The Insecure/Ambivalent Pattern of Attachment: Theory and Research


  • Preparation of this article was supported by National Institute of Mental Health grant MH46572-02, and by a Research Initiation grant from The Pennsylvania State University, both to the first author. The authors are grateful to Mary D. Ainsworth, Jay Belsky, Thomas D. Borkovec, Roger Kobak, Lynn S. Liben, Mary Main, Robert S. Marvin, and three anonymous reviewers, all of whom provided helpful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.

Address correspondence to Jude Cassidy, Department of Psychology, 514 Moore Building, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802.


Relatively little has been written about one group of infants identified with Ainsworth's “Strange Situation” assessment of infant-parent attachment, those classified insecure/ambivalent. Although virtually all samples contain some insecure/ambivalent infants, these infants are uncommon, comprising 7%–15% of most American samples. Recently developed assessments of attachment in children and adults have identified attachment groups of older individuals thought to parallel the insecure/ambivalent infant group. Empirical work in which insecure/ambivalent individuals are examined as a separate group is reviewed within the context of attachment theory, and a coherent picture emerges of the antecedents (relatively low or inconsistent maternal availability; biological vulnerability) and sequelae (limited exploratory competence) of this group. This picture is used as the basis for additional theoretical proposals, and suggestions for future research are presented.