Attachment theory

Attachment is a close bond between a child and his or her carer. Strong or secure attachments are considered vital to healthy emotional development.

Mary Ainsworth studied differences in the quality of babies' attachments to their mothers. She evaluated babies' behavior in Strange situation:

Based on her observation Ainsworth categorized infants in one of four ways:

Securely Attached:

A child who is securely attached to its mother will explore freely while the mother is present, will engage with strangers, will be visibly upset when the mother departs and happy to see the mother return. However, the child will not engage with a stranger if their mother is not in the room.

Insecure avoidant:
A child with the anxious-avoidant insecure attachment style will avoid or ignore the caregiver - showing little emotion when the caregiver departs or returns. The child may run away from the caregiver when s/he approaches and fail to cling to her/him when picked up. The child will not explore very much regardless of who is there. Strangers will not be treated much differently from the caregiver. There is not much emotional range regardless of who is in the room or if it is empty.

Insecure resistant:
A child with an anxious-resistant attachment style is anxious of exploration and of strangers, even when the mother is present. When the mother departs, the child is extremely distressed. The child will be ambivalent when she returns - seeking to remain close to the mother but resentful, and also resistant when the mother initiates attention. When reunited with the mother, the baby may also hit or push his mother when she approaches and fail to cling to her when she picks him up.

Insecure disorganized:
A child may cry during separation but avoid the mother when she returns or may approach the mother, then freeze or fall to the floor. Some show stereotyped behaviour, rocking to and fro or repeatedly hitting themselves.