Mary Ainsworth

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Mary Ainsworth a Prominent Woman of Psychology


October 30, 2010

Mary Ainsworth a Prominent Woman of Psychology

Mary D. Salter- Ainsworth was born in Glendale, Ohio in December of 1913. Her parents were both academics at Dickenson College. Her father majored in history, while Mary’s mother focused on teaching and nursing. According to her biography, Mary and her two sisters grew up in a very “close-knit family” (Ainsworth, 1983). The importance of education was definitely impressed upon the girls at an early age, and weekly trips to the library were a regular event. In 1918, when Mary was just five years old, Mary’s father received a job in Toronto and moved his entire family to Canada. As a teenager, Mary read William McDougall’s book, Character and the Conduct of Life. This insightful book spurred the idea in Mary that one could look into one’s self for explanation, and she became enthralled with the study of psychology. At the age of sixteen Mary enrolled into the honors psychology program at the University of Toronto. Mary would go onto earning her Masters and PhD in developmental psychology, all from the University of Toronto. Mary taught at the university for three years before enlisting in the Canadian Army in 1945, where she eventually became a Major. Mary spent four years in the Army working for the personnel placement department. Ainsworth would get her first taste of clinical psychology there, which changed her perspective of it and would also change her carrier direction post WWII. After her four year military tour, Ainsworth went back to Toronto to resume teaching psychology. Ainsworth wanted to figure out a way of splitting up personality psychology with a professor that already had the position, and was turned onto the assessment of personality. Not confident in her own knowledge of the subject material, Ainsworth attended a summer course on Rorschach technique. Ainsworth immersed herself deeply into projective and paper pencil tests, in order to comfortably instruct her knew courses, and this is how Ainsworth became involved in clinical psychology. Mary would again attend courses on Rorschach technique and eventually write a manual and co-author a book on the technique, with Bruno Klopfer. In 1950 Mary met Leonard Ainsworth a fellow academic at the University of Toronto, and would soon be engaged to be married. Finished with his masters and not yet completed with his Doctorate, this meant Leonard would be a student in the same depart Mary held a chair position in. Mary felt that this would be a difficult situation for the both of them, but Leonard received news that he was accepted to the University College in London and they made the move. Both Mary and Leonard had difficulties locating work in London and eventually a Military friend of Mary’s would turn her onto a job listing for a research position at Tavistock Clinic. This is where Ainsworth would begin her research on early development, and meet Dr. John Bowlby, a psychologist researching in that field. Bowlby had already begun his work in developing his attachment theory, and needed help with observation and experimentation. Ainsworth and Bowlby would begin a long fruitful journey together exploring the realm of attachment syndromes. In 1954 Mary’s husband John finished his Ph.D. and received an appointment to East African Institute of Social Research in Kampala, Uganda. Not excited about the move Mary followed her husband to Africa and began her own studies there. She developed a short- term longitudinal, naturalistic study of mother and child interaction. Mary was unable to secure funding for the testing prior to leaving London, but found Dr. Audrey Richards, an anthropologist in Kampala, was more than willing to fund her experiments. Mary states in her biography, that she was convinced that it was far easier to be objective when observing situations outside of a familiar culture. She would later recant that...
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