For example, the standard laboratory assessment (termed the “strange situation”) relies on brief (e.g., 3 minute) separations from the parent. In cultures in which infants are frequently separated from parents for brief periods, the child's reactions are presumably influenced by expectations, based on previous history, that the parent will return and be helpful. In cultures in which separations rarely occur, it is presumed that these experimentally imposed separations may take on a very different meaning for the infant. Indeed, research on Japanese infants who are rarely separated from parents during their first year initially demonstrated high rates of presumably insecure attachment (Takahashi, 1986, 1990). Later reinterpretations of the results, however, emphasized the vast difference in the strange situation between the Japanese and European-American cultures (van IJzendoorn and Sagi, 1999).
A study of desirable and undesirable attachment behavior among white and Hispanic (Puerto Rican) mothers provides a compelling illustration of these differences (Harwood et al., 1995). The white mothers preferred that toddlers balance autonomy and relatedness (playing at a distance and involving the mother prior to separation and greeting the mother happily during the reunion), and they disliked clinginess (clinging to the mother prior to separation, crying continuously during separation, and being unhappy during the reunion). In contrast, Puerto Rican mothers preferred that toddlers display respectfulness (sitting near the mother and waiting for a signal before playing with the toys prior to separation, waiting quietly for the mother to return during separation), and they disliked highly active or avoidant (ignoring the mother before, during, and after separation) behavior.
This and other cross-cultural evidence on attachment raises significant issues regarding the ways in which parents and young children form expectations about each other and, in turn, behave and react in each other's presence (and in the strange situation). We strongly suspect that, across all cultures, children form attachments and use parents as sources of security and comfort. Even when the relationship is somewhat insecure, children seek comfort and maintain proximity to parents, deriving important emotional support from the caregiver 's presence that other adults cannot provide; however, they do not derive the same developmental benefits that accrue from a secure attachment.
Specific attachment patterns result from an intricate interplay among characteristics of the child, the capacities of the parent, and the broader context of their relationship (see Isabella, 1995; Lamb et al., 1985b; Thompson, 1999a, for reviews). Secure attachments are seen more often in the context of parenting that is dependable and sensitive to the child's intentions and needs, enabling the child to count on the caregiver's future availability and assistance (Ainsworth et al., 1978; Belsky, 1999; De Wolff