The attachment bond is the emotional connection formed by wordless communication between an infant and their primary caretaker. This form of communication affects the way your child develops mentally, physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially. Developing a secure attachment bond between you and your child, and giving your child the best start in life, does not require you to be a perfect parent. In fact, the study found that the critical aspect of the child—primary caretaker relationship is NOT based on quality of care, educational input, or even the bond of love that develops between parent and infant.
Rather, it is based on the quality of the nonverbal communication that takes place between you and your child. In fact, developing your nonverbal communication skills can help improve and deepen your relationships with other people of any age. As a parent or primary caretaker for your infant, you can follow all the traditional parenting guidelines, provide doting, around-the-clock care for your baby, and yet still not achieve a secure attachment bond.
You can hold, cuddle, and adore your child without creating the kind of attachment that fosters the best development for your child. How is this possible? Importantly, creating a secure attachment bond differs from creating a bond of love. Children need something more than love and caregiving in order for their brains and nervous systems to develop in the best way possible. Children need to be able to engage in a nonverbal emotional exchange with their primary caretaker in a way that communicates their needs and makes them feel understood, secure, and balanced.
The words bond or bonding are commonly used to describe both caretaking and the emotional exchange that forms the attachment process, even though they are very different ways of connecting with your child. By understanding the developmental milestones related to secure attachment, you can spot symptoms of insecure attachment and take steps to immediately repair them. Obstacles to creating a secure attachment may first appear when your child is an infant.
Since infants cannot calm and soothe themselves, they rely on you to do so for them. Even an older child will look to you, the parent, as a source of safety and connection and, ultimately, secure attachment. The new field of infant mental health, with its emphasis on brain research and the developmental role of parents, provides a clearer understanding of factors that may compromise the secure attachment bond.
If either the primary caretaker or the child has a health problem, nonverbal communication between the two may be affected, which in turn can affect the secure attachment bond. Experience shapes the brain and this is especially true for newborns whose nervous systems are largely undeveloped. Fortunately, as the infant brain is so undeveloped and influenced by experience, a child can overcome any difficulties at birth. It may take a few months, but if the primary caretaker remains calm, focused, understanding, and persistent, a baby will eventually relax enough for the secure attachment process to occur.
Sometimes the circumstances that affect the secure attachment bond are unavoidable, but the child is too young to understand what has happened and why. To a child, it just feels like no one cares and they lose trust in others and the world becomes an unsafe place. If you are overly stressed, depressed, traumatized, or unavailable for whatever reason, you may not have the awareness or sensitivity to provide the positive emotional mirroring your child needs for secure attachment.
Sometimes even a healthy, caring, and responsible caretaker may have trouble understanding and initiating a secure attachment bond with their child. But adults can change for the better, too. Just as you can strengthen yourself with exercise and a healthy diet, you can also learn to manage overwhelming stress and deal with emotions that may interfere with your ability to create a secure attachment bond. Cell phones , computers, TV, and countless other distractions of daily life can prevent you from giving your full attention to your child.
Responding to an urgent email during meal time, texting a friend during play time, or just zoning out in front of the TV with your child are all ways parents miss out on opportunities to make eye contact with their child and engage in the secure attachment process. Because the brain is capable of changing, repair is always possible and may even strengthen the secure attachment bond. The effort involved in repair can even deepen trust, increase resiliency, and build a stronger relationship. The telephone rings or there is breakfast to prepare.
In other words, attuned interactions rupture quite frequently. But the hallmark of a sensitive caregiver is that the ruptures are managed and repaired. Attachments between infants and caregivers form even if this caregiver is not sensitive and responsive in social interactions with them. Infants cannot exit unpredictable or insensitive caregiving relationships. Instead they must manage themselves as best they can in such relationships. Based on her established Strange Situation Protocol , research by developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth in the s and s found children will have different patterns of attachment depending on how they experienced their early caregiving environment.
