Primary Appraisal of the Strange Situation: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Preseparation Episodes

Abraham Sagi, Marinus H. Van Ijzendoorn, Nina Koren-Karie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies in various countries-among them Germany, Holland, Israel, Japan, Sweden, and the United States-have reported Strange Situation distributions that differ markedly across and within cultures, thus raising doubts as to whether infant behavior in the Strange Situation can be regarded as a valid index of the security of attachment, at least in a cross-cultural context. It is proposed here that a fuller understanding of infant behavior in the Strange Situation requires an assessment of what Connell and Goldsmith (1982) have referred to as the infant's primary appraisal of this procedure. A cross-national comparison of data from seven laboratories (N = 498) was carried out in order to determine (a) whether the preseparation episodes made any difference in attachment classifications and (b) whether infant behavior in different countries was indeed the same before separation from the mother. Furthermore, procedural variations have been taken into account. Using multivariate discriminant function techniques, information obtained during preseparation episodes was found to discriminate between attachment classifications. At the same time, however, in a series of multivariate analyses of variance, a relatively small number of cross-cultural differences in preseparation behavior were found. With the exception of the Israeli kibbutz and Swedish infants, our data suggest that infants in different countries make similar primary appraisals of the Strange Situation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-596
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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