Ainsworth, Mary D. Salter

Alternative names
Birth 1913-12-01
Death 1999-03-21

Biographical notes:

Mary D. Salter Ainsworth was born December 1, 1913 in Glendale, OH. Her family later moved to Canada. At the age of 16, Ainsworth entered the University of Toronto. She earned a BA in 1935 and a PhD in 1939. She went on to teach at the University of Toronto until 1942. During WWII, Ainsworth was part of the Canadian Women's Army Corp.

After her marriage in 1950, she moved to England where she studied mother-child relationships at the Tavistock Clinic with John Bowlby. In 1954, she moved to Uganda for 1 year to research the mother-child dyad within that social context. In 1955, Ainsworth took a position at Johns Hopkins University. In 1975, Ainsworth moved to the University of Virginia, retiring in 1984, but continued to lecture, research, and publish.

Ainsworth is best-known as the developer of attachment theory. She also developed a well-known methodology to study attachment: the Strange Situation, in which an infant is observed in free play with the mother present and absent.

Ainsworth received many honors during her long career, which include the American Psychological Association's G. Stanley Hall Award (1984); its Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (1989); and the Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Achievements (1998).

Ainsworth died on March 21, 1999.

From the guide to the Mary Ainsworth papers, 1956-1983, (Center for the History of Psychology)


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  • Psychology
  • Imprinting (Psychology)
  • Psychologists
  • Child development
  • Developmental psychology
  • Infant psychology--Longitudinal studies
  • Child psychology
  • History of psychology
  • Psychologists--United States
  • Infant Behavior
  • Psychological tests
  • Maternal deprivation
  • Mother and child--Longitudinal studies
  • Security (Psychology) in children


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  • Maryland--Baltimore (as recorded)