Describe the Mary Ainsworth’s “Strange Situation” research.


The Strange Situation research was introduced by psychologists Mary Ainsworth and Wittig in 1969 and was based upon Ainsworth’s Uganda and Baltimore studies. Ainsworth developed the assessment technique called the Strange Situation Classification (SSC) to examine the modifications of attachments between children.


The Strange Situation was developed as an experimental procedure in order to explore the difference of attachment forms demonstrated between mothers and infants. As such, the strange situation paradigm was applied to observe the credibility of attachment in one- to two-year-olds for identifying the nature of attachment behaviors and the classification of attachment styles.

The Strange Situation procedure includes a small room, where the experiment is held, with one-way glass so one may observe the behavior of the infant secretly. The infants engaged in the procedure were aged between 12 and 18 months, along with the 100 middle-class families of the United States. The Strange Situation test involves eight episodes, each lasting nearly 3 minutes, to monitor the infant’s behavior. The episodes include the following steps:

  • Mother, baby, and experimenter (continues for less than one minute)
  • Mother and baby alone
  • A stranger accompanies the mother and infant
  • Mother leaves baby and stranger alone
  • Mother returns and stranger leaves
  • Mother leaves and infant is left entirely alone
  • Stranger returns
  • Mother comes back and stranger leaves

Furthermore, the categorization of the Strange Situation, namely the attachment styles, was based upon four behavioral regulations within two reunion episodes of mother and infant. The scoring process consisted of the following steps, such as proximity and contacting seeking, contact maintaining, avoidance of proximity and contact, resistance to contact, and comforting. The behavior showcased during 15-second intervals is noted and evaluated for intensity on a scale of 1 to 7.

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