December 1, 1913|
|Died||March 21, 1999
|Era||20th century philosophy|
|Main interests||Attachment theory|
|Alma mater||University of Toronto|
|Notable ideas||Finding of securely attached, insecurely attached - avoidant and ambivalent children|
Mary Dinsmore Salter Ainsworth (//; December 1, 1913 – March 21, 1999) was an American-Canadian developmental psychologist known for her work in early emotional attachment with "The Strange Situation" as well as her work in the development of Attachment Theory.
Ainsworth was born in Glendale, Ohio in 1913. She was the oldest of three daughters to Charles and Mary Salter . Her parents both graduated from Dickinson College. When Ainsworth was 5 years-old, her father was transferred to a manufacturing firm in Toronto, Canada where she spent the majority of childhood. Ainsworth was a clever child who thirsted for knowledge. She began reading by the age of three, and she became quite close with her father, who assumed the duties of tucking her in at night and singing to her. On the other hand, she did not have a warm relationship with her mother. While her parents always put a strong emphasis on education, it was William McDougall's book Character and the Conduct of Life that inspired her interest in psychology.
Ainsworth began classes at the University of Toronto at the age of 16 and decided to focus on psychology. She was one of only five students to be admitted into the honors course in psychology. Ainsworth completed coursework for her bachelor degree in 1935, and decided to continue her education at the University of Toronto with the intentions of earning her doctorate in psychology. She stayed to teach for a few years before joining the Canadian Women's Army Corps in 1942 in World War II, where she administered clinical evaluations and personnel assessment tests, reaching the rank of Major in 1945.
She returned to Toronto to continue teaching personality psychology and conduct research. She married Leonard Ainsworth in 1950 and moved to London with him to allow him to finish his Ph.D at University College London.
After many other academic positions, including a long tenure at Johns Hopkins University, she eventually settled at the University of Virginia in 1975, where she remained the rest of her academic career. Ainsworth received many honors, including the Award for Distinguished Contributions to Child Development in 1985 and the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association in 1989. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1992.
During graduate school, Mary studied under the mentorship of William Emet Blatz, who was the founder and first director of the Institute of Child Study at the University of Toronto. Blatz focused on studying what he referred to as “security theory.” This theory outlined Blatz’s idea that different levels of dependence on parents meant different qualities of relationships with those parents, as well as, the quality of relationships with future partners. His tiers of dependence were labeled secure dependence, independent security, immature dependent security, and mature secure dependence. Blatz theorized that the more secure and mature that the interaction was between individuals, the more likely the relationship to be healthy and without insecurities. After leaving the Canadian Women's corps she returned to Toronto to continue teaching personality psychology and conduct research. She married Leonard Ainsworth in 1950 and moved to London with him to allow him to finish his graduate degree at University College. While in England, Ainsworth joined the research team at Tavistock Clinic investigating the effects of maternal separation on child development. Comparison of disrupted mother-child bonds to normal mother-child relationship showed that a child's lack of a mother figure leads to "adverse development effects."
In 1954, she left Tavistock Clinic to do research in Africa where she carried out her longitudinal field study of mother-infant interaction. Ainsworth's book from that field study, Infancy in Uganda remains an exceptional and classic ethological study in the development of Attachment, and demonstrates that the process reflects specific universal characteristics that cross linguistic, cultural and geographic lines.
She and her colleagues developed the Strange Situation Procedure, which is a widely used, well researched and validated, method of assessing an infant's pattern and style of attachment to a caregiver. (See Attachment theory.)
In the 1970s, Ainsworth devised a procedure, called A Strange Situation, to observe attachment relationships between a caregiver and child.
In this procedure of the strange situation the child is observed playing for 20 minutes while caregivers and strangers enter and leave the room, recreating the flow of the familiar and unfamiliar presence in most children's lives. The situation varies in stressfulness and the child's responses are observed. The child experiences the following situations:
- Parent and infant are introduced to the experimental room.
- Parent and infant are alone. Parent does not participate while infant explores.
- Stranger enters, converses with parent, then approaches infant. Parent leaves inconspicuously.
- First separation episode: Stranger's behavior is geared to that of infant.
- First reunion episode: Parent greets and comforts infant, then leaves again.
