The Strange Situation: Clip A

The Strange Situation, Mary Ainsworth’s now-classic laboratory procedure, measures attachment by evoking an infant’s responses to stress, as a caregiver and a stranger arrive and depart from a playroom where the child has access to many interesting toys. In a series of comings and goings, the child spends time with the caregiver alone, then with a stranger alone. These episodes alternate, and observers record how the child reacts to the toys, to the caregiver’s departure, and to the caregiver’s return.

From these observations, a child’s pattern of attachment is classified as secure; insecure- avoidant; or insecure-resistant. (Later researchers qualified these classifications by adding a fourth—disorganized—and by noting that not all children can be classified in a single category.) The following clips are simulations, not actual examples, of children displaying secure, insecure-resistant, and insecure-avoidant forms of attachment.

In this clip, “Shane” plays happily with the toys in the room when his mom is present, and he misses her when she leaves. On her return, he seems to alternate between rejecting contact with her and seeking it. He is no longer interested in the toys.