Evaluation of SSP for assessing valuable bonds

 

 

Evaluation of SSP for assessing valuable bonds.

 

Introduction

Mary Ainsworth concocted an experiment which was widely known as the Strange Situation in which she investigated the varying attachment styles in the mother-child pairs. Ainsworth visited around 26 mother-infant (age 12-18 months) pairs.  The strange situation comprised of 8 episodes and the duration of each was around 3 minutes, only the first lasted for 30 seconds. She observed the interaction over these stages which were designed to build a stressful environment and thus were helpful in activating the attachment. Ainsworth et al. recorded the separation of infants and their stranger anxiety along with their willingness for exploring things and the behavior of infants when they were reunited with their caregivers. The kids were then divided into three groups namely, secure, avoidant insecure and finally the resistant insecure. According to Ainsworth et al., the security of attachment of an individual is a basic paradigm in the attachment theory.  
The secured relationship between the infant with their mother proved beneficial for the kids, as they were seen to have more self-confidence, better friend circle, and better adult relationships. Meanwhile, the kids under the category of insecurely attached infants were found to display negative emotions like anger, irritation, etc. They were found to have several behavior problems like messing around with other kids etc. Thus, the study was beneficial for predicting the nature of the kid and proved to be helpful for the overall development of the kids by providing their mothers with an insight to their problems.
The Strange Situation test was found to be beneficial as it was highly controlled because of the repeated use of the same surroundings and the same timings which made the results comparable on the circumstances and cultures and had high internal validity. Similarly the same stranger was used for each child, and mother's behavior was always controlled. Further, the second advantage of this method was its simplicity. It involved easier study, and no equipment was required during the progress of the test which meant that the situation and its study could be replicated as many times as required. 
However, there were several limitations related to the test. It was highly criticized for adopting an artificial environment and had caused distress in the child which affect the result immensely. Thus, the data could not be applied to the outer world and other related studies. Thus, the test had a low external validity. Further, Ainsworth et al. test only mother-infant relationship thus the data and results could not be compared to the other types of the relationship like father-child, child-grandparents, older sibling-infant relationships, etc. Further this study was accomplished using American women and their infants. The attachment is thought to be different for the varying nationalities and regions. Additionally, the un-natural surrounding was no included like hunger, need to pee, etc. (Barry, 2014)
The Strange Situation test has been developed into various spheres and has been used to study a range of attachments. A study by Prato-Previde et al. (2003) and Palmer and Custance (2008) used Strange Situation test for understanding the relationship between dogs and their caregivers. Several other types of research have also been done with the help of Strange Situation. The techniques that were devised by Ainsworth et al. in the Strange Situation Test is now a common tool used in the field of the psychiatry and psychology for examining the pattern of attachment between the mother and her child. (Lamb, 1985)
 The study of dog-owner relationship/attachment was done by Prato-Previde et al. (2003) and Palmer and Custance (2008) who adopted Ainsworth’s Strange Situation Procedure (ASSP).  Their study was strictly based on studying security, proximity and comfort-seeking behavior for the dog by predict the explorations by the dog in presence and absence of the owner and his behavior in the presence of any stranger. Their study was comprised of five episodes similar to the eight episodes of Ainsworth et al.  The behavior in the presence of a dog was studied critically as to if the dog plays with the stranger or goes back to find his owner. The study by Prato Previde et al. (2003) suggested that the results and evidence were similar with the infant's behavior and that the dogs too had become attached to their owners. The results came in two categories namely the mutually exclusive categories’ and ‘Non-mutually exclusive categories’, where the former category was given to the dogs who were not able to sit and engage in social play simultaneously. The later one involved the dogs who were able to engage in vocalizing behavior like barking and tail-wagging at the same time. Further various studies have been done using SSP i.e. the Strange Situation Procedure where Korean families were compared with America families and their attachment pattern were studied.

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Conclusion

The Strange Situation Procedure despite its limitations comes across as a reliable procedure in which we can measure the attachment pattern in infants, animals, etc. There are a plethora of different attachments related to the behavior. Further, a few modifications in the procedures might lead to more and better usability of the test designed to measure attachment between infants and caregiver especially mother and also for dogs and its owners. The procedure can be immensely beneficial for the cognitive and linguistic development of the infant. (Lamb, 1985) The procedure can be used to study the same style of attachment within different people, their pets, etc. More study on the attachment styles of dogs and the owners can be done as it is unlikely that every dog shares the same style of attachment for its owner. Increased knowledge on this subject and the style of attachment can help to shed more light on the factors that influence the success of important relationships that may vary from mother to infant or from dogs to their owners. 

Reference

Lamb, M. (1985). Infant-mother attachment : the origins and developmental significance of individual differences in strange situation behavior.
Barry, R. (2014). Mary Ainsworth's "Strange Situation". [online] getrevising. Available at: https://getrevising.co.uk/grids/mary_ainsworths_strange_situation [Accessed 27 Feb. 2016].

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