The Strange Situation - Attachment Types

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  • Created by: joe
  • Created on: 03-04-13 20:44

Measuring secure and insecure attachment by Ainsworth & Bell (1970)


Assess the quality if attachment by placing an infant in a situation of mild stress (to encourage the infant to seek comfort) and of novelty (to encourage exploration behaviour). Both comfort-seeking and exploration behaviour are indicators of the quality of attachment.


  • 100 middle class American infants and their mothers took part in the study.
  • A method of controlled observation was developed of mother and infant during a set of pre-determined activities: 

1) Mother and child are introduced to the room

2) Mother and child are left alone and child can investigate the toys

3) A stranger enters the room and talks with the mother. The stranger gradually approaches the infant with a toy

4) Mother leaves the child alone with the stranger, and the stranger interacts with the child

5) Mother returns to greet and comfort the child

6) The child is left on its own

7) The stranger returns and tries to engage with the child

8) Mother returns, greets and picks up the child. The stranger leaves inconspicuously

  • Observers recorded the infants' and mothers', noting the following:

- Separation anxiety: the unease the infant showed when left by the caregiver.

- The infants willingness to explore

- Stranger anxiety: the infant's response to the presence of a stranger

- Reunion behaviour: the way the caregiver was greeted on return


  • Type B: Securely attached (66%) - One group of infants tended to explore the unfamiliar room; subdued when their mother left and greeted her positively when she returned. The infants showed moderate avoidance of the stranger, although were friendly when the mother was present. The mothers were described as sensitive.
  • Type A: Avoidant-insecure (22%) - A second group did not orientate to their mother while investigating toys and room; they did not seem concerned by her absence and showed little interest when she


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