Mary Ainsworth (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
American psychologist specializing in the study of infant attachment.
Mary D. Satler Ainsworth graduated from the University of Toronto in 1935 and earned her Ph.D. in psychology from that same institution in 1939. She is best known for her landmark work in assessing the security of infant attachment and linking attachment security to aspects of maternal care giving.
Ainsworth began her career teaching at the University of Toronto before joining the Canadian Women's Army Corp in 1942 during World War II. After a brief period of post-war government service as the superintendent of Women's Rehabilitation in the Canadian Department of Veteran's Affairs, Ainsworth returned to Toronto to teach personality psychology and conduct research in the assessment of security. She married Leonard Ainsworth in 1950. Since he was a graduate student in the same department in which she held a faculty appointment, the couple decided to move to London where he could finish his degree at University College.
In England Mary Ainsworth began work at the Tavistock Clinic on a research project investigating the effects of early maternal separation on children's personality development. The project director, John Bowlby, had studied children's reactions to separations during the war...
(The entire section is 832 words.)
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Ainsworth, Mary D. Salter (Psychologists and Their Theories)
CANADIAN DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGIST
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO, Ph.D., 1939
If John Bowlby was the father of attachment theory, Mary Ainsworth could certainly be considered its mother. Together the two started a rich field of study that has changed the face of developmental psychology and profoundly influenced theories of parenting.
In brief, attachment theory is based on the concept that all infants have a fundamental need to develop a close relationship, or attachment, to their mother (or primary caregiver). They initiate attempts at attachment through attachment behaviors such as smiling at, hugging, and moving toward their caregiver. If the mother or caregiver answers consistently and appropriately with sensitive and responsive behavior such as comforting, holding, hugging, and stroking, the attachment bond is strengthened and secure. When responses are inconsistent, insensitive, or inappropriate, an insecure attachment is formed.
Although it was Ainsworth's London colleague John Bowlby who first theorized that there was something beyond the mother-infant bond than a fulfillment of basic physical needs (i.e., food and shelter), Ainsworth provided attachment theory with both the empirical data and the psychological scales and methods for validating Bowlby's hypotheses. She also...
(The entire section is 9069 words.)