Unit 1 Psychology -Types of Attachment Studies

HideShow resource information

Types of Attachment - Ainsworth - Strange Situatio

  • How infants aged 9-18 months behave under conditions of mild stress + novelty. The stress is created by 1) The presence of a stranger + 2) The separation from the caregiver.

-Stranger Anxiety -Separation Anxiety

  • The results, collected from 106 middle class infants helped Ainsworth to identify 3 main types of children, which each possess different attachment characteristics depending on their group.

-Secure Attachment -Insecure Avoidant -Insecure Resistant

  • The group that you are in supposedly affects your future relationships/personal emotional state regarding things such aggression and dependence on other people. 
  • This study also supports Bowlbys theory, such as the internal working model, and the secure base hypothesis. Even so, we cannot make a causal link between attachment type and later attachment experiences. e.g. romantic relationships
1 of 8

Ainsworth's Strange Situation-Procedure

Each episode is around 3 minutes in duration.

  • Parent and infant play together -
  • The parent watches as the infant plays -Using parent as a secure base
  • The stranger enters and talks to the parent -Stranger Anxiety
  • The parent leaves and the infant plays,stranger offers comfort if needed -Separation Anxiety
  • The parent returns, greets infant and offers comfort, stranger leaves -Reunion
  • Parent leaves, infant is alone -Seperation Anxiety
  • Stranger enters and offers comfort -Stranger Anxiety
  • Parent returns, greets infant, offers comfort -Reunion 

The observers recorded the infants behaviour every 15 seconds, out of 5 groups, on a scale of 1-7 depending on the intensity of the behaviour exhibited.

  • Proximity/contact seeking behaviours
  • Contact maintaining behaviours
  • Proximity/interaction avoiding behaviours
  • Contact/interaction resisting behaviours
  • Search behaviours
2 of 8

Ainsworth Strange Situation-Secure Attachment

Willingness to explore - High Stranger Anxiety - High Seperation Anxiety - Easy to soothe Reunion Behaviour - Enthusiastic % of infants in this category - 66%

  • These infants have harmonious and co-operative relationships with their caregiver. 
  • Not likely to cry upon separation
  • When anxious, they seek close bodily contact, but can be soothed easily, and may be reluctant to leave the caregivers side early
  • Comfortable w/ social interaction and actively seek it
  • Use the caregiver as a secure base and so therefore can function independently 
3 of 8

Ainsworth Strange Situation - Insecure Avoidant

Willingness to explore - High
Stranger Anxiety - Low
Separation Anxiety - Indifferent
Reunion behaviour - Avoids contact
% of infants showing this behaviour - 22%

  • These children tend to avoid social interaction + intimacy with others
  • Showed little response to separation, no proximity seeking behaviour on reunion
  • No clinging or resisting behaviour when picked up
  • Happy to explore w/ or w/o caregiver 
  • High levels of anxiety
  • May become angry if their attachment needs are not met
4 of 8

Ainsworth Strange Situation-Insecure Resistant

Willingness to explore - Low
Stranger Anxiety - High
Separation Anxiety - Distressed
Reunion Behaviour - Seeks and rejects
Percentage of infants in this category - 12%

  • These infants both seek + reject intimacy 
  • Respond to separation w/ immediate + intense distress
  • On reunion, there are conflicting desires between wanting contact w/ the caregiver. (e.g being picked up) 
  • E.g Some may want to maintain proximity, whilst others may angrily resist.
5 of 8

Evaluation of Ainsworth's Strange Situation

Later childhood behaviours- There are a number of longitudinal studies which have shown a link between attachment type and social functioning later in life. A study by Prior and Glaser has summarised this:

  • Secure Attachment-Less emotional dependency, interpersonal harmony
  • Avoidant Attachment-Negative effects, e.g. Aggressiveness
  • Resistant Attachment-Anxious + withdrawn behaviour

Adult Romantic Relationships

Bowlby states that the mothers behaviour towards the child affects its internal working model about future relationships it may have. Hazan and Shaver's love quiz;

  • Used early childhood experiences (identify attachment type)
  • Current love experiences + attitudes towards love (internal working model)

Found characteristic patterns between attachment type and romantic behaviour, this supports Bowlby's theory. (We cannot draw causal conclusions though)

6 of 8

Issues of Ainsworth's Strange Situation


  • Instead of measuring attachment type, is it just measuring the quality of relationship?
  • Research evidence from other studies supports findings, e.g. Hazen and Shavers Love Quiz.


  • Observation between different people may be different, decreasing the reliability

-Inter rating reliability has found almost perfect/0.94 agreement between the raters.

7 of 8

Ainsworth's Strange Situation-Other Influencing Fa


Ainsworth created a Maternal Sensitivity Scale, to identify key group differences in the mothers behaviour:

  • Securely attached infant mothers-More sensitive, caring,cooperative, accessible
  • Insecurely attached infant mothers - Less affectionate + unresponsive to crying
  • Avoidant infant mothers-More rejecting, paid less attention to infants
  • Resistant infant mothers-Tend to be occupied with other routine activities whilst holding the infant.

Maternal Reflective Functioning

  • "The ability to understand what someone else is thinking/feeling"
  • Some studies have found a low correlation between maternal sensitivity and strength of attachment
  • Maternal reflective thinking rather than sensitivity may be more important in identifying attachment type.
8 of 8


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Attachment resources »