Ainsworth’s ‘Strange Situation.’ Types of Attachment: secure, insecure-avoidant, insecure-resistant.

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Ainsworth’s ‘Strange Situation.’ Types of Attachment: secure, insecure-avoidant, insecure-resistant (Description, AO1):

Mary Ainsworth and Individual Differences in Attachment

Secure and insecure attachments are examples of a particular type of style of attachment bond that may be established between any two individuals (usually the mother and infant).                                                                                                                                     Mary Ainsworth

Mary Ainsworth is a Psychologist who was largely responsible for the original work on attachment types; her method of assessing attachment type (the strange situation) and her typology (secure, insecure-resistant and insecure-avoidant attachments) have stood the test of time and are still used today.

Ainsworth provided the idea that an attachment figure acts as a ‘secure base’ from which an infant can explore the world/their environment and pointed out the importance of maternal sensitivity in the development of mother-infant attachment patterns.

Aim: This study aimed to investigate the individual differences in attachment, (secure, insecure attachments). In addition, Ainsworth et al wanted to see how infants would react under conditions of mild stress (created by being separated from primary caregiver and the presence of a stranger in the room).

Research Method: Laboratory using structured observations.

Participants: Infants aged between 12-18 months.


  • Infants were observed through video cameras in a purpose-built laboratory playroom with their mothers.
  • The room contained two comfortable chairs and a play area with a set of toys suitable for young children.
  • Ainsworth’s research consisted of a series of 8 situations;
Series Persons Present Brief Description
1 Mother and Infant Mother and Infant enter the room, Infant free to                 play with toys, Mother sits on chair and reads magazine.
2 Mother, Infant, Stranger 3 minutes later, stranger enters and talks with mother.
3 Mother, Infant, Stranger The stranger attempts to interact with infant.
4 Infant and Stranger Mother leaves the room, stranger alone with infant. Stranger comforts infant if they are upset and offers to play with them
5 Mother and Infant 3 minutes later, mother returns, stranger leaves.
6 Infant 3 minutes later, mother leaves (baby alone in room).
7 Infant and Stranger Stranger re-enters offers to play/comfort infant.
8 Mother and Infant Mother returns and stranger leaves.