Outline and evaluate psychological research into individual differences in attachment.

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Following on from the study carried out by Schaffer and Emerson (1964) on the phases of development in attachment, Ainsworth et al (1978) investigated individual differences in attachment using the Strange Situation. They hoped that their method of assessing attachments would be a reliable and valid measure of attachments. The Strange Situation test lasted approximately 21 minutes and involved the observation of an American infant (12 to 18 months) in a controlled observation room. The procedure consisted of 7 episodes each lasting 3 minutes, depending on the reaction of the infant. The first episode involved the infant exploring the room in the presence of the caregiver. A stranger then enters the room, followed by the discreet departure of the caregiver. The stranger responds to the infant as appropriate. After 3 minutes the infant is reunited with the caregiver. After the infant has been comforted and settled into play again the infant is left alone for 3 minutes. The stranger enters again and interacts with the infant. Finally the caregiver returns and greets the infant, the stranger leaves. The security or insecurity of the attachment relationship was assessed by the recording of key behaviours during the experiment. The infant's willingness to explore in the presence of the caregiver and his or her reaction to the entrance of the stranger whilst the caregiver is in the room shows whether the infant is able to use the caregiver as a safe base. The level of stranger anxiety is measured by observing the emotional response of the infant being left alone with the stranger and separation protest from the caregiver is assessed when the caregiver leaves. The reaction to reunion with the caregiver on her return is carefully observed in episodes 5 and 8.

From the Strange Situation, Ainsworth et al developed three attachment styles based on the behaviour of the infant, demonstrating considerable individual differences in secure and insecure attachments. They found that most infants displayed behaviour which categorised them as secure (70%) whilst 15% were categorised as anxious-avoidant and 15% as anxious-ambivalent.

Those who were securely attached (Type B) happily played when the caregiver was present, as he/she was sensitive to the infant's needs and interpreted the infant's signals correctly. The infant showed signs of distress when separated from the caregiver and contact was immediately sought on reunion, play was then resumed quickly. The stranger was able to provide a degree of comfort however was treated noticeably differently from the caregiver. Securely attached infants have a high level of trust with their caregivers and do not fear abandonment. The caregiver is accepting of the infant and shows positive emotions during interactions, adapting his/her behaviour to the personality and needs of the infant.

Anxious/avoidant attachment (Type A) was characterised by detachment as the infant did not seek contact with the caregiver and showed little distress at separation. The infant tends to ignore the caregiver and her presence has little effect on their play. The infant shows very little, if any distress when she leaves. Any distress shown is due to being alone, rather than specifically, separation from the caregiver. The infant can be comforted by both the caregiver and the stranger, the infant shows little preference. The caregiver is distant and aloof, tending to ignore or misinterpret the infant's signals. Infants with an ambivalent attachment, according to Ainsworth, learn to suppress their desire for closeness and they know their attempts will be rejected.

The anxious/ambivalent attachment (type C) was characterised by inconsistency, as the shows a lot of distress at separation but resistant towards the caregiver and showing anger on reunion. There is very much a push-pull element to this attachment as the infant may seek contact then struggle to be put down. Detached infants could not use the caregiver...
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