The Strange Situation, in which infants are exposed to eight different
episodes involving the mother and/or a stranger, is widely used to
test attachments, although there are many different views regarding
its validity and reliability.
In order for the Strange Situation to be considered reliable, a child
tested at different times should produce the same reaction every time;
this was supported by Main, Kapland and Cassidy’s 1985 study which
found that 100% of infants who had been securely attached before 18
months were still securely attached at 6 years, and 75% of those who
had been anxious-avoidant remained so. One interpretation of
attachment type (based on the Strange Situation) is that it is a fixed
characteristic and therefore cannot be changed, but if there is a
change in family circumstances this is often not the ...view middle of the document...
Their behaviour was a confusing mixture of approach and
avoidance, and they generally were unable to form a strategy to cope
with the Strange Situation.
There are also marked intercultural differences in the ways infants
react, as shown by Van Ijzendioorm and Kroonenburg (1998), who carried
out 32 studies worldwide. Overall, Type B (secure attachment) is
prevalent, but there is a higher proportion of type A in western
Europe, and of type C in Israel and Japan. One Japanese study also
showed a complete absence of type A.
If the Strange Situation is to be considered valid, infants who are
classified as securely attached should be better adjusted both
socially and emotionally in later life. Sroufe (1983) found this to be
the case, as infants who were securely attached at 2 years were
generally less aggressive, more popular and with higher self-esteem,
however Maslin and Frankel (1985) found that attachment type at 12
months failed to predict behavioural problems at 3 years.
The fact that the Strange Situation is laboratory-based has led to
heavy criticism, as it is argued that it represents a highly
artificial approach to attachment behaviour study, and it was pointed
out by Bronfenbrenner (1979) that infants’ attachment behaviour is
much stronger in a laboratory than they are at home. The study also
focuses too much upon the behaviour of the infantr concerned, and not
enough on that of the mother, which can have an effect on the results
It is hard to differentiate between the infant-mother attachment
relationship and the species-characteristic behaviour from which it
stems, as infants are predisposed to become attached. As the form of
attachments in young children depends in the highly complex, not yet
understood ways upon the sensitivity of the mother and temperament of
the infant, it is unclear as of yet whether early attachment does
influence social and emotional development in later life.