Strange situation behavior in eighteen-month-old infants : description and implications of normative trends

Hansen, Janet René Macomber, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Abidin, Richard, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This was a descriptive study of the normative behavior of 18-month-old infants in Ainsworth's strange situation. The main purpose was to provide normative data for 18-month-olds and compare this information with Ainsworth's original study of 12- month-olds (Ainsworth et al., 1978). The major hypothesis was that the strange situation would elicit attachment behavior and secure base behavior in a similar way as has been observed with 12-month-olds. However, differences in the overt expression of attachment were expected; given important developmental changes between 12 and 18 months. The data consisted of 73 mother-infant dyads from three research projects who were videotaped in the strange situation. Measures consisted of 1) coding overt behaviors in the separation and reunion episodes of the strange situation using a 5-second time sampling method, and 2) rating infant behavior during reunions on Ainsworth's 7-point rating scales. Interceder reliability was satisfactory. Descriptive analyses revealed a similar pattern of strange situation behavior at 18 months as has been found at 12 months. The separations elicited distress, search, and signal behavior, while the reunions elicited proximity and contact seeking, interaction, and exploration. The sequence of secure base behavior was displayed at 18 months. Differences in the overt expression of attachment at 18 months compared with 12 months were found. During separations, more 18-month-olds displayed active search and fewer 18-month-olds displayed signal crying. 4 During reunions, more 18-month-olds displayed greetings and approach to mothers, but more 18-month-olds displayed what appeared to be "avoidant" behavior such as walking, turning, or looking away from mother. Rather than true avoidance, this seemed to reflect a more distal yet efficient move from satisfying the need for felt security to using mother as a secure base from which to explore. Thus, there is support that the organizational construct of attachment remains coherent from 12 to 18 months, while the overt expression of the construct undergoes certain developmental changes. This study provided an important database from which future investigations concerning developmental change and strange situation behavior can be conducted.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Page(s) not included in the original manuscript are unavailable from the author or the University. P.2, 99, & 162-163.

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