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Strange Situation Test…………………………………………………………………….4

Attachment Styles………………………………………………………………………...5

Contributions of the Research…………………………………………………………….7

Weaknesses and Biases of the Research…………………………………………………..7


Mary Ainsworth Research on Attachment

Mary Ainsworth is a psychologist which had improved and modified the attachment theory. She suggested the most related research that explained the individual difference of the newborns in any attachments. She defines attachment as an enduring and profound emotional bond which connects an individual to another person across space and time (Ainsworth and Bell 1970, p.58). Also, human behaviour is described as the collection of every observable emotion and physical action that is associated with people. It also involves human race in general. It includes actions that are acceptable, beyond the acceptable limits, and procedures with no meaning. Therefore, the primary purpose of this paper is to discuss Mary Ainsworth’s research on attachment briefly. Also, the text will identify how the attachment theory helps an individual to understand human behaviour.

According to her research, the attachment behaviour toward the child from adults includes responding appropriately and sensitivity to the kid’s needs. It provides the explanations of how parent-child relationship influences and emerges subsequent development. Attachment can also be understood in the context that it provides security and safety for infants, hence, enhancing the kid’s chance of survival. In understanding how attachment helps in considering human behaviour, Ainsworth comes up with an experimental technique so that she can observe a variety of the attachment kinds that are exhibited between the infants and the mothers. Her research also tried to investigate the differences in the attachment flairs in infants between ages 12 to 18 months (Main and Solomon 1990, p.140).

Strange Situation Test

She developed and created a test called Strange Situation Test that she used on her research to understand human behaviour. This test also assisted her to study the kid's responses to stress when their caregivers/mothers leave (Bowlby 1958, p.358). It also looks at the ability of the child to calm down and also continue in exploring. This research was done in a small room that had one-way glass (Schaffer and Emerson 1964, p.55). It enables one understand the behaviour of the kid covertly. She observed seven episodes in a difference of about three minutes in each. These events include:

1. Infant and parent alone;

2. When a stranger joins the child and the parent;

3. When the parents attempt to leave the stranger and the child alone;

4. When the parent/caregiver comes back, and the stranger leaves the place;

5. When the parent/caregiver leaves the infant all alone;

6. When the stranger then returns;

7. When the mother returns and the stranger leaves again.

In this scenarios, the primary researcher purpose was to identify four unique behaviours which are a separation of the anxiety of the kid when the mother leaves. Consequently, it shows the child's willingness and ability to explore and adopt the environment, what the teen's reaction will be to the presence of the stranger, and finally what the kid's reaction will be in return of the mother/caregiver (Ainsworth 1964, p.58). Also, she noted the behaviours that the child displayed in all the episodes, and she based them in four interaction routines that include contacting and proximity seeking, comforting and the resistance to the contact, contact maintaining and the contact, and avoidance of the vicinity (Bowlby 1958, p.352).

Attachment Styles

During the investigation, she also observed other behaviours displayed by the child. They include affect displays of negativity, like smiling and crying, search behaviour, for example, when the kid bangs on the house door, looks at house door, or even turns to the house door, finally the exploratory ways; this was displayed when the child looks around the room or house, the child plays with the toys, or the kid frequently moves around the house (Ainsworth and Bell 1970, p.56). As a result, she managed to come up with several attachment styles that can explain a person's or child’s behaviour, and they were the consequence of the early interaction of the child with the caregiver/mother (Schaffer and Emerson 1964, p.63). These styles include:

1) Secure Attachment. This usually occurs when the kid is attached to caregivers/ mother. The child will engage and explore with other people when his or her mother is around. When the caregiver/mother goes out, the kid will start to show very negative emotions. For example, when he or she is left alone with a particular stranger, the child will avoid the stranger (Ainsworth 1964, p.52). The kid will also calm down immediately the caregiver or the mother comes back. It also lies between ranges of 60 to 70%. Therefore, a person who is skilled with this kind of style is likely to retain a figurative model of the attachment figures of being helpful, available, and responsive (Ainsworth and Bell 1970, p.54).

2) Avoidant Attachment. According to her research, it lies between 15 to 20 percent. This is where the kid will be distressed when the caregiver goes away (Ainsworth et al. 1971, p.40). The toddler is equally comforted by the mother and the stranger. The kid also displays little interest when the caregiver comes back.

3) Resistant Attachment. Here, the kid will be distressed when the caregiver or the mother goes away. He or she will also avoid the stranger and finally resist the caregiver or the parent when they come back.

4) Disoriented/disorganised attachment. The kid will have periods and outburst of unresponsiveness. The kid may also shot sudden emotions and also unpredictable behaviours.

