Mary Ainsworth's strange situation procedure

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Strange Situation Procedure
The security of attachment in one- to two-year-olds was investigated
by Ainsworth and Bell (1970) in the 'strange situation' study, in order to
determine the nature of attachment behaviours and types of attachment.
Ainsworth (1970) developed an experimental procedure in order to observe the
variety of attachment forms exhibited between mothers and infants.
The experiment is set up in a small room with one way glass so the behaviour of
the infant can be observed. Infants were aged between 12 and 18 months. The
sample comprised about 100 middle class American families.
The procedure, known as the `Strange Situation', was conducted by observing the
behaviour of the infant in a series of seven 3-minute episodes, as follows:
(2) Stranger joins parent and infant.
(3) Parent leaves infant and stranger alone.
(4) Parent returns and stranger leaves.
(5) Parent leaves infant left completely alone.
(6) Stranger returns.
(7) Parent returns and stranger leaves.
Four categories of behaviours are measured and observed: (1) separation anxiety:
the unease the infant shows when left by the caregiver, (2) the infant's
willingness to explore, (3) stranger anxiety: the infant's response to the
presence of a stranger, and (4) reunion behaviour: the way the caregiver was
greeted on return. The observer notes down the behaviour displayed and scores
the behaviour for intensity on a scale 1 to 7.
Strange Situation Findings
Her set of observational studies using the `Strange Situation' paradigm (see
above) revealedthree distinct forms of attachment (`attachment styles'). One
secure attachment style and two types of insecure attachments.
Caregivers and infant pairs displayed one of the following three attachment

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Secure Attachment Avoidant Attachment
Infant shows signs of Infant shows no sign of
Separation Distressed when
intense distress when distress when mother
Anxiety mother leaves.
mother leaves. leaves.
Avoidant of stranger Infant is okay with the
Infant avoids the
Stranger when alone but stranger and plays
stranger shows fear
Anxiety friendly when mother normally when stranger
of stranger.
present. is present.
Child approaches
Infant shows little
Reunion Positive and happy mother but resists
interest when mother
Behaviour when mother returns.…read more

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