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Strange Situation Procedure - by Richard Bowlby (extract from full series)

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Published on Jun 3, 2010

Extract from Richard Bowlby's - "Secure attachment & the Key Person in Daycare -- A basic guide to attachment theory"


In the 1960s, 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: 1. Parent and infant are introduced to the experimental room.
2. Parent and infant are alone. Parent does not participate while infant explores.
3. Stranger enters, converses with parent, then approaches infant. Parent leaves inconspicuously.
4. First separation episode: Stranger's behaviour is geared to that of infant.
5. First reunion episode: Parent greets and comforts infant, then leaves again.
6. Second separation episode: Infant is alone.
7. Continuation of second separation episode: Stranger enters and gears behaviour to that of infant.
8. Second reunion episode: Parent enters, greets infant, and picks up infant; stranger leaves inconspicuously.

Four aspects of the child's behavior are observed: 1. The amount of exploration (e.g. playing with new toys) the child engages in throughout.
2. The child's reactions to the departure of its caregiver.
3. The stranger aniexty (when the baby is alone with the stranger).
4. The childs reunion behaviour with its caregiver.

From these behaviours the 'attachment style' or 'attachment pattern' of the child is determined. See Richard Bowlby's series of 4 videos or specifically his video on attachment patterns.

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