Child Psychiatry and Human Development

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 64–71 | Cite as

Use of the strange-situation procedure in the diagnosis of attachment disorder

  • Mary J. O'Connor
  • Ann S. Masten


This study demonstrates the usefulness of developmental theory and research in understanding psychopathological development. It is a case history of a genetically vulnerable 2 1/2 year old child who experienced a major disruption in the attachment process as a function of precipitous and permanent separation from a positive attachment figure and placement in a home in which the new attachment figure was unresponsive to the child. The child's behavior and growth deteriorated requiring her to be hospitalized. Upon admission, she appeared functionally retarded and severely emotionally disturbed. A diagnosis of attachment disorder of infancy was made based upon history, response to treatment, and the use of the strange-situation procedure.


Social Psychology Case History Major Disruption Developmental Theory Attachment Figure 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ainsworth, MDS, and Bell, SM: Attachment, exploration, and separation: Illustrated by the behavior of one-year-olds in a strange situation.Child Development 41:49–67, 1970.Google Scholar
  2. Ainsworth, MDS, and Bell, SM: Mother-infant interaction and the development of competence. In: K.J. Connolly and J. Bruner (Eds.),The Growth of Competence. London & New York: Academic Press, 1974.Google Scholar
  3. Ainsworth, MDS, Blehar, MC, Waters, E, and Wall, S:Patterns of Attachment. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1978.Google Scholar
  4. Ainsworth, MDS, and Wittig, BA: Attachment and exploratory behavior of one-year-olds in a strange situation. In: B.M. Foss (Ed.),Determinants of Infant Behavior IV. London, Methuen, 1969.Google Scholar
  5. Bell, SM, and Ainsworth, MDS: Infant crying and maternal responsiveness.Child Development 43:1171–1190, 1972.Google Scholar
  6. Blehar, MC: Anxious attachment and defensive reactions associated with day care.Child Development 45:683–692, 1974.Google Scholar
  7. Blehar, MC, Lieberman, AF, and Ainsworth, MDS: Early face-to-face interaction and its relation to later infant-mother attachment.Child Development 48:182–194, 1977.Google Scholar
  8. Bowlby, J:Attachment and Loss (Vol. 1).Attachment. New York: Basic Books, 1969.Google Scholar
  9. Bowlby, J:Attachment and Loss (Vol. 2).Separation: Anxiety and Anger. New York: Basic Books, 1973.Google Scholar
  10. Cicchetti, D, and Serafica, FC: Interplay among systems: Illustrations from the study of attachment, affiliation and wariness in young children with Down's syndrome.Developmental Psychology 17:36–48, 1981.Google Scholar
  11. Cicchetti, D, and Sroufe, LA: The relationship between affective and cognitive development in Down's syndrome infants.Child Development 47:920–929, 1976.Google Scholar
  12. Egeland, B, and Sroufe, LA: Attachment and early maltreatment.Child Development 52:44–52, 1981.Google Scholar
  13. Feldman, SS, and Ingham, ME: Attachment behavior: A validation study in two age groups.Child Development 46:319–330, 1975.Google Scholar
  14. Maccoby, EE, and Feldman, SS: Mother-attachment and stranger-reactions in the third year of life.Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development 37 (146), 1972.Google Scholar
  15. Main, M: Analysis of a peculiar form of reunion behavior seen in some daycare children: Its history and sequelae in children who are home-reared. In: R. Webb (Ed.),Social Development in Daycare. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977.Google Scholar
  16. Matas, L, Ahrend, RA, and Sroufe, LA: Continuity of adaptation in the second year: The relationship between quality of attachment and later competence.Child Development 49:547–556, 1978.Google Scholar
  17. Ralston, C, and O'Connor, MJ: Mother-infant bonding and attachment. In: C.E. Hollingsworth (Ed.),Coping With Pediatric Illness: The Child, the Family, and the Care Givers. New York: Spectrum Publications, in press.Google Scholar
  18. Robertson, J:Young Children in Hospitals. London: Tavistock Publications, 1970.Google Scholar
  19. Serafica, FC, and Cicchetti, D: Down's syndrome children in a strange situation: Attachment and exploration behaviors.Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 22:137–150, 1976.Google Scholar
  20. Stayton, DJ, Hogan, R, and Ainsworth, MDS: Infant obedience and maternal behavior: The origins of socialization reconsidered.Child Development 42:1057–1069, 1971.Google Scholar
  21. Thompson, RA, Lamb, ME, and Estes, D: Stability of infant-mother attachment and its relationship to changing life circumstances in an unselected middle-class sample.Child Development 53:144–148, 1982.Google Scholar
  22. Vaughn, B, Egeland, B, Sroufe, LA, and Waters, E: Individual differences in infant-mother attachment at twelve and eighteen months: Stability and change in families under stress.Child Development 50:971–975, 1979.Google Scholar
  23. White, R: Motivation reconsidered: The concept of competence.Psychological Review 66:297–333, 1959.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary J. O'Connor
    • 1
  • Ann S. Masten
    • 2
  1. 1.University of California at Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.University of MinnesotaUSA

Personalised recommendations