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Mary Ainsworth's Strange Situation Procedure

BAD RESEARCH

Dear All,

I said I would try to explain the reason Bowlby and Ainsworth's ideas are so laughable. In the first posting I dealt with Bowlby (unfortunately I have had trouble editing the post and I am not sure who is more laughable him or me).


Nevertheless, off the back of his work a colleague of his wanted scientific proof to justify his discredited theory of 'maternal deprivation'. Mary Ainsworth came up with the Strange Situation procedure.


This is how it is described in a free Psychology essay - Outline the procedure used in Ainsworths "Strange Situation" and the classifications of attachment that result.


Attachment is measured by the existence of certain behaviours. For example, the extend to which the young child is selective, directing attention towards specific people, if their behaviour involves physical proximity seeking-i.e. being close to the parent, if this behaviour provides comfort and security and whether the departure of the parent produces separation anxiety. Ainsworth et al have classified these behaviour types as follows;


Insecure-avoidant the child shows little upset with the stranger, but will avoid contact with the parent on their return


Securely-attached the child will show moderate levels of proximity seeking towards the parents, is upset by their departure but greats the parents return positively.


Insecure-resistant child is greatly upset with parents departure, on reunion the child seeks both comfort and resists it.


In another online article 'Attachment Styles', Kendra Cherry, (About.com Guide) explains how we can predict adult personalities by the way we are treated in early life according to the Strange Situation procedure. In this example she explains what sort of personality occurs as a result of a 'secure attachment' as a baby,



As adults, those who are securely attached tend to have trusting, long-term relationships. Other key characteristics of securely attached individuals include having high self-esteem, enjoying intimate relationships, seeking out social support, and an ability to share feelings with other people.

The gist of the Strange Situation procedure is that the more secure you were as a baby, the nicer you will be as an adult. In reality there is no way of predicting the future. If you are going to try and predict how a child will turn out by looking at how he gets on with his Mum when very young, you just as well watch a cat washing behind its ears.


Ainsworth's ideas are very cosy but there is no correlation. This is because later development is determined by the interaction of genes and the environment. Of course early events have an impact because they occur first but the Strange Situation procedure cannot predict how we will develop and was mainly devised to support Bowlby's idea of 'maternal deprivation' which focused development on a 'sensitive period' before the age of three.


Hope this makes sense.


Kingsley Miller


PS Please can somebody edit the Bowlby topic please?

PPS I gave this link once before. I will give it again because many people think Bowlby never meant 'mothers' when he devised 'maternal deprivation'. This article written towards the end of his career shows the opposite. His supporters describe him as the 'father of the attachment theory' although he never did because his contemporaries would never let him!

http://garfield.library.upenn.edu/classics1986/A1986F062900001.pdf

PPPS Just to say I am getting the hang of editing now so please go back and see if the article on Bowlby make more sense!?

Last edit: by Kip


Kingsley Miller is the author of 'even Toddlers Need Fathers', a critique of the principle of 'Maternal Deprivation' as applied in family courts, which Professor Sir Michael Rutter described as an, 'interesting and informative guide'. He has also received a letter from Buckingham Palace stating, 'It was thoughtful of you to enclose a copy of your book 'even Toddlers Need Fathers' and Her Majesty has noted your concerns'.
Kip said
The gist of the Strange Situation procedure is that the more secure you were as a baby, the nicer you will be as an adult.
This is false.  Infant attachment style has been found to be a predictor (note:predictor, not cause) of adult relationship attachment style but NOT adult personality.  For example, an infant who develops an insecure attachment style with a caregiver will be more likely to be avoidant, distant or mistrusting in adult relationships than one who has a more secure attachment style but this has nothing to do with adult personality.

Infant attachment is by no means the only influence on the development of a human being, and individual differences as well as situational factors come in to play as well.  Attachment theorists have not claimed that their viewpoints are the sole determinants in the development of a child.  However the development of a secure attachment to a primary caregiver is very important and there is a lot of research which links insecure infant attachment with subsequent psychopathology e.g. conduct disorder, anti social behaviour.
Please note that having a disordered attachment as a child does not necessarily make a person into a psychopath, anti socialist or anything bad.

Some of us have survived without the secure attachments as babies, and have succesfully raised children of our own, who have received secure attachment as babies.

Missing out as a baby/child doesn't mean that the cycle will continue. Some of us fight long and hard to overcome our upbringings. And that is even from within in tact family situations.
Precisely.  Insecure attachment is a risk factor, not a cause.  Many individual and situational factors come in to play as well.

Citation Classic DECEMBER15,1986 Bowlby J. Maternal care and mental health:

This Weeks Citation Classic DECEMBER15,1986 Bowlby J. Maternal care and mental health: a report prepared on behalf of the World Health Organization as a contribution to the United Nations programme for the welfare of homeless children. Geneva: World Health Organization, 1951. 179 p.p World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland and Department for Children and Parents, Tavistock Clinic, London, England)

'I believe the monograph has become a Citation Classic because it focused attention on the relationship of a young child to the mother as an important determinant of mental health, with far-reaching practical implications, and has given rise to widespread controversy and extensive research. For a recent evaluation of the field (by an erstwhile critic) see Rutter'. (Rutter M. Maternal deprivation. 1972-l978: new findings, new concepts, new approaches.Child Develop. 50:283-305, 1979).

 John Bowlby Child and Family Department Tavistock Clinic London NW3 5BA England September 7, 1986

Kingsley Miller is the author of 'even Toddlers Need Fathers', a critique of the principle of 'Maternal Deprivation' as applied in family courts, which Professor Sir Michael Rutter described as an, 'interesting and informative guide'. He has also received a letter from Buckingham Palace stating, 'It was thoughtful of you to enclose a copy of your book 'even Toddlers Need Fathers' and Her Majesty has noted your concerns'.
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