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Remembering Women in Psychology

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Written by Kristi Rolf

Two years ago, I took a psychology class that first ignited my passion for the topic. In this intro-level class, I learned about scientists whose ideas and research founded the field of psychology. Every psychology student is taught about the work of men like Wundt, Freud, Watson, and Skinner, but I quickly noticed that few female psychologists are esteemed as highly as these men. In honor of women’s history month, I am sharing the work of one of my favorite female psychologists: Mary Ainsworth. 

Ainsworth was a developmental psychologist who studied young children and their relationships to caregivers in the twentieth century. This topic is known as attachment theory, and it explores how a child’s behavior and temperament are affected by their caregivers. Ainsworth developed a procedure to observe and classify children’s attachment which she called the Strange Situation. By using this procedure, Ainsworth identified four attachment styles in children. This research was crucial to the field of developmental psychology.

As a woman in academia, Ainsworth faced discrimination in the workplace. Despite these obstacles, she established a reputation as a respected scientist.  Her research on attachment has informed parenting practices for decades and inspires psychological research to this day. I’m grateful to women like Mary Ainsworth for paving the way for generations of female psychology students like myself and am inspired by her career as I pursue my education.