Attachment - Ainsworth's Strange Situation

  • Aim
  • Participants 
  • Procedure
  • Assessment
  • Results
  • Conclusions
  • Alternatives
  • Evaluation
  • Created by: Ellie
  • Created on: 03-01-15 11:59

The Strange Situation

  • developed by mary ainsworth (a researcher who worked with Bowlby) in 1978
  • developed to assess the quality of attachments between a mother & baby
  • Lasts for 22 minutes
  • The experiment is a controlled observation which makes it less realistic and reduces validity.
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Aim of the Study

  • To look at different attachment types
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  • Baby
  • Mother
  • Stranger
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  1. Mother & infant enter the room : mother sits while baby plays
  2. Stranger enters and talks to mother
  3. The stranger attempts to interact with the baby 
  4. Mother leaves stranger and baby alone : Stranger offers comfort if needed
  5. After a few minutes the stranger leaves and the mother returns
  6. the mother then leaves the baby alone
  7. The stranger returns and comforts the baby if needed
  8. The stranger leaves and the mother enters
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Ainsworth assesed the quility of attachment on the childs response to specific episodes in the procedure.

The episodes were:

  • Seperation Anxiety : When the baby shows distress when seperated from mother
  • Reunion Behaviour : How the baby acts when reunited with mother
  • Stranger anxiety : The way the baby acts around a stranger
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Ainsworth identified three types of attachment 

  • Secure
  • Insecure Avoidant
  • Insecure Ressistant 
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Some infants develop different types of attachments

  • attachment type depends on

>Parent response to babies needs

> genetics and or upbringing (Nature VS Nurture)

> other attachments

> Background

>economically (poor/wealthy) 

>Biologically (disability)

> Siblings


Ainsworth suggested that the caregiver hypothesis as an explanation for different attachment types.

  • Where the sensitivity of the mother determins the type of attachment 

> Insensitive mother = insecure attachment 

> Sensitive mother = Secure attachment 

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Alternative ideas

The temprement hypothesis refers to innate charachteristics

  • Kagan 1982 

>argued that the innate charachteristics we have determine our attachment types

>e.g an easy baby is more liekly to become secure, a slow to warm up baby is avoidant   and a more difficult baby will be resistant. 

  • Main & Solomon 1986

>argue that there is a 4th attachment type

> Insecure- disorganised (TYPE D)

> the baby doesnt clearly show one attachment type

> alternative or misfit group

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Evaluation - Validity


  • Only measures attachemnt to mother

>doesnt acknowledge that there may be other attachments e.g dad.

  • doesn't consider the childs temprement

>could influence attachment 

  • Demand charachteristics

>adapting to surroundings

>Mother maybe very cautious of her baby and her actions because she doesnt want to be considered a     bad mother

Ecological Validity

  • Controlled environment 

>reduces ecological validity

  • Baby may have been distressed because of a change in surroundings not because of the seperation from the mother
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Evaluation - Reliability

  • Done lots of tests

>all have similar results

  • Reliable
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Evaluation - Generalizability

  • Only conducted in western culture

>can't be generalised to the whole globe

> difference in cultures

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Evaluation - Ethical issues

  • Puts the baby in distress
  • doesnt protect the participants
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