Ainsworth's strange situation

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The strange situation:



  • Developed the strange situation to assess the quality of child's attachment to a caregiver.
  • controlled observation lab study with a two-way mirror
  • five categories used:
  • 1. proximity seeking
  • 2. exploration and secure based behaviour
  • 3. stranger anxiety 
  • 4. separation anxiety
  • 5. response to the caregiver after separation
  •  The procedure has seven episodes each lasting 3 mins.
  • 1. the child was encouraged to explore by the caregiver.
  • 2. Stranger enters and talks to the caregiver
  • 3. Caregiver leaves
  • 4. The caregiver returns and the stranger leaves
  • 5. The caregiver leaves the child alone
  • 6. the stranger returns
  • 7. the caregiver returns.


Ainsworth found distinct patterns in the way infants behaved. Therefore she identified three main attachment types.

  • Secure attachment: 60-75% of British toddlers, Child is happy to explore but seeks proximity with caregiver, shows moderate separation and stranger anxiety. Requires and accepts comfort on reunion. 
  • Insecure-avoidant: 20-25% of British toddlers, Child explores freely but does not seek proximity, shows little/no separation or stranger anxiety and does not require comfort…


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