Compare and Contrast Harlow and Ainsworth

Harry Harlow and Mary Ainsworth shared a common interest in attachment. Although their work is different and how they went about doing their experiments there were similarities between the pair as both of them did studies to see how attachment presented itself in different individuals. Harlow’s work was based in a laboratory and was a long term experiment using monkeys. The treatment of the animals was seen as poor and unethical. Certain parts to the experiments could even be called cruel.

Harlows work on attachment was based around the theory that attachment was formed to things that provided comfort to the animals, after discovering that they did indeed seek solace in more comfortable items which happened to be either a sanitary pad or its terry-cloth mother. The monkeys were taken completely out of their natural habitats and forced to live whatever way Harlow saw fit which is now not allowed. Since Harlow’s work there have been a lot of changes on experiments including animals and Harlows work would not have been allowed today.

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Mary Ainsworths work was not taken place in a laboratory.

She did her strange situation study in a room where the children were with their mothers most of the time and if not they were outside the room and could always see their children. The monkeys in Harlows work were completely taken away from their mothers. Ainsworth wasn’t working to see “contact comfort” but was observing how a child reacts when their mother leaves them, if they notice, if they become inconsolable or if they were easily comforted.

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If the children became to distressed then the parent would come in to comfort the child and stop the experiment.

This was not the case in Harlows work with the monkeys. In Harlows work he introduced the “the iron maiden” mother which was to take place as a abusive parent. The iron maiden blew pressurised cold air out at such a force that it threw the infant monkey across the cage. It would also be able to push the monkey away. Treating the monkeys this way would never be allowed now and if this experiment was done to humans it would have completely violated human rights and Harlow would not have been able to continue.

Although Mary Ainsworths work could seem a little mean at times by separating the child away from their mother they could come back straight away and caused no long term harm to the children unlike Harlows work which showed the monkeys that had been kept in isolation and grown up in isolation were highly socially disturbed when they were adults. The females would then become neglectful mothers themselves. Ainsworths work would have no effect on the child by adulthood, probably not even by the end of the day.

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Compare and Contrast Harlow and Ainsworth. (2016, Sep 11). Retrieved from

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