- Second separation episode: Infant is alone.
- Continuation of second separation episode: Stranger enters and gears behavior to that of infant.
- Second reunion episode: Parent enters, greets infant, and picks up infant; stranger leaves inconspicuously.
Four aspects of the child's behavior are observed:
- The amount of exploration (e.g. playing with new toys) the child engages in throughout.
- The child's reactions to the departure of its caregiver.
- The stranger anxiety (when the baby is alone with the stranger).
- The child's reunion behavior with its caregiver.
On the basis of their behaviors, the children were categorized into three groups, with a fourth added later. Each of these groups reflects a different kind of attachment relationship with the caregiver.
A child who is securely attached to its mother will explore freely while the mother is present, will engage with strangers, will be visibly upset when the mother departs and happy to see the mother return. However, the child will not engage with a stranger if their mother is not in the room.
Securely attached children are best able to explore when they have the knowledge of a secure base to return to in times of need (also known as "rapprochement," meaning in French "bring together"). When assistance is given, this bolsters the sense of security and also, assuming the mother's assistance is helpful, educates the child in how to cope with the same problem in the future. Therefore, secure attachment can be seen as the most adaptive attachment style. According to some psychological researchers, a child becomes securely attached when the mother is available and able to meet the needs of the child in a responsive and appropriate manner. Others have pointed out that there are also other determinants of the child's attachment, and that behavior of the parent may in turn be influenced by the child's behavior.The love the parent deposits to a child determines the level of attachment.
Anxious-resistant insecure attachment
A child with an anxious-resistant attachment style is anxious of exploration and of strangers, even when the mother is present. When the mother departs, the child is extremely distressed. The child will be ambivalent when she returns - seeking to remain close to the mother but resentful, and also resistant when the mother initiates attention. When reunited with the mother, the baby may also hit or push his mother when she approaches and fail to cling to her when she picks him up.
According,to some psychological researchers, this style develops from a mothering and fathering style which is engaged but on the mother's own terms. That is, sometimes the child's needs are ignored until some other activity is completed and that attention is sometimes given to the child more through the needs of the parent than from the child's initiation.
This is now more commonly known as ambivalent/resistant attachment as the child can't make up his mind about what he wants; when he is held he wants to be left alone and when he is left he clings to the mother. Both ambivalent attachments and avoidant attachments are types of insecure attachments which are less desirable than secure attachments, but ambivalent attachment tends to be indicative of more maladaptive parenting and indicates a greater likelihood for attachment problems in the future.
Anxious-avoidant insecure attachment
A child with the anxious-avoidant insecure attachment style will avoid or ignore the caregiver - showing little emotion when the caregiver departs or returns. The child may run away from the caregiver when he/she approaches and fail to cling to her/him when picked up. The child will not explore very much regardless of who is there. Strangers will not be treated much differently from the caregiver. There is not much emotional range regardless of who is in the room or if it is empty.
This form of attachment develops from a care-giving style which is more disengaged. The child's needs are frequently not met and the child comes to believe that communication of needs has no influence on the caregiver.
A child may cry during separation but avoid the mother when she returns or may approach the mother, then freeze or fall to the floor. Some show stereotyped behavior, rocking to and fro or repeatedly hitting themselves. Main and Hesse found that most of the mothers of these children had suffered major losses or other trauma shortly before or after the birth of the infant and had reacted by becoming severely depressed. In fact, 56% of mothers who had lost a parent by death before they completed high school subsequently had children with disorganized attachments.
Critique of the Strange Situation Protocol
||This article contains too many or too-lengthy quotations for an encyclopedic entry. (May 2012)|
"It is by no means free of limitations (see Lamb, Thompson, Gardener, Charnov & Estes, 1984). To begin with, it is very dependent on brief separations and reunions having the same meaning for all children. This may be a major constraint when applying the procedure in cultures, such as that in Japan (see Miyake et al.,, 1985), where infants are rarely separated from their mothers in ordinary circumstances. Also, because older children have a cognitive capacity to maintain relationships when the older person is not present, separation may not provide the same stress for them. Modified procedures based on the Strange Situation have been developed for older preschool children (see Belsky et al., 1994; Greenberg et al., 1990) but it is much more dubious whether the same approach can be used in middle childhood. Also, despite its manifest strengths, the procedure is based on just 20 minutes of behavior. It can be scarcely expected to tap all the relevant qualities of a child's attachment relationships. Q-sort procedures based on much longer naturalistic observations in the home, and interviews with the mothers have developed in order to extend the data base (see Vaughn & Waters, 1990). A further constraint is that the coding procedure results in discrete categories rather than continuously distributed dimensions. Not only is this likely to provide boundary problems, but also it is not at all obvious that discrete categories best represent the concepts that are inherent in attachment security. It seems much more likely that infants vary in their degree of security and there is need for a measurement systems that can quantify individual variation".
