggest about all those children classified as insecurely attached?


1. van Ijzendoorn, M. and Kroonenberg, P. (1988) Cross cultural patterns of attachment: a meta-analysis of the Strange Situation. Child Development, 59: 147—56.
2. Thompson, R.A. (2006) The development of the person, in Eisenberg, N (ed.) Handbook of
Child Psychology, Vol. 3: Social, emotional, and personality development (6th edn). New York:
Wiley.
3. Rothbaum, F, Weisz, J, Pott, M, Miyake, K and Morelli, G (2000) Attachment and culture: security in the United States and Japan. American Psychologist, 55: 1093—1104.
4. Cole, P.M. and Tan, P.Z. (2007) Emotion socialization from a cultural perspective, in Grusec, J.E.
and Hastings, P.D. (eds) Handbook of Socialization. New York: Guilford.
5. Harkness, S and Super, CM (1995) Culture and parenting, in Bornstein, MH (ed.) Handbook of Parenting, Vol. 3. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
6. Hochschild, A and Machong, A (1989) The Second Shift: Working parents and the revolution at home. New York: Viking Penguin.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Cultural Psychology
Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011


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