Early patterns of attachment, in turn, shape — but do not determine — the individual's expectations in later relationships. In the s, the theory was extended to attachment in adults. Attachment applies to adults when adults feel close attachment to their parents, their romantic and platonic partners and their friends. Attachment theory has become the dominant theory used today in the study of infant and toddler behavior and in the fields of infant mental health, treatment of children, and related fields. In attachment theory, attachment means "a biological instinct in which proximity to an attachment figure is sought when the child senses or perceives threat or discomfort.
Attachment behaviour anticipates a response by the attachment figure which will remove threat or discomfort". John Bowlby begins by noting organisms at different levels of the phylogenetic scale regulate instinctive behavior in distinct ways, ranging from primitive reflex-like "fixed action patterns" to complex plan hierarchies with subgoals and strong learning components. In the most complex organisms, instinctive behaviors may be "goal-corrected" with continual on-course adjustments such as a bird of prey adjusting its flight to the movements of the prey.
The concept of cybernetically controlled behavioral systems organized as plan hierarchies Miller, Galanter, and Pribram, thus came to replace Freud's concept of drive and instinct. Such systems regulate behaviors in ways that need not be rigidly innate, but—depending on the organism—can adapt in greater or lesser degrees to changes in environmental circumstances, provided these do not deviate much from the organism's environment of evolutionary adaptedness. Such flexible organisms pay a price, however, because adaptable behavioral systems can more easily be subverted from their optimal path of development.
For humans, Bowlby speculates, the environment of evolutionary adaptedness probably resembles present-day hunter-gatherer societies for the purpose of survival, and, ultimately, genetic replication. Attachment theory is not an exhaustive description of human relationships, nor is it synonymous with love and affection, although these may indicate bonds exist. These figures are arranged hierarchically, with the principal attachment figure at the top. The set-goal of the attachment behavioural system is to maintain the accessibility and availability of the attachment figure.
Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and Other Attachment Issues
Alarm is the term used for activation of the attachment behavioural system caused by fear of danger. Anxiety is the anticipation or fear of being cut off from the attachment figure. If the figure is unavailable or unresponsive, separation distress occurs. In infants, physical separation can cause anxiety and anger, followed by sadness and despair. By age three or four, physical separation is no longer such a threat to the child's bond with the attachment figure.
Threats to security in older children and adults arise from prolonged absence, breakdowns in communication, emotional unavailability, or signs of rejection or abandonment. The attachment behavioural system serves to achieve or maintain proximity to the attachment figure. Pre-attachment behaviours occur in the first six months of life.
During the first phase the first eight weeks , infants smile, babble, and cry to attract the attention of potential caregivers. Although infants of this age learn to discriminate between caregivers, these behaviours are directed at anyone in the vicinity. During the second phase two to six months , the infant discriminates between familiar and unfamiliar adults, becoming more responsive toward the caregiver; following and clinging are added to the range of behaviours. The infant's behaviour toward the caregiver becomes organized on a goal-directed basis to achieve the conditions that make it feel secure.
By the end of the first year, the infant is able to display a range of attachment behaviours designed to maintain proximity. These manifest as protesting the caregiver's departure, greeting the caregiver's return, clinging when frightened, and following when able. With the development of locomotion, the infant begins to use the caregiver or caregivers as a "safe base" from which to explore.
If the caregiver is inaccessible or unresponsive, attachment behaviour is more strongly exhibited. After the second year, as the child begins to see the caregiver as an independent person, a more complex and goal-corrected partnership is formed. For example, whereas babies cry because of pain, two-year-olds cry to summon their caregiver, and if that does not work, cry louder, shout, or follow.
Common attachment behaviours and emotions, displayed in most social primates including humans, are adaptive. The long-term evolution of these species has involved selection for social behaviors that make individual or group survival more likely. The commonly observed attachment behaviour of toddlers staying near familiar people would have had safety advantages in the environment of early adaptation, and has similar advantages today. Bowlby saw the environment of early adaptation as similar to current hunter-gatherer societies. According to Bowlby, proximity-seeking to the attachment figure in the face of threat is the "set-goal" of the attachment behavioural system.
