While the mother and infant are together in the room, the infant is generally happy and content. However, as soon as the mother leaves, the infant becomes anxious and distressed.
When the stranger tries to interact with the infant, the infant may cry or cling to the stranger. When the mother returns, the infant may be both happy to see her and angry with her for leaving.
The infant may have difficulty settling down and may appear ambivalent or conflicted.
These behaviors are typical of an anxious-ambivalent attachment style. In the strange situation test, infants with this attachment style tend to be more agitated and clingy than other infants. They may have difficulty exploring their environment because they are worried about being separated from their mother.
Anxious-ambivalent attachment is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is more common in infants who have parents who are emotionally unavailable or insensitive. It is also more common in cultures where separation from caregivers is not socially acceptable.
How Anxious-Ambivalent Attachment Manifests in Adulthood
As people with anxious-ambivalent attachment styles grow up, they may find themselves behaving in ways that seem contradictory. On the one hand, they may be fiercely independent, not wanting to rely on anyone else. On the other hand, they may be clingy and need constant reassurance from others.
Sometimes people in this camp can be hasty with things like moving in with a significant other. For more reading, check out How Soon is Too Soon to Move In With My Significant Other?
This can make it difficult for them to maintain close relationships, as they may push people away even as they yearn for closeness. They may also have difficulty trusting others, feeling that everyone is going to leave them eventually.
If you have an anxious-ambivalent attachment style, you may find yourself struggling with these issues in your adult relationships. However, there are ways to work through these challenges and create lasting, fulfilling connections with others.