4.4 Social Interaction in Early Childhood: What do you understand from the term “patterns of attachment”?

4.4 Explain the attachment patterns established by Mary Ainsworth

Patterns of Attachment

Mary Ainsworth  (1963) came up with three main patterns of attachment. Later, another researcher, Mary Main established a fourth pattern. The styles of attachment are based on children’s understanding of their caregivers’ reliability as sources of security. The four attachment styles are as follows:

Image result for Mary Ainsworth
Psychologist Mary Ainsworth

i) Secure Attachment

The babies in this category view their attachment figures as reliable. The babies cry or protest when the mother leaves and greet her with pleasure on her return. Such babies use the mother as a secure base from which they explore the environment. A baby in this category may go out and occasionally come back to the mother for reassurance. These securely attached babies are cooperative and are not likely to show bitterness.


ii) Avoidance Attachment

These babies seem not to care whether or not their caregivers are present or absent. Babies in this category, show minimal, if any distress when their mother leaves. They also   avoid her when she returns. These babies explore the environment without seeking for security from the mother. In addition, the babies show bitterness and do not reach out for help in time of need. A baby in this category may resist being held.


This attachment pattern is associated with lack of adequate emotional support from the attachment figure. The child learns to work out her or his way though with bitterness.


iii) Ambivalent/Resistant Attachment

The babies have an exaggerated expression of attachment need. They fear that the mother may leave even when there are no signs of leaving. Such babies become very upset when the mother goes out. On her return, the babies seek contact with the mother, but at the same time show resistance. They often get into tantrums. Such babies are difficult to comfort and hardly engage in exploration.


The style is associated with parents’ inconsistency in providing emotional care. This makes the baby keep on doubting what to expect thus creating habitual anxiety.


iv) Disorganized – disoriented Attachment

This category was identified by Mary Main. Babies in this category are inconsistent in their attachment behaviour.  That is they lack organized patterns of arousal. They display behaviours such greeting the caregiver with happiness when she returns but show no more interest in her. When in distress they approach the caregiver with strange postures.

Such babies seem confused and are timid or fearful.


This is the most insecure pattern of attachment. It is associated with bitter experiences such as maltreatment or severe loss.



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