Ainsworth Honored on 82nd Birthday

The University of Virginiažs psychology department paid tribute to Mary D. S. Ainsworth, PhD, on her 82nd birthday December 1, 1995, to recognize her pioneering work in child-attachment theories. Dr. Ainsworth was UVA Commonwealth Professor of Psychology from 1974 until she retired in 1984 as Professor Emeritus.

Dr. Ainsworth is best known for her theoretical and empirical contributions to understanding and measuring early emotional relations. Of great importance is Dr. Ainsworth's 'Strange Situation,' a laboratory procedure that she designed to assess the response of an infant, whether alone or in the company of a stranger, to the exit and return of the mother.

Dr. Ainsworth's findings marked a critical shift in perceptions about infancy and child-rearing. Her findings became particularly important during the 1980s when women were increasingly entering the workforce and placing infants in day care. Her research established that infants who receive warm, sensitive care become securely attached and that secure attachment does not create dependency; rather, it liberates and enables autonomy.

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