5) Anxious-Ambivalent Insecure attachment. This is where the toddler is very anxious about the stranger and exploration, even when the mother is around. When the mother comes back, the child will remain very close to her and he or she will be resentful. The kid can also be resilient when the mother initiates attention. (Ainsworth et al. 1978, p.47).

6) Anxious-Avoidant Insecure Attachment. This is where the kid will ignore or avoid the mother. The teen will also show little emotion when their mother returns or departs. The kid will also not discover very much, irrespective of who is around (Ainsworth et al. 1978, p.37). This is also where the stranger will be treated the same as the mother or the caregiver.

The research also adds that the child’s attachment style will depend on the mother or the caregiver’s behaviour to them. For example, a very sensitive mother is usually approachable to the teen’s wants and needs. The mother will respond to the toddler’s feelings and moods correctly. Hence, they are likely to experience securely attached teenagers (Ainsworth et al. 1971, p.25). Mothers who are not sensitive to their children, for example, do not respond to their children’s needs, they are likely to obtain insecurely kid attached. Also, the insecure attachment teenagers are liable to be associated with the increased risk of emotional and social behavioural issues via an internal model of working (Ainsworth 1964, p.51).

The research also indicates that strange situations can easily be used by anyone to identify a kid’s type of the attachment. It also focuses on the behaviours that the troubled kids will portray with a hope of re-establishing an attachment to the presently absent mother (Ardrey 1970, p.40). It also indicated that the children with accessories that are strong were usually calm and the kids with attachments that are weak would demonstrate distress and crying (Ainsworth et al. 1978, p.27).

Contributions of the Research

To sum up, Mary Ainsworth’s research has enabled people to understand how children and other people behave. It also determined and created the best styles of parenting. It has focused on the possible hitches that a child can face in the future (Davidson and Davidson 2005, p.90). This kind of techniques is also used up to date to describe adult romantic relationships, defining the caregiver-infant relationship, and finally the relationship that exists between their kindergarten teacher and the kids (Ainsworth et al. 1971, p.23).

Weaknesses and Biases of the Research

Moreover, apart from the theory contribution in understanding human behaviour, it has been criticised by other scholars. Some believe that a time frame of twenty minutes is very short for a procedure (Ajzen and Fishbein 1999, p.47). They indicate that a lot of variables can be left out that can play a role in the research, ror example, the infants and the caregiver's moods during the time. It has also been criticised on the minced that it only focuses on the attachment of the kid to the mother and does not look at the toddler's attachment to the grandmother or father, for example. Hence it lacks validity.

They also believe that the kid’s attachment may sometimes change. It is not definite. For example, the kids who are securely attached can turn up to be insecurely attached depending on the child’s circumstances, such as the mother or caregiver becomes sick. It has also been criticised on the ethical ground (Ajzen and Fishbein 1999, p.47). This is because it has broken all the ethical guidelines of protection of the participant. This is where the kid is placed under stress (such as strange anxiety and separation). The research or study is also biased because it only comprises of 100 Middle American class families and does not incorporate other American kids, such as those who come from the families of working class.


Ainsworth, M. D, 1964. Patterns of attachment behaviour shown by the infant in interaction with his mother. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly of Behavior and Development, 51-58.

Ainsworth, M. D. S., & Bell, S. M, 1970. Attachment, exploration, and separation: Illustrated by the behaviour of one-year-olds in a strange situation. Child Development, 41, 49-67.

Ainsworth, M. D. S., Bell, S. M., & Stayton, D. J, 1971. Individual differences in strange- situation behaviour of one-year-olds. In H. R. Schaffer (Ed.). The origins of human social relations. London and New York: Academic Press. Pp. 17-58.

Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S, 1978. Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Ajzen I, Fishbein M, 1999. Theory of reasoned action/Theory of planned behaviour. The university of South Florida.

Ardrey, Robert, 1970. The Social Contract: A Personal Inquiry into the Evolutionary Sources of Order and Disorder. [1]. Published by Athenaeum. ISBN 0-689-10347-6

Bowlby, J, 1958. The nature of the child’s tie to his mother. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 39, 350-371.

Davidson, J. (Director), & Davidson, F. (Producer), 2005. Mary Ainsworth: Attachment and the Growth of Love. [Video file]. Davidson Films, Inc. Retrieved October 20, 2014, from Education in Video: Volume I.

Main, M., & Solomon, J, 1990. Procedures for identifying infants as disorganised/disoriented during the Ainsworth Strange Situation. In M.T. Greenberg, D. Cicchetti & E.M. Cummings (Eds.), Attachment in the Preschool Years (pp. 121–160). Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Schaffer, H. R., & Emerson, P. E, 1964. The development of social attachments in infancy. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 1-77.

May 04, 2022

Psychology Science

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Attachment Theory Theory

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