The Strange Situation Test and measures of attachment

The ‘Strange situation test’ is a test used in observing attachment in children <18 months old.  It is an observational exercise to see how both the child and primary caregiver reacts to abandonment and responses.

It lasts around half an hour and comprises 8 ‘situations’:

  1. Mother/primary caregiver + Baby + Experimenter (30 secs)
  2. Mother + Baby (3 mins)
  3. Mother + Baby + Stranger (3 mins)
  4. Baby + Stranger (3 mins)
  5. Mother + Baby (3 mins)
  6. Baby (3 mins or less)
  7. Baby + Stranger (3 mins or less)
  8. Mother + Baby (3 mins)

Childhood measures of attachment

Usually this is done by semi-structured interviews if over 5 or, alternatively, using the ‘Attachment Q sort’ to observe children under 5 in a number of situations to assess attachment.

Adult measures of attachment

The ‘adult attachment interview’ is a semi-structured questionnaire designed to elicit a subject’s recollections about relationships with parents and other attachment figures during childhood.  The interviewer asks about childhood experiences with parents, significant separations and losses during childhood, and the current state of the child-parent relationship.  Scoring the interview is based on:

  • Description of childhood experiences
  • the language used to do so
  • the ability to give an integrated, coherent, believable account of experiences and their meaning
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