Mary Ainsworth proposed a method to help analysing human infants’ attachment types. The research she had conducted is under being in experimental settings, and has been named as ‘The Strange Situation’. It was carried out in the 1970s.
The study involves with having the infants and their mothers being at a strange room with toys and seats. The study targets in observing the infants’ ‘Safe Base Behaviour’; how often and ways the infants will try to interact with their mothers for comfort and security, but also their reactions at Reunion with mothers after separation. It has an operationalised procedures.
1. The infant and the mother would enter a strange room with toys and seats.
2. A stranger will enter the room, and try to interact with the infant and the mother. The infant’s reaction with the stranger is observed.
3. The mother leaves the room, leaving the infant and the stranger together. The infant’s reaction has been observed, and the stranger try to interact with the infant.
4. The mother returns, and comfort the infant if it is distressed.
5. Both the stranger and the mother leave the infant being in the room.
6. The mother return and reunion with the infant.
The study has been conducted in artificial settings, and it cannot represent what infants experience in real life settings. However, the experimental settings allow procedures be operational, making it easier to be replicated again. This can increase reliability if tests are repeated.
The results in the Strange Situation, of proportion of infants’ attachment type has been shown consistent, and similar pattern has been observed with the settings conducted in different countries. The difference in the proportions of attachment types between different countries can be explained by different rearing techniques which are encouraged by the mother’s own culture.
There is ethnic issue with the settings, as the infants may experience unnecessary distress. They are also not capable to withdraw from the research even if they want to, as they cannot communicate and express their feelings. The Strange Situation has been conducted in Japan, where the culture’s rearing concept is that the mother will very rarely leave the infants alone. Many infants expressed massive amounts of distress, while many of them have never experienced to be left alone and being away from their mothers. For some cases the research had to be terminated because of the excessive amount of distress the infants have shown.
As conclusion, the Ainsworth’s Strange Situation helps to identify the infants’ attachment type. However, the infants may experience unnecessary distress which is unethical.