Types of Attachment - Mary Ainsworth.

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The Strange Situation by Mary Ainsworth.

The aim of this stufy was to look at the relationship between an infantand caregiver and to identify the different types of attachment that children coujld have with their parents/carers. It was called the Strange Situation as it was done in a place that was not known to the parents or babies. Infants aged 1 year to 18 months were observed (a controlled observation) through video cameras in a purpouse built laboratory playroom with their mothers.

The study looks at:

  • Separation anxiety.
  • Stranger anxiety.
  • Reunion behaviour.
  • The infants willingness to explore. 

The study lasted about 21 minutes and used 56 white middle class infants. 

The procedure is as follows:

  • Mother and infant enter room - mother sits in chair and reads magazine. Child is placed on the floor and is free to explore the toys. 
  • After 3 minutes, stranger enters, sits on the 2nd chair and talks with mother.
  • Stranger approaches infant and attempts to interact and play with them.
  • Mother leaves the room so infant is alone with the stranger. Stranger comforts infant if upset and offers to play with them.
  • After 3 minutes, mother returns and stranger leaves.
  • 3 minutes later, mother departs leaving infant alone in the room.
  • Stranger re-enters and offers to comfort and play with the infant.
  • Mother returns and stranger leaves.

From this study, Ainsworth was able to identify 3 broad attachment types, these were:

Secure Attachment

Insecure Avoidant

Insecure Resistant

Types of attachment.

Secure: used mother as a safe base and were happy to explore the room when she was present. Showed distress by crying when mother left and welcomed her back on return, settling downto play quite quickly. They were distressed by stranger. 70% of babies fell into this category.

Insecure Avoidant: Infant pays little attention to mother. Showed hardly any distress on separation from mother but did not seek comfort when she returned. Infant shows little stranger anxiety. Is calmed down by the stranger or caregiver. 20% of babies fell into this category.



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