Ecological validity and universality of Strange Situation attachment classification distributions
With respect to the ecological validity of the Strange Situation, a meta-analysis of 2,000 infant-parent dyads, including several from studies with non-Western language and/or cultural bases found the global distribution of attachment categorizations to be A (21%), B (65%), and C (14%) This global distribution was generally consistent with Ainsworth et al.'s (1978) original attachment classification distributions.
However, controversy has been raised over a few cultural differences in these rates of 'global' attachment classification distributions. In particular, two studies diverged from the global distributions of attachment classifications noted above. One study was conducted in North Germany  in which more avoidant (A) infants were found than global norms would suggest, and the other in Sapporo, Japan  where more resistant (C) infants were found. Of these two studies, the Japanese findings have sparked the most controversy as to the meaning of individual differences in attachment behavior as originally identified by Ainsworth et al. (1978).
In a recent study conducted in Sapporo, Behrens, et al., 2007. found attachment distributions consistent with global norms using the six-year Main & Cassidy scoring system for attachment classification. In addition to these findings supporting the global distributions of attachment classifications in Sapporo, Behrens et al. also discuss the Japanese concept of amae and its relevance to questions concerning whether the insecure-resistant (C) style of interaction may be engendered in Japanese infants as a result of the cultural practice of amae.
Attachment measurement: discrete or continuous?
Regarding the issue of whether the breadth of infant attachment functioning can be captured by a categorical classification scheme, it should be noted that continuous measures of attachment security have been developed which have demonstrated adequate psychometric properties. These have been used either individually or in conjunction with discrete attachment classifications in many published reports [see Richters et al., 1998; Van IJzendoorn et al., 1990).] The original Richter’s et al. (1998) scale is strongly related to secure versus insecure classifications, correctly predicting about 90% of cases. Readers further interested in the categorical versus continuous nature of attachment classifications (and the debate surrounding this issue) should consult the paper by Fraley and Spieker  and the rejoinders in the same issue by many prominent attachment researchers including J. Cassidy, A. Sroufe, E. Waters & T. Beauchaine, and M. Cummings.
- William Emet Blatz
- John Bowlby
- Attachment theory
- Reactive attachment disorder
- Attachment measures
- Attachment in children
- Ainsworth, M. and Bowlby, J. (1965). Child Care and the Growth of Love. London: Penguin Books.
- Ainsworth, M. (1967). Infancy in Uganda. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins.
- Ainsworth, M., Blehar, M., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of Attachment. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
- "Mary D. Ainsworth". Social Security Death Index. Retrieved 7 April 2011.[dead link]
- "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
- Rathus, S. A. (2009) Psych. Mason: Cengage Learning
- Main, Mary; Solomon, Judith (1990). "Procedures for Identifying Infants as Disorganized/Disoriented during the Ainsworth Strange Situation". In Greenberg, Mark T.; Cicchetti, Dante; Cummings, E. Mark. Attachment in the Preschool Years: Theory, Research, and Intervention. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 121–60. ISBN 978-0-226-30630-8.
- Colin Murray Parkes (2006). Love and Loss. Routledge, London and New York. p. 13. ISBN 0-415-39041-9.
- Main, Mary; Hesse, Erik (1993). "Parents' Unresolved Traumatic Experiences Are Related to Infant Disorganized Attachment Status: Is Frightened and/or Frightening Parental Behavior the Linking Mechanism?". In Greenberg, Mark T.; Cicchetti, Dante; Cummings, E. Mark. Attachment in the Preschool Years: Theory, Research, and Intervention. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 161–84. ISBN 978-0-226-30630-8.
