The Strange Situation

AS Psychology

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The Strange Situation

Mary Ainsworth (and colleagues) created the Strange Situation to be able to test the nature of attachment systematically. 

AIM: To see how infants (9-18 months) behave under conditions of mild stress and possibly novelty.
AIM: To encourage exploration by placing infants in a novel situation and therefore testing the secure base concept 

The researcher created stress in the Strange Sitaution through the presence of a stranger and seperation of their caregiver

This tests stranger anxiety & seperation anxiety

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What did they do?

The research room was a 'novel environment' (9x9 foot sqaure marked off into 16 squares) 

Episodes (about 3 minutes duration)                                   Behaviour Assessed
1.Parent and infant play                                                        None                                  

2.Parent sits while infant plays                                              Uses parent as secure base 

3.Stranger enters and talks to parent                                      Stranger Anxiety                 

4.Parent leaves, infant plays, stranger offers comfort               Seperation Anxiety             

5.Parent returns, greet infant, offers comfort, stranger leaves   Reunion Behaviour              

6.Parent Leaves, infant alone                                                 Seperation Anxiety             

7.Stranger enters and offers comfort                                       Stranger Anxiety                

8.Parent returns, greets infant, offers comfort                          Reunion Behaviour             

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What did they find?

Ainsworth et al. (1978) Combined the data from several studies, in total 106 middle class infants observed in the Strange Situation.

Exploratory behaviours declined after 2 episodes for all children

They found three main types of children: Secure attachment, Insecure avoidant, insecure resistant

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Secure Attachment

A strong attachment of an infant to their caregiver, which develops as a sensitive responding by the caregiver to the infant's needs.

Those who are securely attached are comfortable with social interaction and intimacy.

 Secure atttachment is related to healthy subsequent cognitive and emotional development

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Insecure Avoidant

Those who are insecure avoidant, are unable to form an attachment at all.

A style of attachment that characterises those children who tend to avoid social interaction and intimacy with others

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Insecure Resistant

Those who are insecure resistant, are able to form an attachment but unable to keep them

(ambivalent) attachment characterises those who both seek and reject intimacy and social interaction

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