Change and Separation Strange Situation
Strange situation • Mary Ainsworth Conducted experiments with children on the effect of separation from a parent. • The Infant Strange Situation is an instrument for assessing quality of attachment in 11-17-month-old infants • She found that when children are with their parent they feel able to explore the environment with them. But when the parent left this stopped. • When their mother left it caused the child anxiety and stress.
Strange situation- Experiments • 1) The mother and baby are taken into a room supplied with toys. • 2.) the baby plays with the toys and explores while the mother watches • 3.) After a few minutes and unfamiliar person enters the room and talks to the mother. • 4.) The stranger moves close to the baby and after 1 minute the mother leaves the room. • 5) The baby is left with the stranger. • 6.) After a few minutes the mother returns to the room
Results of the experiments • The reaction of the child when they enter the room is to stay close to their mother at first, sometimes physically touching her. • Later the child moves away but looks back from time to time checking her mother is still there. • When the stranger enters the room the child tends to rush back to their mother and it takes time before the child will play with the stranger. • If the mother leaves the room most children tend to stop playing and cry. What is the main function of crying? The main function of crying is to bring someone usually the caregiver into close proxmity.
Effect of separation • Mary Ainsworth divided children’s reaction into 3 types of attachment. Depending upon whether they have secure attachments with the parent. • Children with insecure-avoidant attachment styles may not react when their mother leaves the room or when she comes back. Perhaps this is because they have learned that the mother will not return. It could be a sign of poor parenting. Parent unable to offer stability.
Children with insecure-ambivalent attachment styles are unable to disengage from the mother. While most children may whimper or cry when their mother leaves the room, they will begin to settle and play. When the mother returns, they may also begin to scream and rage with anger, rather than want comfort from their mother or they may alter between wanting their mother and then pushing her away when she attempts to comfort them.
Secure children will represent a balance between over-involvement with the environment or with the mother. They might explore the environment, but as the strange situation proceeds, their balance of behaviour will increasingly tip towards proximity-seeking and contact-maintaining behaviour. They will use the mother as secure base, or a reference point, from which to explore the world, going off to play for a bit, and then coming back to reunite with the mother, only to go off and play once again.
The following video shows an example of the strange situation experiment.
Attachment theory helps us to shape the way we work with children. What important things have we learnt about attachment. • Children need to form secure attachments with their caregiver if their development is not to be hindered in the future. • Children need a secure base from which to explore the world around them. • Children can feel insecure with strangers and will become distressed.
Separation from parents is difficult for children how can we as child care professionals help ensure this separation is as smooth as possible. • Examine the role of the key worker in child care settings. • Using your knowledge of attachment what does the key worker need to do to help a child in a new strange situation.