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The "Strange Situation"

The "strange situation" is a laboratory procedure used to assess infant attachment style. The procedure consists of the following eight episodes (Connell & Goldsmith, 1982; Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978).

  1. Parent and infant are introduced to the experimental room.
  2. Parent and infant are alone. Parent does not participate while infant explores.
  3. Stranger enters, converses with parent, then approaches infant. Parent leaves inconspicuously.
  4. First separation episode: Stranger's behavior is geared to that of infant.
  5. First reunion episode: Parent greets and comforts infant, then leaves again.
  6. Second separation episode: Infant is alone.
  7. Continuation of second separation episode: Stranger enters and gears behavior to that of infant.
  8. Second reunion episode: Parent enters, greets infant, and picks up infant; stranger leaves inconspicuously.
The infant's behavior upon the parent's return is the basis for classifying the infant into one of three attachment categories.


Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum.

Connell, J. P., & Goldsmith, H. H. (1982). A structural modeling approach to the study of attachment and strange situation behaviors. In R. N. Emde & R. J. Harmon (Eds.), The development of attachment and affiliative systems (pp. 213-243). New York: Plenum.

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