Mary Ainsworth conducted two naturalistic observations, one in the rural community of Kampala in Uganda which lasted for two years and the other in the urban city of Baltimore which had lasted for one year. The aim of this observation was to look at a mother and infant interaction. In both study she used the same number of participants, which were 26 mothers and their infants. Using the strange situation she found three different types of attachments that were displayed by the children and the fourth found by Main and Solomon.
The first study in Uganda she found that some mothers were more sensitive to their infants needs meaning that, they were more capable of providing more details about their infants. The infants of these mothers were ‘securely attached’, this means that in their mothers’ presence they cried little and were more eager to explore. This secure attachment led to the infants being more independence because they used their mothers as a secure base that they could run to in time of danger.
The second observation took place in Baltimore, America. In this study she and her team did not use a behaviour checklist which means that there was not certain thing that she was looking for, for example she did not have a paper where she wrote all the behaviour that she was looking for such as anger or sorrow and ticked them off when she witnessed it, she was purely just writing what she had seen. In this observation she found that mother were more sensitive to their infants for the first three months of their lives, meaning that in the one year that she had studied them, only for the first three months the mother, who was classified as a secure base responded more to the infants needs during that time period. Learning theorist found this confusing, this is because from their understanding, responsiveness to behavioural social releasers, such as crying should act as a reinforcer and increase the crying, but this was different Anisworth predication which was that behavioural social releasers decrease the caregiver responsiveness.
One limitation of these studies is that because it was a longitudinal study, which means that it went over for a long period of time, it may have caused participant attrition, where participants drop out of the study and this may cause problems for her, such as she may not have yet found what she needed. but one strength of the study being longitudinal is that the mother may become more comfortable with the fact of someone observing them so this could led to them being more free and able to express themselves better, and this would be an advantage for Mary as she will witness the mothers true personality and behaviour. One limitation of the Baltimore study alone was that her study was not operationalised; meaning that she did not define what she was observing and this could lead to her finding irrelevant information.
In the Baltimore study we saw that Mary Anisworth conducting her research using the Strange Situation. This method was used to test the nature of attachment systematically. the aim of this was to see how infants behaved under condition of mild stress and novelty, this stress was created by a presence of a stranger and by separation from caregiver; this is tests stranger anxiety and separation anxiety. The strange situation also tries to encourage exploration by placing infant in a novel situation which tests the secure base concept.
This research takes place in a novel environment, this is a 9×9 foot square marked off into 16 squares, and this was to help mark the movements of the infants. This method consists of eight episodes, each used to emphasise certain behaviours; the behaviour that was assessed was stranger anxiety, this is the distress shown by an infant when approached or picked up by someone who is unknown to them. The second behaviour assessed is separation anxiety, this is the distress revealed by infants when separated from its primary attachment figure. And the last behaviour assessed was Reunion behaviour this is the behaviour shown by infants when reunited with their mother. The results in a strange situation are collected by a group of observers who record what the infants are doing every 15 seconds.
Aniworth et al (1978) found that there are three types of attachment that infants had with their caregiver. One of the attachment found was the secure attachment, this is when an infant has a strong and cooperative interaction with their caregiver. These types of infants properly will not cry if their caregiver leaves the room, but when feeling scared they use their caregiver as safety net that they run to seek close bodily contact and although they may not want to leave their caregivers side prematurely, they are easily soothed. They seek and are comfortable with social interaction and intimacy.
The securely attached infants are more independent this is because they use their caregiver a secure base and because they know that they have this secure base they tend to explore their environment more. Another type of attachment is Insecure-avoidant, this attachment is formed of children that don’t like to socially interact with others and tend to avoid intimacy. In the strange situation, when separated from their caregiver these children show little response and do not seek proximity of their caregiver on reunion. If the infant is picked up they may show little or no tendency to cling or resist being put down. These children do not need their caregiver to be there for them to explore, they are quite happy to do it without them. They may also become quite angry because their attachment needs are not met.
Furthermore another type of attachment is insecure-resistant, these are children who both seek and reject intimacy and social interaction. When separated with their caregiver they show intense distress, on reunion they may resist being picked up while also trying to maintain proximity. The last type of attachment was found by Main and Solomon (1986) when they done a re-analysis of over 200 strange situation. The fourth attachment that they found was Disorganised; this type is characterised by a lack of a consistent patterns of social behaviour. These children can show strong attachment, which is suddenly followed by avoidance or looking fearful towards their caregiver or displaying odd movements such as stumbling.
In conclusion, there are four types of attachment that children display these are secure attachment, insecure- resistant, insecure avoidance and disorganised and a way to identify what type of attachment a child has is to use the strange situation method, that was first conducting by Mary Anisworth.