Mary Ainsworth's "Strange Situation"

A basic overview of the Strengths (advantages) and Weaknesses (disadvantages) of Mary Ainsworth's 'Strange Situation" study on Attachment Types.

Criticism is appreciated.

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Mary Ainsworth's "Strange Situation"


  • High Internal Validity - Ainswoth controlled many factors within her experiement, such as; Same Stranger for each child, same amount of time with ,without the child, Mother's behaviour was controlled, how much time with and without the child, etc.
  • Very Easy to Perform/Observe - This study is very easy to do, and requires very little equptment. This means the study can be replicated many times to check for consitency of results. Also, researchers stood behind a one-way mirror and observed Mother-Child and stranger-child relations. It is clear what type of attachment the child shows.


  • Low External Validity - The experiment occured in an artifical envrioment, which may have caused the child distress, and affect the results. The data from the study cannot be easily appiled to the outside world
  • Only looks at Mother - Child relationships - Ainsworth only tested Mother-Child relationships in her study. This again brings down the representativeness of the data; the results cannot be applied to any other form of relationship with infants into attachment, such as; Father-Child, Grandparent-Child, Sibling-Child, etc.
  • Only American Mothers - The study was only performed on American Mothers and babies. This reduces the representativeness of the data again, as attachment in other countries/cultures may differ from the ones in America. (LOOK FOR  VAN LJZENDROON & KROONBERG in CULTURAL VARIATIONS)
  • Extraneous Variables - Other factors may have caused the child to cry out in need, such as the 'un-natural' envrioment, was hungry, etc.


Within Ainsworth's study, there are Strengths & Weaknesses. Use these in examination questions that ask for an EVALUATION of the 'Strange Situation.' If your teacher has taught you studies that back up these points, do include the name of the psychologists. The Strange Situation has not come up as a 12 mark question in AQA's June 2010 - Jan 2013 papers yet. Be careful!  Hope this helps.


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