Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development

2011 Edition
| Editors: Sam Goldstein, Jack A. Naglieri

Strange Situation

  • Cynthia Field
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-79061-9_88



The Strange situation is a standardized observational procedure involving short separations and reunions between an infant and his caregiver. Each successive phase of the procedure is designed to be increasingly stressful to the infant to induce attachment behaviors. The infant’s behavior at departures and reunions are coded to assess the toddler’s attachment style.


The Strange situation was developed by Mary Ainsworth and her colleagues to assess the attachment between a mother and her infant. The procedure provides empirical support for attachment theory that she and her colleague John Bowlby developed (See Chapter Attachment Theory herein.). The structure of the observational technique is based upon Bowlby’s concept of the protective function of attachments. When an infant is distressed, he turns to his attachment figure for comfort and to ensure his wellbeing. In addition, the structured technique is...

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  1. 1.
    Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, N.J: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Main, M., & Solomon, J. (1986). Discovery of an insecure-disorganized attachment pattern: Procedures, findings and implications for the classification of behavior. In T. B. Brazelton & M. Yogman (Eds.), Affective development in infancy. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Salter, M. (1940). An evaluation of adjustment based on the concept of security. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cynthia Field
    • 1
  1. 1.William Alanson White InstituteNew YorkUSA