Bowlby's original account of a sensitivity period during which attachments can form of between six months and two to three years has been modified by later researchers. These researchers have shown there is indeed a sensitive period during which attachments will form if possible, but the time frame is broader and the effect less fixed and irreversible than first proposed. With further research, authors discussing attachment theory have come to appreciate social development is affected by later as well as earlier relationships.
Early steps in attachment take place most easily if the infant has one caregiver, or the occasional care of a small number of other people. According to Bowlby, almost from the beginning, many children have more than one figure toward whom they direct attachment behaviour. These figures are not treated alike; there is a strong bias for a child to direct attachment behaviour mainly toward one particular person. Bowlby used the term "monotropy" to describe this bias. Rather, current thinking postulates definite hierarchies of relationships.
Early experiences with caregivers gradually give rise to a system of thoughts, memories, beliefs, expectations, emotions, and behaviours about the self and others. This system, called the "internal working model of social relationships", continues to develop with time and experience.
Internal models regulate, interpret, and predict attachment-related behaviour in the self and the attachment figure. As they develop in line with environmental and developmental changes, they incorporate the capacity to reflect and communicate about past and future attachment relationships. This internal working model continues to develop through adulthood, helping cope with friendships, marriage, and parenthood, all of which involve different behaviours and feelings. The development of attachment is a transactional process.
Specific attachment behaviours begin with predictable, apparently innate, behaviours in infancy. They change with age in ways determined partly by experiences and partly by situational factors. A child's behaviour when reunited with a caregiver is determined not only by how the caregiver has treated the child before, but on the history of effects the child has had on the caregiver. In Western culture child-rearing, there is a focus on single attachment to primarily the mother. This dyadic model is not the only strategy of attachment producing a secure and emotionally adept child.
Having a single, dependably responsive and sensitive caregiver namely the mother does not guarantee the ultimate success of the child. Results from Israeli, Dutch and east African studies show children with multiple caregivers grow up not only feeling secure, but developed "more enhanced capacities to view the world from multiple perspectives. In hunter-gatherer communities, in the past and present, mothers are the primary caregivers but share the maternal responsibility of ensuring the child's survival with a variety of different allomothers.
So while the mother is important, she is not the only opportunity for relational attachment a child can make. Several group members with or without blood relation contribute to the task of bringing up a child, sharing the parenting role and therefore can be sources of multiple attachment. There is evidence of this communal parenting throughout history that "would have significant implications for the evolution of multiple attachment.
And a child's "uncles and aunts" father's siblings and their spouses also contribute to the child's psycho-social enrichment. Although it has been debated for years, and there are small differences amongst cultures, research shows that the three basic aspects of Attachment Theory are universal. The most common and empirically supported method for assessing attachment in infants 11 months—17 months is the Strange Situation Protocol, developed by Mary Ainsworth as a result of her careful in-depth observations of infants with their mothers in Baltimore, USA see below.
While the procedure may be used to supplement clinical impressions, the resulting classifications should not be confused with the psychiatric diagnosis ' Reactive Attachment Disorder RAD '. The clinical concept of RAD differs in a number of fundamental ways from the theory and research driven attachment classifications based on the Strange Situation Procedure.
The idea that insecure attachments are synonymous with RAD is, in fact, not accurate and leads to ambiguity when formally discussing attachment theory as it has evolved in the research literature. This is not to suggest that the concept of RAD is without merit, but rather that the clinical and research conceptualizations of insecure attachment and attachment disorder are not synonymous. The 'Strange Situation' is a laboratory procedure used to assess infants' pattern of attachment to their caregiver by introducing an unexpected threat, two brief separations from the mother followed by reunion.
In the procedure, the mother and infant are placed in an unfamiliar playroom equipped with toys while a researcher films the procedure through a one-way mirror. The procedure consists of eight sequential episodes in which the infant experiences both separation from and reunion with the mother as well as the presence of an unfamiliar person the Stranger. Mainly on the basis of their reunion behaviour although other behaviors are taken into account in the Strange Situation Paradigm Ainsworth et al. There are subclassifications for each group see below. Beginning in , a series of expansions were added to Ainsworth's original patterns.
