Overview of Attachment Styles Essay

Submitted By Druschka
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Overview of Attachment Styles
Mary Ainsworth and Mary Main (Disorganized)
Based on Ainsworth’s “Strange Situation” Procedure (1970’s)

The Strange Situation experiment revealed two general categories of infant attachment styles:
• 1) Secure attachment
• 2) Insecure attachment: o 2a) Avoidant attachment o 2b) Ambivalent attachment


o 2c) Disorganized attachment (this style was discovered later by researcher Mary

Secure Attachment - the 'Ideal' Attachment Behavior
The child's attachment behavior when his or her:
• Mother is present: o The child demonstrates secure attachment by feeling safe enough to explore the world and engage in play. o The mother's proximity creates what is called 'secure base' - a space of security from which the child feels to free to explore the world.
• Mother leaves: o The child protests - e.g. by crying or trying to regain closeness. o The distress is not desperate as the child trusts his or her mother to return.
• Mother returns: o The child shows signs of being pleased or is quickly comforted if he or she is upset. o The child will soon re-enter 'secure base' and feel safe enough to play again.
The child's behavior towards the stranger:
• The child will sometimes be comforted by the stranger but clearly prefers his or her mother. Mother's responsiveness:
• Responds quickly and consistently to her child's signals of wanting comfort and security. o The child feels confident that his or her mother will help ful fill any needs when they occur. Avoidant Attachment - Passive Attachment Behavior
The child's behavior when his or her:
• Mother is present: o Little or no interest in playful interaction. o Prefers to play with object rather than people. o Seems emotionally distant from his or her mother.
• Mother leaves: o Hardly any sign of separation distress, indifference.
• Mother returns: o The child hardly displays any visible reaction, if any at all. o The child doesn't really respond to contact attempts. o The child may even try to avoid contact and ignore his or her mother.


The child's behavior towards the stranger:
• The child acts in the same way towards the stranger as towards the mother; there seems to be no preference.
• Sometimes the child shows preference to the stranger.
Mother's responsiveness:
• Mostly disengaged; When the child is showing signs of distre ss, the mother shows little or no response. The mother often aims at making the child independent. o The child learns that his or her needs will probably not be met and therefore doesn't engage in typical attachment behavior such as crying or reaching out .
As adults, this attachment style would be considered “dismissive.” (Hazan and Shaver,

Ambivalent Attachment - Anxious Attachment Behavior
The child's attachment behavior when his or her:
• Mother is present: o The child is uncomfortable and seems anxious in the unfamiliar setting. o The child is anxious as if anticipating separation even before it occurs. o The child doesn't feel secure even when his or her mother is present. o The child desires his or her mother's attention, comfort and proximity but rejects it angrily when it is achieved.
• Mother leaves: o The child is very distressed and protests strongly.
• Mother returns: o The child doesn't regain calmness and shows signs of anger towards the mother. o The child doesn't re-engage in play activities.
The child's behavior towards stranger:
• The child is not easily comforted.
Mother's responsiveness:
• Responses occur on the mother's terms ... in other words; when she feels like it.
• Her availability is therefore inconsistent; She