Mary Ainsworth


“In hatred as in love, we grow like the thing we brood upon. What we loathe, we graft into our very soul.”
~Mary Ainsworth

March is Women’s History Month. In honor of celebrating women, it is important to highlight their achievements, and contributions to society. The world of academia has been heavily influenced by men, yet women have played a tremendous role in the research of psychological theories. One such significant woman in the area of psychological development is Mary Ainsworth. This American-Canadian developmental psychologist made monumental contributions to the theory of attachment.
In 1950, she married. Life brought her to London and she joined the research team of John Bowlby at the Tavistock Clinic. Primarily studying the effects of maternal separation of child development, many of her studies are the cornerstone of attachment theory. She then traveled to Africa in 1954 and carried out a longitudinal field study of mother-infant interactions. Not only did Ms. Ainsworth gain a greater understanding of attachment, but she also developed a cultural appreciation. A result of her studies in Africa, she authored the book Infancy in Uganda. Her literary contribution is a classic study in the development of attachment and demonstrates that the process reflects specific universal characteristics that translate culturally.
In 1958, life brought her back to the United States and she gained a permanent position as associate professor of developmental psychology at The Johns Hopkins University. Her professional relationship with attachment theorist John Bowlby grew. Ms. Ainsworth’s most celebrated work, The Strange Situation Procedures, developed during this time. This study was a way of assessing individual’s differences in attachment behavior by evoking one’s reactions when encountering stress between infant and caregiver. The results of this study concluded with the development of 3 classifications of attachment: anxious-avoidant-insecure attachment, secure attachment, and anxious-resistant-insecure attachment. This work was a major contribution to her collaborative work with John Bowlby in the development of attachment theory.
Mary Ainsworth, a female pioneer of developmental psychology contributed with her in- depth research of child and caregiver relationships. Her major works in this field also include: Child Care and the Growth of Love, Infancy in Uganda, and Patterns of Attachment.

Thank you, Ms. Ainsworth!


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