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Secure and insecure attachment

The video explores Mary Ainsworth's "strange situation" experiment, which studies infant attachment styles. It reveals two main types: secure and insecure attachment. Parenting style, especially mother's responsiveness, influences these styles. Interestingly, these early attachment styles can impact our adult relationships and even our own parenting. Created by Brooke Miller.

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  • blobby green style avatar for user Oliver Oliwa Newell
    You mentioned there is a correlation between the types and of attachment and parenting, but how do we know these aren't just genetic differences? How can we sort out which of the characteristics, both in child and parent behavior, are caused by genetics and which are caused by parenting or other environmental influences?
    (22 votes)
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    • female robot grace style avatar for user Inger Hohler
      That's a very good question! Yes, twin studies have been tried, and, moreover, observing babies shortly after birth when they have had little time to react to the caregiver has given some important clues about other factors than the caregiver. The video seems to indicate that attachment styles is almost all down to the caregiver. Not everyone would agree with that. For instance, it is not possible to conclude which came first: the child's former reaction reaction may have caused a change in the parenting behaviour. We are all geared to respond less if there is little reciprocality.

      This reviewed article is in full text and also mentions heritable traits and twin studies. http://www.capmh.com/content/3/1/25
      "Several studies have found that newborn behavioural measures are related to later secure and insecure attachment classifications [66-70]. These studies are particularly interesting because neonatal measures reflect minimal social experience."

      It is likely that parental care styles do affect attachment significantly, but concluding that if a child does not have a secure attachment does not mean that the caregiver is worse than average at caring for her/his child. In fact, the caregiver can be doing all the right things, and the child still show insecure relationships, or the opposite can be true. Genetic factors and traumatic experiences outside the caregiver's control may cause insecure relationships too. Just think of a child that is hospitalized, and who for various causes cannot be attended by a parent. Or parents who for some reason must let others care for their child for a length of time. Perhaps the parent are hospitalized for a few days: young children may avoid their parents after being cared for by someone else for just a few days, even if their attachment style was regarded as secure before the separation, and afterwards it may take some time to regain the confidence. Adopted children often need their adoptive parents to be around and supportive much more that another child of that age to form a secure relationship with the new parents, even when they were well loved and cared for both before and after their adoption.
      (6 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Kiley Schlortt
    How would a child who had a secure attachment with one parent, and an insecure attachment with the other develop? Would they be somewhere in-between the two categories later in life, or would they tend to gravitate to one or the other?
    (5 votes)
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    • leaf green style avatar for user Nikki
      This is an interesting thought. I personally think it would be hard to decide. An child's bond with their mother is usually very different from the bond it has with its father. It would also be interesting to look at what kind of attachment the children in this particular study had with their fathers and compare categories to see if there were similarities/differences and how these facts affect the results.
      (2 votes)
  • male robot donald style avatar for user MikeR8898
    Could an individual develop insecure attachment during adolescence due to bad experiences with relationships and family members? My behavior is similar to the behavior of someone insecurely attached, but the situations that seemed to have most affected me were in adolescence and during my 20's.
    (4 votes)
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  • male robot johnny style avatar for user chg90
    Are there any well-known studies on insecure attachment patterns (particularly anxious-ambivalent attachment) and development of pathological traits such as Borderline Personality Disorder? Interested to know. Thanks!
    (2 votes)
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  • purple pi teal style avatar for user alessandrotaliapsy
    There seems to be a mistake in the video. Mary Ainsworth never used the term "attachment style", but "attachment patterns."

