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The Strange Situation: A Framework for Assessing Attachment Relationships in Infants

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The Strange Situation, developed by Mary Ainsworth, is a pivotal method in developmental psychology for evaluating infant-caregiver attachment. It observes infants' reactions to separation and reunion with caregivers, and interactions with strangers. The procedure identifies secure, insecure-avoidant, and insecure-ambivalent attachment patterns, providing insights into the influence of caregiver responsiveness on a child's emotional and social development.

Exploring Ainsworth's Strange Situation Classification

The Strange Situation classification, formulated by psychologist Mary Ainsworth in the 1970s, is a seminal experimental procedure in developmental psychology to assess the nature of attachment relationships between infants and their caregivers. Building on John Bowlby's foundational attachment theory, which suggests that early relationships with caregivers are crucial for a child's social and emotional development, Ainsworth's Strange Situation provides a structured framework for observing infants' responses to separation from and reunion with their caregivers, as well as their interactions with an unfamiliar person.
Newborn baby sitting on beige carpet with colorful toys, adult woman next to her in jeans and gray sweater, cozy and bright home environment.

Objectives and Methodology of the Strange Situation

The primary objective of the Strange Situation is to evaluate the quality of attachment between infants and their caregivers by observing the infants' behavior under stress. The study originally involved observations of 100 middle-class American families with infants aged 12 to 18 months. The procedure unfolds in a series of eight short episodes in a laboratory setting, where the infant's behavior is observed during times of separation from the caregiver, interaction with a stranger, and reunion with the caregiver. This controlled environment allows for a consistent and systematic assessment of attachment behaviors.

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The ______ Situation, created by ______ ______ in the 1970s, is a key experimental method to evaluate infant-caregiver attachment relationships.



Mary Ainsworth


Primary Objective of Strange Situation

Assess quality of infant-caregiver attachment by observing infant stress behavior.


Strange Situation Participant Demographics

100 middle-class American families with infants aged 12-18 months.


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