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Mary Ainsworth & Strange Situation.

The Strange Situation FINDINGS Mary Ainsworth [1978] The AIM of this research was to see how infants [9-18 months] ..

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Mary Ainsworth's conclusion that the strange situation …

This led to the conceptualisation of the Caregiver Sensitivity Hypothesis, which suggests that a mother’s behaviour towards their infant predicts their attachment type. Evaluation of Strange SituationStrengthsReplicable/ high inter-observer reliabilityAs the research is highly operationalised, observers have a clear view of how a securely attached infant should behave, due to the 4 specific criteria that Ainsworth used.

Attachment in children - Wikipedia
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Main and Weston (1981) found that children behaved differently depending on which parent they were with. This suggests that attachment type is not consistent.

Other issues with the strange situation
The test was devised by Ainsworth in the USA using American children. The test is therefore culturally biased. Desirable attachments in the USA may not be seen as desirable elsewhere. Nevertheless the test has been used worldwide and used to judge infants in other cultures. This is an example of imposed etic when we create a theory, test or construct in one culture (usually Western) and impose it on the rest of the world!

The strange situation also seems to exaggerate behaviours. Children over-react when placed in the strange situation so do not behave as they would normally in the real world.

Finally Ainsworth is criticised for over-simplification in her belief that children can be categorised into only three groups. Other studies have suggested that there big individual differences between children within in attachment group.

Explaining the different attachment types

Sensitive responsiveness
Ainsworth herself believed that the kind of attachment the child develops is due entirely to the mother. Secure children have mothers who respond appropriately to the child’s needs by picking up on the signals. Insecure children on the other hand have mothers that are less responsive and the attachments they develop are coping strategies that enable them to deal with this lack of response.

Temperament hypothesis.
Perhaps the reason for a relationship between early attachment and later relationships has nothing to do with the type of attachment formed. Kagan (1984) believed it was all down to the temperament of the child. Those who are naturally good at forming relationships do so early in life and form close relationships with parents and this is true later in life as well; because of their pleasant temperament they are more popular with people in later life too.

Thomas and Chess (1977) thought that children were born with a certain personality type and suggested three main categories;

Easy babies go on to form secure attachments. Slow to warm up babies require a lot more encouragement so will only form secure attachments with patient mothers.

Belsky and Rovine (1987) found that babies in the first few days of life have certain physiological characteristics that seemed to match later attachment styles. Calmer and less anxious children at this age were more likely to develop secure attachments a few months later.

Cross cultural studies

Bowlby believed that attachments were innate so the need to form this initial bond should be genetic and as a result experienced by the infants of every culture. However, the kind of attachment formed may vary between societies and between cultures depending upon the child rearing techniques seen most desirable within that community. This section (a favourite for examiners) looks at different patterns of attachment found in other cultures and possible explanations for the differences.

Ainsworth carried out most of her research in the USA but others have found broad agreement with her findings in other parts of the World (worth mentioning in an essay!). The ones I’ll mention below are exceptions in that they are different and we shall consider possible explanations for this.

Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg (1988) carried out a meta-analysis combining the findings of 32 other studies of the strange situation from a variety of countries and based on the observation of over 2000 children.

Note: if the question asks you to describe the procedure of a study into cross-cultural differences in attachment describe the strange situation but emphasise it was carried out in a variety of countries.

Attachment: In early childhood - commentary | …

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The primary question that developmental psychologists brought up was her definition for "attachment." Ainsworth was motivated by this and other questions to create a catalogue of behaviors like "crying when the mother left the room, following her, greeting her on return with smiling, vocalization, excited bouncing, reaching or approach behavior" that she could use to qualify attachment.In 1965, Ainsworth and Wittig designed the Strange Situation Procedure as a way of assessing individual differences in attachment behaviour by evoking individual's reaction when encountering stress.

Attachment Informed Psychotherapy - Daniel J. Sonkin, …

Attachment Informed Psychotherapy Daniel Sonkin, Ph.D
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