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Mary Ainsworth | The Strange Situation 

The strange situation is a standardized procedure devised by Mary Ainsworth in the 1970s to observe attachment security in children within the context of caregiver relationships. It applies to infants between the age of nine and 18 months.

The procedure involves series of eight episodes lasting approximately 3 minutes each, whereby a mother, child and stranger are introduced, separated and reunited.

John Bowlby (1969) believed that attachment was an all or nothing process. However, research has shown that there are individual differences in attachment quality. Indeed, one of the primary paradigms in attachment theory is that of the security of an individual’s attachment (Ainsworth & Bell, 1970).

Ainsworth (1970) identified three main attachment styles, secure (type B), insecure avoidant (type A) and insecure ambivalent/resistant (type C). She concluded that these attachment styles were the result of early interactions with the mother.

A fourth attachment style known as disorganized was later identified (Main, & Solomon, 1990).

Main, M., & Solomon, J. (1990). Procedures for identifying infants as disorganized/disoriented during the Ainsworth Strange Situation. In M.T. Greenberg, D. Cicchetti & E.M. Cummings (Eds.), Attachment in the Preschool Years (pp. 121–160). Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

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The roots of altruism

Altruism – a theory of conduct that regards the good of others as the end of moral action. The term (French altruisme, derived from Latin alter, “other”) was coined in the 19th century by Auguste Comte.

Altruism in psychology

Altruism refers to behavior that benefits another individual at a cost to oneself. For example, giving your dinner, lunch away is altruistic because it helps someone who is hungry, but at a cost of being hungry yourself. Neurological, cultural, and other kinds of factors may cause some people to be more altruistic than others. So-called ”extreme altruist” they differ from others in the size of their brains’ amygdala and their responsiveness to signs of distress. External influences such as a religious reasons or socio economic status may also play a role.

Christianity And Unbelief

At its inception, the concept of altruism resonated widely in a Victorian culture saturated with moral and religious intensity. Some were attracted to Comtean positivism and its worship of humanity as an eminently respectable form of unbelief, one that combined a commitment to the sciences with a continuing religious sense and with the strong social conscience that the positivist ideology of altruism involved. On the other hand, some who were committed to a Christian view of morality and society saw in Comtean altruism a concept of the love of others that was detached both from an understanding of appropriate self-love and from the necessity of a love of God. (science.com)

“Don’t sacrifice yourself too much, because if you sacrifice too much there’s nothing else you can give and nobody will care for you.”
― Karl Lagerfeld

#children, #copiii, #development, attachment theory

Attachment Theory

Attachment is characterized by specific behaviors in children, such as seeking proximity to the attachment figure when upset or threatened (Bowlby, 1969).

Stages of Attachment

Rudolph Schaffer and Peggy Emerson (1964) investigated if attachment develops through a series of stages, by studying 60 babies at monthly intervals for the first 18 months of life (this is known as a longitudinal study).

The children were all studied in their own home, and a regular pattern was identified in the development of attachment.

The babies were visited monthly for approximately one year, their interactions with their carers were observed, and carers were interviewed.

A diary was kept by the mother to examine the evidence for the development of attachment. Three measures were recorded:

• Stranger Anxiety – response to arrival of a stranger.

• Separation Anxiety – distress level when separated from carer, degree of comfort needed on return.

• Social Referencing – degree that child looks at carer to check how they should respond to something new (secure base).

Bowlby suggested that a child would initially form only one primary attachment (monotropy) and that the attachment figure acted as a secure base for exploring the world.

The attachment relationship acts as a prototype for all future social relationships so disrupting it can have severe consequences.

This theory also suggests that there is a critical period for developing an attachment (about 0 -5 years).

If an attachment has not developed during this period, then the child will suffer from irreversible developmental consequences, such as reduced intelligence and increased aggression.

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