Research Into Individual Differences In Attachment

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Q. Describe and evaluate research into individual differences in attachment (12 marks) A. Mary Ainsworth devised an assessment technique called the ‘strange situation’ which investigated the differences in attachment between a caregiver and a child. 160 middle classed infants aged 12-18 months were put under conditions of mild stress in a controlled observation. The infants were put in a controlled play room with their mother and a stranger. Throughout the set up, the infants were judged on an intensity scale of 1-7 (1 being the lowest and 7 the highest) which described their behaviour. This was Ainsworth’s quantitative data, though some of the method was qualitative. When the mother left the room and returned, with the effect of the stranger, the infants’ behaviour showed that the infants could fall into 3 types of behaviour. Type B is ‘secure attachment’; this is when the infants found it stressful and unsettling when their mother left the room. They did not care about the stranger attempting to give the comfort. Type A is ‘insecure – anxious avoidant’. This is when the infant largely ignores its mother due to indifference; there are no or little signs of distress. The only distress shown was when the child was left alone. When the stranger comforts the infant after being left alone, the infant calmed down unlike in type B. Type C is the ‘insecure – anxious resistant’ category. A child who falls into this category is anxious of exploration and of strangers, even when the mother is present. When the mother leaves the infant gets extremely distressed. When the mother returns, the infant gives mixed signals. Some people believe that the infants should not have been put under that stress just for an observation. It is both distressing for the caregiver and child. Also, this standardized procedure is repeated many times causing more infants to
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