‘Cupboard love’ encapsulates the psychoanalytic and behaviourist theories of how attachments are formed in infancy.
In a sense, both viewed the child’s attachment to a figure (usually the mother) due to the infant having its physiological needs met. In sense, over time this develops into familiarity with that person.
While this seemed compelling at first, experiments such as Harlow’s cast this idea into doubt (Gross, 2015, pg. 533).
In Harlow’s experiments, two wire mesh constructions were built, one which was plain and naked apart from a milk bottle and a cloth-covered mesh with no milk bottle attached.
In these experiments, time and again baby monkeys would prefer the cloth-covered mesh models going to the bottle only when needed. If given the choice of which one to look at, they would again choose the cloth-covered mesh.
There are also human observational studies that seem to suggest that physiological needs are second place in considerations during attachment phases.
Cupboard Love was an early attempt to explain how or why infants form attachments. The predominant schools interested in cupboard love were psychoanalytic and behaviourist schools.
Cupboard love referred to the idea that infants would form attachments with those who provided for their physiological needs.
Gross, R. ‘Early Experience and Social Development’ in Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour (7th ed) 2015 — Hodder Education