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Attachment theory was a concept developed by the British psychiatrist and psychotherapist John Bowlby, who worked in a Child Guidance Clinic in the 1930s. During his time in this career, he treated many emotionally troubled children.
His experiences here caused him to consider the social, emotional, and cognitive development of a young child’s bond with his or her mother. And so, attachment theory was born and is a field of study that is very much discussed and implemented to this day.
It’s believed that attachment is vital as a survival instinct. A baby will be attached to their parents for survival because, without them, they wouldn’t be able to exist. Since it’s an instinct, attachment theory is all about describing the “long-term psychological bond between people.”
Over time, it’s been defined that there are at least three key functions that are served by a secure attachment. These are:
It’s vital to remember that attachment type is a relationship-level description, not an individual’s. It is, as Bowlby called it, a long-term psychological bond between people.
So, since attachment is only assigned to one relationship, why is it so important?
Newborns are “unfinished” when they are born.
At birth, children’s brains are 75% underdeveloped. This means as their brains continue to develop, the relationships they have will play a critical role in the direction their development takes.
Our children’s early attachment style has a significant and long-term impact on how they view and interact with others, as well as providing them with a blueprint for what to expect (and accept) from future relationships.
“Caregivers’ sensitivity, or how well we connect and relate to our kids, how precisely we understand our child’s needs, how fast we respond to those needs, and most significantly, how ready we are to align with our children, has the largest impact on the quality of the attachment bond,” explains Sarah Harrison, a marketing writer at Essay Writing Services.
We, as parents, have the biggest influence on developing a strong bond during the first three years of life when brain development is most rapid and pliable.
Let’s take a closer look at the four attachment styles that children have in order to better understand their effects on long-term mental wellness.
This attachment style is pretty much the bread and butter of attachment styles and the one you’re aiming to achieve.
It’s achieved when children are securely connected and believe that their caregiver will consistently co-regulate their emotions, notice and meet their needs, and provide a safe home base for them to explore their surroundings while returning to them in times of need.
Mothers that are emotionally connected to their children are sensitive, warm, and available. When a baby is securely linked to their caregiver, they are usually distressed when they are removed from them and delighted when they are reunited.
Babies in insecure-avoidant attachment relationships may appear indifferent to their caregiver, act unconcerned when she leaves, and exhibit the same behaviours with strangers.
When the infant is reunited with her mother, she may try to avoid her. When their parents depart, insecurely connected babies are just as physiologically distressed (i.e., elevated heart rates), according to one study, but they have learnt to suppress their emotions in order to stay near to the parent without risking rejection.
Avoidance and emotional distance may become a way of dealing with the world for these children as they get older, and instead of problem-solving, they are more inclined to sulk or retreat.
Attachment is a requirement. Our children will move their attachment requirements to others, such as friends, who are likely incapable attachment figures if we do not fill it. As Gordon Neufeld puts it, it can lead to a peer-oriented approach rather than a parent-oriented approach, which can lead to a slew of problems.
So, if your child is being labelled as clinging, shy, or needy, rest assured that others are only misinterpreting healthy child development, and let’s fix that. Let us put our faith in our children’s need for a secure parent-child relationship, and you can perhaps even secure your own attachment styles and heal your past in the process.
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