The Strange Situation

An overview of how the experiment was carried out

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  • Created on: 28-11-11 17:26
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The Strange Situation
Ainsworth (1969) devised the strange situation to test the nature of
attachment systematically.
AIM: To see how infants aged between 9 and 18 months behave under
conditions of mild stress and novelty. Also to encourage exploration by placing
infants in a novel environment, testing the secure base concept.
Stress is created by the presence of a stranger and separation from the
TESTS: Stanger anxiety and separation anxiety.
PROCEDURE: Consists of 8 episodes, designed to highlight certain behaviours
Episode Behaviour assessed
Mother and infant play
Mother sits while infant plays Use of parent as a secure base
Stranger enters and talks to mother Stranger anxiety
Mother leaves, infant plays, stranger Separation anxiety
offers comfort if needed
Mother returns, greets infant, offers Reunion behaviour
comfort if needed; stranger leaves
Mother leaves infant alone Separation anxiety
Stranger enters and offers comfort Stranger anxiety
Parent returns, greets infant, offers Reunion behaviour
OBSERVATIONAL TECHNIQUE: time sampling, records every 15 seconds. At
that time, the observer scores the behaviour for intensity on a scale of 1 to 7.
FINDINGS: They found 3 main types of children
Secure Attachment:
Harmonious & cooperative interactions with their caregiver.
Not likely to cry if caregiver leaves the room
When feeling anxious seek close bodily contact with their caregiver and
are soothed easily

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They seek and are comfortable with social interaction and intimacy
Uses the caregiver as a secure base from which to explore; able to
function independently
Insecure ­ avoidant:
Avoid social interaction and intimacy
Show little response to separation and do not seek the proximity of their
caregiver on reunion
If picked up, infant shows little or no tendency to cling or resist being put
Happy to explore with/without caregiver
Show high levels of anxiousness as well as avoidant behaviour
May become angry if attachment…read more


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