Mary Ainsworth's Strange Situation Procedure

In the 1970s, Mary Ainsworth created the Strange Situation as a formal tool for studying children's attachment security in the context of care provider interactions (Van Rosmalen et al., 2015). It is for children between the ages of nine and eighteen months. A guardian, kid, and outsider are welcomed, distinguished, and re unlined in a sequence of 8 episodes that takes roughly three minutes each. Attachment, according to John Bowlby (1969), is an all-or-nothing proposition (Street & S., 2016). Individual variations in attachment quality, however, have been identified via study. According to White et al. (2020), one of the central paradigms of attachment theory is the stability of an individual's attachment.

Several psychological studies have looked into how infants' attachment types differ. Blatz and W. E. (2016), for example, discovered what seemed to be innate differences in sociability in babies: some children preferred cuddling more than others from a young age did, even though there had been a lot of interaction to cause such differences.


It is easy to say if you are attached to someone because you know how you feel when you are not with them, and you can verbalize your feelings and justify how you feel like an adult. Furthermore, since most attachment, research is done on babies and young children, researchers must develop particular interests to investigate attachment styles, which typically require the observational process (Koehn et al., 2018).

The Strange Situation was created to provide children with an odd but not overly scary encounter, as its name suggests (Morrison et al., 2018). Researchers are interested in two aspects as a child goes through the Strange Situation: how often the developmental learning the room on his own and how the child reacts to his mother's return. When his mother is present, the securely attached baby is free to explore the room. If his mother leaves, the boy will become distressed, and he may explore less. When she returns, however, he is overjoyed. When he sobs, he rushes over to his mother and hugs her tightly. Being held soothes him, and once he has been soothed, he is ready to commence his independent discovery of the universe. The mother is attentive to his requirements. Consequently, he recognizes he can rely on her in stressful situations.

When her mother leaves, the antisocial child does not show much emotion and does not explore much. She does not seem to prefer her mother to a total stranger. She continues to avoid or neglect her mother when she returns (De Unamuno and M, 2017). Like that of the avoidant child, the resistant-insecure boy does not venture out much on his own. Unlike the avoidant child, the resistant boy is cautious of visitors and is upset when his mother leaves.

He wants to reconnect with his mother, but he feels resentful—even angry—that she left him in the first place. As a result, the obstinate child can reject his mother's attempts at communication (Doughty et al., 2018). In the disorganized child, avoidant and resistant behaviours will coexist.

Disorganized and nervous children are at risk for a host of behavioural and learning problems. While parenting does not decide your child's attachment status, it can have a significant impact. So how would we know definitively? It is not very easy because most studies record correlations, prompting us to speculate on causation.

Perhaps infants form secure attachments since they possess certain genes from their parents, genes that influence both the creation of secure attachments and the ability to be responsive to infants. Adoption studies provide a convincing case against this possibility. Adoptive infants, like most babies, are more able to constitute stable attachments if their parents are receptive and attentive (Bakermans-Kranenburg et al., 2016).

Early intervention, such as educating new parents on how and where to improve their responsiveness, has also been shown to enhance attachment stability (Mountain et al., 2017). Children understand that their guardians will not react to their needs and desires, at least in principle. As nothing, more than a result, they stop trying to communicate their wishes.

In Western Europe, the avoidant-attached child is popular (Bakermans-Kranenburg et al., 2016). This higher incidence of virtually impossible may be due to conventional Western European child-rearing values that prevent parents from soothing crying children (Colman & B. E., 2021). Disorganized attachment is more common in children who have been abused or neglected.

However, babies may not need to be used or failed to grow a disorganized attachment. In certain situations, parents may be nervous or fearful, and these feelings are passed on to their children Parents can also be unresponsive to what babies find upsetting, such as unexpectedly looming over a baby's face. Perhaps there is something you can do about it if this describes you? You may be able to, according to research. Kids were less likely to form disorganized attachments in experiments where parents from at-risk families were taught how to read their children's cues. Infants' temperaments vary from adults', and these variations can play a part in the development of an infant's attachment relationships.

Researchers found that babies with higher oxytocin levels are often more able to try parental calming and display greater involvement in human contact when they measured oxytocin levels in 18 new-borns (Williams et al., 2020). Such babies may have an easier time learning that they have a stable foundation. Similarly, infants who are challenging or respond more strongly to stressful circumstances may need more parental sensitivity to form stable attachments.

In theory, stress can lead to instability attachment by impairing a child's capacity to discern and understand his mother's behaviour. Stress can make it extremely difficult for a baby to choose the most acceptable and safe reaction to being apart and reunited with his mother. Environmental stressors, such as inadequate nutrition, may be to blame for some communities' high rates of unstable attachment.

