|The importance of attachment||| Print ||
|What Children Need to Grow and Thrive|
What is attachment?
Attachment is an ongoing relationship between a parent (or other caregiver) and child that begins in infancy and continues throughout the child’s developmental stages.
It develops from a parent’s “sensitive care”, by which we mean the ability of the parent to empathize with the baby and pick up on the baby’s signals about what it needs and wants. Having a trusted caregiver who consistently provides care, affection and support to the child in infancy and early childhood is important for a child to reach his or her full potential.
Why is attachment important?
Children need to have a sense of security in all aspects of their lives so that they can grow up to be healthy and productive adults.
An infant or toddler is considered “securely attached” if, as they mature and move through their normal developmental stages, they can use their mother or other consistent caregiver as a secure base from which to explore their environment. The securely attached baby or toddler trusts that care will be given to them, their needs will be met consistently, they will be helped to learn self regulation, and they will be encouraged to learn and explore their environment. Because they feel safe and secure, they have the confidence and sense of competence they need to try new things and to learn.
Insecure attachment can develop if the primary caregiver, usually the mother, does not consistently respond to the infant in warm, affectionate, loving, dependable, and sensitive ways. Babies who are frequently left to cry by themselves, or who are not offered comfort and care, learn not to trust other people and to be fearful of the world around them. They can go on to develop a mental representation of the world as hostile or uncaring. They may believe that they cannot make a difference in their own life, which can lead to a kind of pessimism and sense of helplessness that significantly reduces their ability to achieve in life.
What does insecure attachment behaviour look like?
Resistant attachment refers to a pattern of behaviour between infant and caregiver that is ambivalent. The baby will become anxious and distressed when separated from the caregiver, but will become angry even as they are asking for comfort.
Avoidant attachment is characterized by the infant's active avoidance of the caregiver when upset. Babies with this disorder tend not to show a preference for their own mother and may be more affectionate with strangers.
Disorganized attachment is characterized by confused or contradictory attachment behavior. The infant may show a blank stare when held by their caregiver or unexpectedly start to cry or look dazed after being held.
What affects a parent’s ability to provide “sensitive care”?
Many social factors that negatively influence child development, such as multiple house moves, may be due to insufficient income, but can also be due to parental substance abuse, parental mental illness, and lack of affordable housing. Multiple environmental factors influence how children are raised and it is at the levels of the community and government social policy that major changes need to be made.
What are the long-term effects of insecure attachment?
Infants with insecure attachment status are at risk of developing social, emotional or behavioural problems in childhood or later in life.
Children who live in poverty and are unsure whether they will have a place to live or enough food to eat can experience chronic anxiety that interferes with their ability to learn, and their attachment to school or community. Teenagers who have not developed secure attachment behaviours are more prone to depression or anxiety and more likely to get involved with drug abuse, antisocial behaviour/aggression, or engage in risky sexual activities. 
Secure attachment in infancy has lifelong consequences for a person’s ability to engage in relationships with others, to maintain commitments to school or work, and to raise healthy, happy children of their own. Although insecure attachment in early childhood can set the stage for further risk factors, its consequences can be overcome by later positive attachments.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 February 2009 13:17|