Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications

By Jude Cassidy; Phillip R. Shaver | Go to book overview
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The Measurement of Attachment
Security in Infancy and Childhood



In this chapter we examine the methods of assessing attachment security in infancy and early childhood, at both the level of behavior and the level of representation. Our first goal is to provide the reader with an overview and summary of available measures, including new or lesserknown measures, along with information about their psychometric properties and the ways in which they have been used in research. Our second goal is to evaluate the current state of measurement in the field of attachment. How well do the available instruments and protocols actually reflect the construct of attachment security? How useful are these measures for testing core predictions in attachment theory?

This chapter can be used in several ways. Some readers, especially those new to research in this area, can use this chapter as a source of information to help select measures appropriate to their research. For readers who are familiar with childhood attachment assessment and well grounded in attachment theory, this may be their first opportunity to examine all of the measures together. This kind of overview is important for understanding the development of the field and providing a sense of new directions and opportunities for theory and research.


“Attachment security” is defined by Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, and Wall (1978) as the state of being secure or untroubled about the availability of the attachment figure. As a construct, security can never be directly observed, but must be inferred from that which is observable. Furthermore, a construct is “evidenced in a variety of forms of behavior and not perfectly so in any one of them” (Nunnally, 1978, p. 84). How, then, do we determine whether a particular measure of attachment security is a “good” or valid measure of this construct?1

In practice, psychologists typically follow a three-step process. First, they operationalize the construct, either intuitively or with respect to theory or prior research. Second, they establish the basic reliability of the measure, asking themselves, “Can it be replicated over time [shortterm stability of scores or categories], and, to the extent that the measure is tester-derived and thus requires some judgment, can scores, codes, and so forth, be agreed upon?” Finally, they evaluate how well the measure predicts (in the broadest sense) other theoretically important variables


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Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications
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