- Rutter, M (1995). "Clinical implications of attachment concepts: Retrospect and prospect". Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines 36 (4): 549–71. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.1995.tb02314.x. PMID 7650083.
- Grossmann, Klaus E.; Grossmann, Karin (2010). "Discovery and proof in attachment research". Behavioral and Brain Sciences 7: 154. doi:10.1017/S0140525X00026601.
- Miyake, Kazuo; Chen, Shing-Jen; Campos, Joseph J. (1985). "Infant Temperament, Mother's Mode of Interaction, and Attachment in Japan: An Interim Report". Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development 50 (1–2): 276–97. doi:10.2307/3333838. JSTOR 3333838. PMID 4069131.
- Belsky, J. & Cassidy, J. (1994). Attachment Theory and Evidence. In M. Rutter & D. Hay (Eds) Development Through Life; A Handbook For Clinicians (pp. 373-402). Oxford; Blackwell Scientific Publications. ISBN 0632036931
- Greenberg, Mark T.; Cicchetti, Dante; Cummings, E. Mark (eds.). Attachment in the Preschool Years: Theory, Research, and Intervention. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-30630-8.[page needed]
- Vaughn, BE; Waters, E (1990). "Attachment behavior at home and in the laboratory: Q-sort observations and strange situation classifications of one-year-olds". Child Development 61 (6): 1965–73. doi:10.2307/1130850. JSTOR 1130850. PMID 2083508.
- van IJzendoorn, Marinus H.; Kroonenberg, Pieter M. (1988). "Cross-Cultural Patterns of Attachment: A Meta-Analysis of the Strange Situation". Child Development 59 (1): 147–56. doi:10.2307/1130396. JSTOR 1130396.
- Grossmann, Klaus E.; Grossmann, Karin; Huber, Franz; Wartner, Ulrike (1981). "German Children's Behavior Towards Their Mothers at 12 Months and Their Fathers at 18 Months in Ainsworth's Strange Situation". International Journal of Behavioral Development 4 (2): 157–81. doi:10.1177/016502548100400202.
- Takahashi, Keiko (1986). "Examining the strange-situation procedure with Japanese mothers and 12-month-old infants". Developmental Psychology 22 (2): 265–70. doi:10.1037/0012-1618.104.22.1685.
- Behrens, Kazuko Y.; Hesse, Erik; Main, Mary (2007). "Mothers' attachment status as determined by the Adult Attachment Interview predicts their 6-year-olds' reunion responses: A study conducted in Japan". Developmental Psychology 43 (6): 1553–67. doi:10.1037/0012-1622.214.171.1243. PMID 18020832.
- Main, Mary; Cassidy, Jude (1988). "Categories of response to reunion with the parent at age 6: Predictable from infant attachment classifications and stable over a 1-month period". Developmental Psychology 24 (3): 415–26. doi:10.1037/0012-16126.96.36.1995.
- Richters, JE; Waters, E; Vaughn, BE (1988). "Empirical classification of infant-mother relationships from interactive behavior and crying during reunion". Child Development 59 (2): 512–22. doi:10.2307/1130329. JSTOR 1130329. PMID 3359869.
- Van Ijzendoorn, Marinus H.; Kroonenberg, Pieter M. (1990). "Cross-cultural consistency of coding the strange situation". Infant Behavior and Development 13 (4): 469–85. doi:10.1016/0163-6383(90)90017-3.
- Fraley, R. Chris; Spieker, Susan J. (2003). "Are infant attachment patterns continuously or categorically distributed? A taxometric analysis of strange situation behavior". Developmental Psychology 39 (3): 387–404. doi:10.1037/0012-16188.8.131.527. PMID 12760508.
- O'Connell, A.N., & Rusoo, N.F. (1983). Models of achievement: Reflections of eminent women in psychology. New York: Columbia University Press.
- Mary Ainsworth on The Psi Cafe
- Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society
- Articles by Mary Ainsworth including summaries and links to full-text
- Transcript of oral history interview and CV (both in PDF format) from the Society for Research in Child Development
- Transcript of oral history interview (PDF) from the Canadian Psychological Association
- Episode about Mary Ainsworth from the BBC radio 4 program Mind Changers