Psychological Research into Individual Differences in Attachment
"An attachment is a close relationship between two persons,
characterised by mutual affection and a desire to maintain proximity"
(Schaffer 1993). When you are attached to someone, you enjoy their
company and are distressed when they are not there. The most common
attachment researched is between a baby and its caregiver.
Ainsworth et al (1978) researched secure and insecure attachments
using the 'Strange Situation'. This was to research individual in
attachment and to see what types of attachment were formed between the
mother and baby. One year old babies were observed during seven
episodes to find evidence of separation protest and stranger anxiety.
The seven episodes, each lasting 20 minutes, involved the baby and
mother together, the baby left with the stranger, the mother and baby
reunited, the baby left in the room alone, the baby and the stranger
again, and a final reunion between the mother and baby. Most of the
attention was given to the baby so that its reunion behaviours could
Ainsworth found that the attachment behaviours could be classified
into three types. The strength of the attachment was directly related
to how sensitive a mother was to her child's needs.
65%-70% of the babies were securely attached, where they were
distressed when the mother left them and were uncomfortable with the
10%-12% of the babies were categorised as 'anxious-resistant'. They
showed distress when the mother had left and were insecure in the new
room, but showed anger towards the mother and stranger. The care giver
was inconsistent and misunderstood the child's behaviour, leading the
child to be hostile towards them.
Care givers of 'anxious-avoidant' types (20%-23%) were either
disinterested, self centred and rigid or were suffocating. The child
behaved indifferently towards the mother and stranger and avoided the
mother when she returned. They could be comforted by the stranger.
They only showed distress when they were left in the room by
This showed that the mother's sensitivity in an essential factor to
determine the strength of the child's attachment. The more sensitive a
mother is towards her child's needs the more secure the child is
attached. The less sensitive a mother is, the more insecure her child
would be (either anxious-avoidant or anxious-resistant).
The positive criticisms for Ainsworth's study was said to be an
important study in the history of attachment research, and that
several more recent studies have shown that parental sensitivity
causes attachment security.
The negative criticisms for this research was that...