Preschool Assessment of Attachment

The Preschool Assessment of Attachment (PAA) is an instrument for assessing patterns of attachment in 18-month to five-year-old children*. The procedure involves a dynamic-maturational expansion of the Ainsworth classificatory method (Crittenden, 1992). Like the Ainsworth Strange Situation for infants, the PAA involves a 20-minute laboratory procedure and takes three people to carry out (plus the child and mother). Classification is based on careful review of the videotape and takes approximately one-half hour per videotape.

Dynamic-Maturational Classifications in the Preschool Years

The classificatory system includes all of the categories of the infant procedure (i.e., A1-2, B1-4, C1-2, A/C), plus several patterns that develop during or after the preoperational shift at the end of the second year of life. Specifically, Ainsworth's three basic strategies for negotiating interpersonal relationships are modified to fit preschoolers' more sophisticated mental skills and organizations of behavior. Thus, the patterns are renamed as secure/balanced (Type B), defended (Type A) and coercive (Type C).

With the addition of several new subpatterns, the PAA sets the stage for the even more complex patterns of behavior that are observed at later ages, especially in the school years. Furthermore, a particular advantage of the expanded classificatory system used in the PAA as compared to other classificatory systems is that it differentiates "unendangered" A1-2 and C1-2 children from those using the compulsive (A+) and obsessive (C+) subpatterns. These patterns, i.e, the compulsive caregiving A3, compulsive compliant A4, aggressive C3 and feigned helpless C4 subpatterns, identify the children most likely to come from troubled homes and most likely to experience psychological, social, developmental, and learning problems. These coercive and defended subpatterns as well as the compulsive/obsessive A/C pattern have implications for emotional and behavioral problems that develop during the preschool and school years.

Attachment at other ages

Courses in Attachment