Stress can also deal with parenting and epigenetics, which are differences in how our genes are communicated. Children with high-stress levels and low maternal support are more able to establish anxious attachments in one study, but unless they seemed to have a strongly methylated NR3C1 gene (Bosmans et al. 2018).

The variants of several genes, including the dopamine D4 receptor gene, have been linked to dysfunctional families in studies. If these gene mutations make the brain less receptive to neurotransmission, which helps pleasant social experiences seem enjoyable, the pattern makes sense. Affected babies are less likely to seek support from their parents and, as a result, would be less likely to form stable attachments.

In addition, does the numbers, but on the other hand, tell us a straightforward story? Still not. Some research has been unable to replicate critical findings. One theory is that the gene's manifestations are complicated by the concentration or absence of responsive maternal treatment and the child's various features.

Time spent in day-care has never been related to unstable attachment, according to studies. However, the risk likely rises when children are separated from their parents for an extended period. In a review of mother-infant secure attachment, researchers have found that kids who spent more than 1 hour per week in non-maternal care were more likely to exhibit disorganized attachment.

Around 21percent total of American infants were identified as avoidant-insecure, 65percentage points as secure, and 14percent of the total were resistant-insecure in studies that recognized three attachment classifications unconfident and resistant-insecure.

When researchers pool the findings of studies performed worldwide, they find the same distribution. These results may indicate variations in infants' perceptions of the Strange Situation rather than genuine attachment differences in certain situations.

Israeli children being raised on kibbutzim, for example, seldom encounter outsiders. Consequently, their increased numbers of resistance during the Strange Situation experiment may have been due to higher anxiety rather than the nature of their maternal bonds.

The Strange Situation treatment has been criticized for focusing more entirely on the mother-infant bond. This may be due to cultural prejudice. Many attachment researchers come from developed economies, where mothers are typically responsible for most childcare. Fathers, on the other hand, spend a lot of time with their children in certain families. Grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and siblings make significant—even hugely important to childcare in many parts of the world. Non-maternal helpers, for example, may have taken a significant role in human evolution. When babies have several care providers, their mothers carry a smaller portion of the child-rearing burden. Mothers can manage to have even many kids, and toddlers can continue to mature at a slower pace.

In conclusion, according to research, infants develop stable attachment relationships with their mothers and fathers (Dagan et al., 2018). Besides, young children may form strong bonds with their day-care providers. Teaching staff and school kids may create a strong relationship.

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Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., van IJzendoorn, M. H., & Cassidy J, S. P. (2016). Attachment, Parenting, and Genetics. Handbook of attachment, 155-179.

Blatz, W. E. (2016). Human security. University of Toronto Press.

Bosmans, G., Young, J. F., & Hankin, B. L. (2018). NR3C1 methylation as a moderator of the effects of maternal support and stress on insecure attachment development. Developmental psychology, 54(1), 29.

Colman, B. E. (2021). Through the Lens of the Parents: Navigating the Intersectionalities of Multiracial Adoptive Families (Doctoral dissertation, Michigan School of Professional Psychology).

De Unamuno, M. (2017). Saint Manuel Bueno, Martyr (pp. 133-180). Princeton University Press.

Koehn, A. J., & Kerns, K. A. (2018). Parent–child attachment: Meta-analysis of associations with parenting behaviours in middle childhood and adolescence. Attachment & human development, 20(4), 378-405.

Morrison, S. E., Bruce, C., & Wilson, S. (2018). Children’s disclosure of sexual abuse: A systematic review of qualitative research exploring barriers and facilitators. Journal of child sexual abuse, 27(2), 176-194.

Street, S. (2016, June). I—Constructivism in Ethics and the Problem of Attachment and Loss. In Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume (Vol. 90, No. 1, pp. 161-189). Oxford University Press.

Van Rosmalen, L., Van der Veer, R., & Van der Horst, F. (2015). Ainsworth's strange situation procedure: The origin of an instrument. Journal of the History of the Behavioural Sciences, 51(3), 261-284.

White, L. O., Schulz, C. C., Schött, M., Kungl, M. T., Keil, J., Borelli, J. L., & Vrtička, P. (2020). A Social Neuroscience Approach to Interpersonal Interaction in the Context of Disruption and Disorganization of Attachment. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11, 1437.

Williams, L. R., & Turner, P. R. (2020). Infant carrying as a tool to promote secure attachments in young mothers: Comparing intervention and control infants during the still-face paradigm. Infant Behaviour and Development, 58, 101413.

Discover additional insights on Managing Care for the Older People during the COVID-19 Pandemic by navigating to our other resources hub.

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