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Attachment – Psychological Theories

3. Mary Ainsworth: The Strange Situation

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In this module, we think about Mary Ainsworth’s ‘Strange Situation’ experiment as a procedure for measuring the quality of the mother-infant attachment relationship. We look at the different stages of the ‘Strange Situation’ procedure and discuss how it has allowed Ainsworth and other researchers to characterise different attachment styles in infants, including secure attachment, resistant attachment, avoidant attachment and disorganised attachment. We conclude the module by discussing different theories on how attachment is formed, such as Schaffer and Emerson (1964), Fox (1989) and Belsky and Rovine (1987).


In this course, Dr Emily Burdett (University of Nottingham) discusses psychological theories of attachment, the close emotional bond formed between two individuals. We begin, in module one, by thinking about John Bowlby’s research on the mother-infant relationship before moving on, in module two, to discussing two studies of attachment in non-human animals by Harry Harlow and Konrad Lorenz. Module three focuses on Mary Ainsworth’s ‘Strange Situation’ experiment as a way of measuring the quality of attachment between an infant and a caregiver. Next, we look at two Romanian orphan studies and think about how the lack of strong attachment relationships in early life affects a child’s later development. Finally, in module five, we consider the influence of early attachment on later relationships, including with a romantic partner and as a parent.


Dr Emily Burdett is interested in how culture and cognition influence our understanding of the world around us. Her research has particularly explored the cognitive and social processes that influence the evolution of 'culture.' Her work uses an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and experimental approach to explore questions about how children and adults form concepts, how they learn and who they learn from, and when they innovate and become creative. These questions motivate current projects exploring the origin and transmission of culture, the cultural and cognitive underpinnings of religion and morality, and the motivations for learning and creativity.

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APA style

Burdett, E. (2019, September 27). Attachment – Psychological Theories - Mary Ainsworth: The Strange Situation [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Burdett, E. "Attachment – Psychological Theories – Mary Ainsworth: The Strange Situation." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 27 Sep 2019,

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