There are various explanations for attachment, but one of the most used by behaviourists is the Learning Theory. This theory suggests that attachment is formed through either classical, which involves learning through association i.e.; an unconditioned stimulus as food can produce pleasure meaning the person who feeds the child, most likely the caregiver is associated pleasure therefore forming an attachment or operant conditioning which is learning through rewards or punishment.
The Learning Theory attempt to explain attachment, which is referred sometimes to the cupboard love theory, as this theory proposes that the child only becomes attached in this instance because he or she is fed and the infant becomes attached to the person who feeds him or her.
However, operant conditioning was used by Dollard and Miller, which they claimed was more complex as the child feels uncomfortable when they are hungry and their primary caregiver reduces that discomfort whilst pleasuring them hence them becoming attached.
There are some positive aspects in this explanation such as that we all learn through association as well as reinforcement which this explanation is based on. But on the other hand food may not be the main reinforcer as attention and responsiveness form a caregiver are also rewarding.
Unfortunately a weakness of the Learning Theory is that a study by Harlow showed that food isn't everything as his study concerned monkeys who were raised by their two wire surrogates, where one was covered with a cloth and offered no food whilst the other offered food without comfort. According to the Learning Theory, the monkey should have been attached to the food surrogate, yet Harlow findings showed that the young monkeys spent up to 23 hours clinging onto the comfort surrogate and only left for a short amount of time to get some food. But as this experiment was set in a lab the monkeys may have been frightened and that could be another reason why they were attached to the comfort surrogate for a sense of safety.
Along with Harlow, Bowlby challenges the Learning Theory as he believes that it is important for the