Continuous measurement of attachment behavior: A multimodal view of the strange situation procedure

Emily B. Prince, Arridhana Ciptadi, Yudong Tao, Agata Rozga, Katherine B. Martin, Jim Rehg, Daniel S. Messinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Infant attachment is a critical indicator of healthy infant social-emotional functioning, which is typically measured using the gold-standard Strange Situation Procedure (SSP). However, expert-based attachment classifications from the SSP are time-intensive (with respect both to expert training and rating), and do not provide an objective, continuous record of infant behavior. To continuously quantify predictors of key attachment behaviors and dimensions, multimodal movement and audio data were collected during the SSP. Forty-nine 1-year-olds and their mothers participated in the SSP and were tracked in three-dimensional space using five synchronized Kinect sensors; LENA recordings were used to quantify crying duration. Theoretically-informed multimodal measures of attachment-related behavior (e.g., dyadic contact duration, infant velocity of approach toward the mother, and infant crying) were used to predict expert rating scales and dimensional summaries of attachment outcomes. Stepwise regressions identified sets of multimodal objective measures that were significant predictors of eight of nine of the expert ratings of infant attachment behaviors in the SSP's two reunions. These multimodal measures predicted approximately half of the variance in the summary approach/avoidance and resistance/disorganization attachment dimensions. Incorporating all objective measures as predictors regardless of significance levels, predicted individual ratings within an average of one point on the original Likert scales. The results indicate that relatively inexpensive Kinect and LENA sensors can be harnessed to quantify attachment behavior in a key assessment protocol, suggesting the promise of objective measurement to understanding infant-parent interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101565
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Attachment
  • Automated
  • Behavior
  • Interaction
  • Objective measurement
  • Strange Situation Procedure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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