The Strange Situation

  • Created by: Dugdale
  • Created on: 27-04-15 11:47

Aims of the study

  • To see how children of 9-18 months reacted under situations of mild stress. 
  • The stressors for the children were when they were left with a stranger 
  • Testing: Stranger anxiety and Separation anxiety 

This experiment also encouraged the children to explore their environment. This also tested their Secure base. 

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The procedures in this experiment consisted of 8 situations:

1. Parent and infant play

2. Parents sits whilst infant plays (Use of parent as secure base)

3. Stranger enters and talks to parent (Stranger anxiety) 

4. Parent exits and Infant plays, stranger offers comfort if needed (Seperation anxiety) 

5. Parent re-enters and gives the child comfort; stranger leaves (Reunion behaviour) 

6. Parent leaves, infant is alone (Seperation anxiety) 

7. Stranger enters, offers comfort (Stranger anxiety) 

8. Parent enters, greets infant and offers comfort (Reunion behaviour) 

  • Data collected by observers who studied and recorded the childs behaviour every 15 seconds.
  • Observers classify the behaviour and rate its intensity. 
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Ainsworth combined data from other studies to make 106 american infants as the sample. 

  • 66% of the infants were classified as Securely attatched 

- They were happy to explore their environment using their caregiver as a secure base.

- Showed signs of distress wehn stranger entered, easily comforted by caregiver. 

  • 22% of the infants were classified as Insecure avoidant 

- Child tended to acoid social interaction with others.

- Showed little distress upon seperation and did not seek the caregivers comfort. 

- Happy to independently explore their environment 

  • 12% of the infants were classed as Insecure resistant 

- Child responds to sepration with intense distress

- Upon reunion the child resists comfort (angry at caregiver)

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Some people questioned what the strange situation was testing, seemed to test the quality of the relationship rather than the attatchment type. 

  • Weston found that children acted differently depending on who they were with. 

- This shows that it therefore tested relatioship quality. 


The aim of the experiemant was to cause distress to the infants, this could potentially have led to long term stress issues for the child. 

Ainsworth argued that the stress caused by the expeirment was no more stressful than everyday life stressors. 


The expeirment gave a 0.94 concordancy rate, almost perfect for exploratory behaviour between the observers. Shows the experiments gives oppurtunity for clear classification. 

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