Dictionary of Arguments

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Corr I 234
Strange Situation/Ainsworth/terminology/attachment theory/Shaver/Mikulincer: a person’s attachment style – the pattern of relational needs, cognitions, emotions and behaviours (…) results from satisfactory or frustrating interactions with attachment figures. These styles were first described by Ainsworth (1967(1); Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters and Wall 1978)(2) based on her observations of infants’ responses to separations from and reunions with mother in a laboratory ‘Strange Situation’ assessment procedure. Ainsworth classified infants into one of three style categories: secure, anxious or avoidant. Main and Solomon (1990)(3) later added a fourth category, ‘disorganized’, characterized by odd, awkward behaviour and unusual alternations or mixtures of anxiety and avoidance.
The responses of infants classified as secure in the Strange Situation are thought to reflect a solid sense of attachment security. Such infants react to separation from mother with overt expressions of distress but then recover quickly when reunited with her and return to exploring the environment with interest and enthusiasm.(2)
Avoidant infants, in contrast, seem to possess negative working models and to rely on attachment-system deactivation as a self-regulating defence. They show little overt distress when separated from mother, although their heart rate indicates autonomic arousal, and they actively avoid her upon reunion.(2)


1. Ainsworth, M. D. S. 1967. Infancy in Uganda: infant care and the growth of love. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press
2. Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E. and Wall, S. 1978. Patterns of attachment: assessed in the Strange Situation and at home. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum
3. Main, M. and Solomon, J. 1990. Procedures for identifying infants as disorganized/disoriented during the Ainsworth strange situation, in M. T. Greenberg, D. Cicchetti and M. Cummings (eds.), Attachment in the preschool years: theory, research, and intervention, pp. 121–60. University of Chicago Press


Phillip R. Shaver and Mario Mikulincer, “Attachment theory: I. Motivational, individual-differences and structural aspects”, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Ainsworth, Mary
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2019-02-17
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