    The term "Attachment style" is used, at least by researchers in the field, to refer to different adult tendencies to seek proximity to their romantic partners,as studies with self-report questionnaires by social and personality psychologists.
    (1 vote)
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  • mr pink red style avatar for user junczhang17
    no one's family is perfect. we just have to learn to deal with problems as they come up.
    (0 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Elissa Janelle
    So much labeling in this video its hard to keep up!
    (0 votes)
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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] Really young babies are happy to be passed around to just about everyone, however, something changes around eight months, and stranger anxiety starts to set in. When this happens, not only is the child uncomfortable around strangers, but even around other people that they've met before. So, you wind up with these awkward situtations where the baby doesn't want to be held by grandma. While this is how most babies react, not all children react the same way. Some definitely seem to have a strong bond with their caregiver, and some kids don't display stranger anxiety at all. In order to study this behavior and to learn why some children might deviate from the normal pattern, Mary Ainsworth created what she refereed to us as the strange situation. Here's how it would work. A mother pictured here in orange, and a child pictured here in yellow, would enter a room in a place that they hadn't been before, in this case a psychology lab. In the room was a stranger, who was actually part of the experiment, and they're pictured here in blue. For the first part of the experiment, the mother would just sit in a chair, and let their child explore the room. As you note here, that I'm saying mother and not parent or caregiver, because mother-child interactions are what the research has primarily focused on. This isn't to say that a child can't form a strong bond with another parent or with a different caregiver, but here we're just going to be talking about mother-child relationships. So, we have a mother, and we have a stranger, and both of them are sitting in the room with the (childs), but neither is interacting with the (childs). At some point during the experiment, the mother would get up and leave room, and she would try to do this without calling too much attention to herself. So, she wouldn't walk over to her child and say goodbye, instead she would simply get up quietly and leave. So, the baby is left alone with a stranger. After a certain amount of time, the mother returns to the room. So, we end the experiment exactly as we started it, with both the mother and the stranger in the room with the child. Okay, so, that's kind of a weird situation. What exactly were the researchers looking for when they set this up? Well, for the first part of the experiment, they wanted to see whether or not the child would explore the space while the mother was present. So, would they get up and walk and play with all the toys, or would they more reserved and cling to the mother? The second thing that they're looking at is how the child responds when the mother leaves. Does the child start crying when they realize that the mother is gone, or do they keep on playing? Lastly, they were looking at how the child reacted to the mother after the mother returned to the room. So, were they happy about her return, were they sad upon here return, or did they just ignore her all together? After looking at the data, researches found that they could split children into two main groups. Those with a secure attachment, and those with an insecure attachment. A majority of kids, about 60 percent of them, demonstrated what was referred to as a secure attachment. This meant a couple of different things. First of all, the child felt comfortable to explore the room. Maybe, they stayed next to their mother for the first couple of minutes that they were in the room, but eventually the child felt comfortable enough to move around and explore. There we times while the child was playing that they might look to the mother, and they might walk back to them. In general, these children felt comfortable to explore the room on their own. When the parent left, it was a different story. The children became really upset. They became really distressed when they noticed her absence. However, that distress tended to go away once the mother returned. When she returned, the children would typically go to her. They really wanted contact with her. Insecurely attached children showed some different behaviors. When these children were first brought into the room, they tended to cling to their mother just like the securely attached children did. However, unlike the securely attached children, the insecurely attached children tended to stay with their mother. They tended not to explore the room, and just like the securely attached children, when the mother left the children became really upset. However, unlike the securely attached children, that distress didn't really end once the mother returned. They were upset when she went away, but they weren't soothed by her presence. Other insecurely attached children, even showed avoiding to behaviors. Meaning that they weren't actually upset when the mother left the room, and they were kind of indifferent to her when she returned. So, now that we know these two different styles of attachment exists, the next questions is why. What might be responsible for these differences? What might cause some infants to be securely attached, while other infants are insecurely attached? So, when researches started to look deeper into why kids develop different kinds of attachment, they found that parenting style had a lot to do with it. Mothers who were sensitive and responsive to their infants, tended to have children who exhibited a secure attachment. Mothers who came across as insensitive or unresponsive to their children's needs, tended to form insecure attachments. Which, I'll represent here by putting a lot of space between the mother and the child. That's not to say that the parents of insecurely attached children we behaving in any way that would be considered to be really inappropriate. There really isn't any child abuse or serious neglect going on here. These mothers would attend to their children much like their securely attached peers, but they tended to ignore them at other times. This is something that you can probably see for yourself, if you go out and observe some parent-child interactions. One thing you could look for is how often is the parent looking at their phone, when their child is trying to get their attention. It's not to say that checking your phone is bad or will damage your children in some way. The only questions here seems to be, how long were they checking their phone for? Did they continue to look at it, even as their child is trying to their attention? Another question that you might have is whether or not any of this actually matters? Does it really make that much of a difference whether or not a child is upset, when a mother enters or leaves a room? Do this really have any long-term effects on a person after childhood? Interestingly enough, the answer seems to be yes. Some research seems to indicate that a early attachment style forms the basis of our adult relationships later in life. Specifically, as it relates to our comfort with affection in intimacy. So, individuals who are securely attached as children, tend to be securely attached in their adult relationships as well. They feel secure in their partners love, and they fell that they can trust them. They really gain a lot of comfort and security from that. Individuals who are insecurely attached as children, tend to be insecure and anxious about their relationships when they're adults. They might try to avoid being too attached to any one person. Even more interesting than this, is the fact that our attachment style as infants, seems to effect the relationships that we have with our own children. So, individuals who had a secure attachment with their parents, tend to have a secure attachment with their kids as well. Individuals who had an insecure attachment with their parents, tend to also have children who are insecurely attached. Take a moment to think about the implications of this, because this research seems to indicate, that how comfortable we feel with our parents in our first year of life, continues to effect us all the way through adulthood.