The strange situation by Mary Ainsworth is used to determine and analyse attachment behaviour and types. The strange situation is conducted from 8 episodes where stranger anxiety, separation anxiety and reunion behaviour is tested. The observers analyse the movement every 15 seconds using five behavioural categories and measure the intensity of the action on a scale from 1-7.
The study discovered three types of attachment: secure, insecure avoidant and insecure resistant. Securely attached children use their caregiver as a secure base to explore from. They show some stranger and separation anxiety but are easily comforted by a caregiver. Insecure avoidant children do not need the support of the caregiver to explore and do not have any separation anxiety. They avoid social interaction and intimacy. Insecurely resistant children resist and seek social interaction. They have low levels of exploratory behaviour and become very distressed due to high levels of separation and stranger anxiety. They aren’t comforted by their caregiver easily.
One strength of the strange situation is it has real world application. The findings of the study may help intervene in children’s lives so that they can form secure attachment. In the circle of security project by the Cooper et al study, they taught the caregivers how to recognise signs of infants distress. As a result, more children were securely attached and less caregivers were recognised as disordered. The helps improve the lives of children as they will have better strength of relationship with their caregivers.
A limitation of the study, is that it may not analyse the type of attachment properly. According to Main and Weston, the children reacted differently in the strange situation when they were with different parents. Due to this, the strange situation may not determine the attachment type of the child, but the quality of a singular relationship. Therefore this effects the internal validity of the study.
A strength of the study is that its findings are very reliable. The study had .94 inter-observer reliability. This means that the observers of the study almost always agreed with the findings. Therefore, the study’s findings have a high chance of accuracy and reliability. This means that the strange situation is a good way of analysing attachment behaviours and determining attachment types.
Another limitation of the study is it may not provide a complete explanation of all attachment types. Main and Solomon discovered a fourth type of attachment insecure disorganised that is not categorised in the original Ainsworth study. Insecure disorganised attachment included a mix of avoidant and secure behaviours. Due to this, the strange situation may not be able to determine all attachment types competently.
The strange situation is good source for measuring attachment behaviour and three types of attachment types. However it suffers from validity issues which questions the accuracy of the study.