Attachment theory is probably one of the most studied when it comes to parenting. This is not surprising. Although attachment focuses on the relationship between the child and their caregiver (usually the mother) in the early years, it also influences later relationships, including romantic ones.
Let's take a look at how you (intentionally or unconsciously) influence your child's response to certain situations and how this relates to attachment style.
Parents have many roles: teaching their children, disciplining them and taking them to the dentist. And whether you realize it or not, you're also affecting them just by being there.
Your presence is about making your child feel loved, safe, and secure. It leads to attachment.
Attachment theory was developed by British psychologist John Bowlby and Canadian-American psychologist Mary Ainsworth in the 1960s and 1970s.
It's about how parents (especially mothers) who are present and responsive to their babies' needs provide them with a secure base from which to confidently set out to explore the big wide world and then come back to feel good.
So you are building a future. And here's why:
- Raising your child to believe you are there for them will make them feel less anxious than children who weren't raised that way.
- This precious sense of trust is built up in infancy, childhood and adolescence. Ugh, you've got a few years to get it right! - and affects future relationships. Note, however, that in
6 Fun, your baby is already beginning to anticipate your reactions to grief. And they are already shaping their own behavior to accommodate those responses.
- By providing your child with positive experiences as a caregiver, you have confidence that others can do the same.
Ainsworth defined three main types of attachment. Later researchers added a kind of four. These are:
- secure attachment
- anxious and insecure attachment
- Avoidant-insecure attachment
- disorganized-unsafe attachment
(Video) Why anxious and avoidant partners are attracted to each other and how to make it work.
Secure attachment is what you are looking for. Occurs when parents or other caregivers:
In secure attachment relationships, parents let their children go but are there when they return for safety and comfort.
These parents pick up their children, play with them and calm them down when necessary. So the child will learn that he can express negative emotions, and someone will help him.
Children who develop secure attachments learn confidence and healthy self-esteem. It looks lucky! As adults, these children are emotionally in touch, competent, and generally have successful relationships.
This type of attachment occurs when parents respond sporadically to their children's needs. Care and protection are sometimes present and sometimes not.
In the anxious and insecure attachment, the child cannot trust that its parents will be there when it is needed. As a result, the child does not develop a sense of security towards the caregiver.
And since the child cannot trust the parent's presence when feeling threatened, it will not easily break away from the parent to explore.
The child becomes more demanding and even clingy, hoping that his excessive anxiety will force the parents to react.
In the anxious-unsafe attachment, the lack of predictability means that the child eventually becomes needy, angry, and suspicious.
Sometimes parents have difficulty accepting and being sensitive to their child's needs. Instead of comforting the child, the parents say:
- downplay your feelings
- reject your demands
- does not help with difficult tasks
This leads to an avoidant-insecure attachment.
Also, the child can be expected to help the parents with their own needs. The child learns that it is better to keep the parents out of the picture. Finally, the father does not respond helpfully.
In the avoidant-unsafe attachment, the child learns that it is best to close off feelings and become independent.
Ainsworth showed that children with insecure-avoidant attachments do not turn to their parents when they are distressed and try to minimize negative emotions.
About 15% of infants in low psychosocial risk groups and up to 82% of infants in high-risk situations develop a disorganized and insecure attachment
In this case, the parents show atypical behavior: they reject, mock and frighten the child.
Parents who exhibit these behaviors often have a past that includes unresolved trauma. Tragically, as the child approaches the parents, they feel fear and heightened anxiety instead of care and protection.
The first three attachment styles are sometimes referred to as "organized." Because the child learns to behave and aligns its strategy accordingly.
However, this fourth attachment style is considered "disorganized" because the child's strategy is disorganized, as is the resulting behavior.
Eventually, the child begins to develop behaviors that help them feel safe. For example, the child may:
- become aggressive towards parents
- refuse parental care
- just stay super self-sufficient
So how do children with different attachment styles react in a given situation?
- In his famous study (The Strange Situation), Ainsworth showed that securely attached children seek validation from their parents (or other significant others) when they feel insecure, and quite easily.
- The boy tells how he feels: "I was shy in the new kindergarten."
- The child shows empathy for others and tries to comfort another child in need.
anxious and insecure attachment
- In The Strange Situation, children with anxious and insecure attachments were not easily comforted when they were distressed and took a long time to calm down.
- The child is reluctant to explore a new playground.
- The child clings and cries exaggeratedly when it is with a new caregiver.
- The child is comfortable with a stranger and does not turn to the parents for comfort.
- The boy is only too happy to get away and explore, and doesn't return to his parents' safe base for a quick hug.
- The child is super self-sufficient and prefers to figure out how to deal with a toy box lid that just won't open.
- The child may run to the parents for comfort when distressed, but at the same time kicks and fights when the parents try to comfort them.
- The child is completely unaware of the presence of the father.
- The child appears dazed or confused when the parent is around.
Childhood attachment styles can affect how adults feel and behave in their relationships. While this puts a tremendous strain on parents' shoulders, it's important to remember that everyone makes their own decisions.
Children who experience secure attachment in childhood often have successful intimate relationships as adults.
They are honest, supportive and like to share their feelings. Secure attachment can prepare the child for other social challenges, which in turn will lead to success.
anxious and insecure attachment
Clingy children can grow into clingy adults.
Adults with anxious and insecure attachments are more likely to become demanding and possessive in relationships and evenCodependency. They constantly question whether they have done too much or too little for the relationship.
Related:8 tips to overcome codependency
Know someone who just doesn't want to commit? Avoidant and insecure attachment adults can avoid relationships, period. They tend to be dismissive and fearful and keep others at a distance.
They also had more limited formal operational skills and self-regulation problems as they got older.
Bowlby believed that the attachment styles you develop in your early years remain relatively unchanged for the rest of your life. This suggests that people respond according to an "if-then" paradigm: "If I'm upset, I can count on my partner to support me (or not)."
Fortunately, neuroscience has shown us that things are not that simple.
We can change the way our brain works. The first step is to recognize that there is a problem and decide that you want to change something. The second is to actually make that change.
(Video) How to Spot a Secure Partner (Secure Attachment Style)
Being a parent means creating a future for your child. Try to be there for them emotionally and physically, and you can foster the secure attachment that leads to the healthiest behaviors later in life.
Don't worry if you don't always get it right. And if you feel like changing your own attachment style, remember that nothing is set in stone.