The studies by the Harlows showed that young monkeys preferred the warm mother that provided a secure base to the cold mother that provided food.
The Harlows’ studies confirmed that babies have social as well as physical needs. Both monkeys and human babies need a securebasethat allows them to feel safe. From this base, they can gain the confidence they need to venture out and explore their worlds. Erikson (Table 6.1) was in agreement on the importance of a secure base, arguing that the most important goal of infancy was the development of a basic sense of trust in one’s caregivers.
Developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth, a student of John Bowlby, was interested in studying the development of attachment in infants. Ainsworth created a laboratory test that measured an infant’s attachment to his or her parent. The test is called the strange situation because it is conducted in a context that is unfamiliar to the child and therefore likely to heighten the child’s need for his or her parent (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978). 1 During the procedure, which lasts about 20 minutes, the parent and the infant are first left alone, while the infant explores the r oom full of toys. Then a strange adult enters the room and talks for a minute to the parent, after which the parent leaves the room. The stranger stays with the infant for a few minutes, and then the parent again enters and the stranger leaves the room. During the entire session, a video camera records the child’s behaviors, which are later coded by trained coders.