An infant may have a different pattern of attachment to each parent as well as to alternate caregivers. Pattern of attachment is thus not a part of the infant, but is characteristic of the protective and comforting quality of a specific relationship. These attachment patterns are associated with behavioral patterns and can help further predict a child's future personality. Some insecure children will routinely display very pronounced attachment behaviours, while many secure children find that there is no great need to engage in either intense or frequent shows of attachment behaviour.
A toddler who is securely attached to his or her parent or other familiar caregiver will explore freely while the caregiver is present, typically engages with strangers, is often visibly upset when the caregiver departs, and is generally happy to see the caregiver return. The extent of exploration and of distress are affected, however, by the child's temperamental make-up and by situational factors as well as by attachment status.
A child's attachment is largely influenced by their primary caregiver's sensitivity to their needs. Parents who consistently or almost always respond to their child's needs will create securely attached children. Such children are certain that their parents will be responsive to their needs and communications. In the traditional Ainsworth et al.
B1's have been referred to as "secure-reserved", B2's as "secure-inhibited", B3's as "secure-balanced", and B4's as "secure-reactive". However, in academic publications the classification of infants if subgroups are denoted is typically simply "B1" or "B2", although more theoretical and review-oriented papers surrounding attachment theory may use the above terminology.
Securely attached children are best able to explore when they have the knowledge of a secure base their caregiver to return to in times of need. When assistance is given, this bolsters the sense of security and also, assuming the parent's assistance is helpful, educates the child in how to cope with the same problem in the future.
Bowlby & Ainsworth: What Is Attachment Theory?
Therefore, secure attachment can be seen as the most adaptive attachment style. According to some psychological researchers, a child becomes securely attached when the parent is available and able to meet the needs of the child in a responsive and appropriate manner. At infancy and early childhood, if parents are caring and attentive towards their children, those children will be more prone to secure attachment. Anxious-ambivalent attachment is also misnamed as "resistant attachment". When the caregiver departs, the child is often highly distressed.
The child is generally ambivalent when the caregiver returns. The C1 ambivalent resistant subtype is coded when "resistant behavior is particularly conspicuous. The mixture of seeking and yet resisting contact and interaction has an unmistakably angry quality and indeed an angry tone may characterize behavior in the preseparation episodes".
Perhaps the most conspicuous characteristic of C2 infants is their passivity. Their exploratory behavior is limited throughout the SS and their interactive behaviors are relatively lacking in active initiation. Nevertheless, in the reunion episodes they obviously want proximity to and contact with their mothers, even though they tend to use signalling rather than active approach, and protest against being put down rather than actively resisting release In general the C2 baby is not as conspicuously angry as the C1 baby. Research done by McCarthy and Taylor found that children with abusive childhood experiences were more likely to develop ambivalent attachments.
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The study also found that children with ambivalent attachments were more likely to experience difficulties in maintaining intimate relationships as adults. An infant with an anxious-avoidant pattern of attachment will avoid or ignore the caregiver—showing little emotion when the caregiver departs or returns. The infant will not explore very much regardless of who is there. Infants classified as anxious-avoidant A represented a puzzle in the early s.
They did not exhibit distress on separation, and either ignored the caregiver on their return A1 subtype or showed some tendency to approach together with some tendency to ignore or turn away from the caregiver A2 subtype. Ainsworth and Bell theorized that the apparently unruffled behaviour of the avoidant infants was in fact a mask for distress, a hypothesis later evidenced through studies of the heart-rate of avoidant infants.
If there is a greeting when the mother enters, it tends to be a mere look or a smile Either the baby does not approach his mother upon reunion, or they approach in "abortive" fashions with the baby going past the mother, or it tends to only occur after much coaxing If picked up, the baby shows little or no contact-maintaining behavior; he tends not to cuddle in; he looks away and he may squirm to get down. Ainsworth's narrative records showed that infants avoided the caregiver in the stressful Strange Situation Procedure when they had a history of experiencing rebuff of attachment behaviour.
The infant's needs were frequently not met and the infant had come to believe that communication of emotional needs had no influence on the caregiver. Ainsworth's student Mary Main theorized that avoidant behaviour in the Strange Situation Procedure should be regarded as "a conditional strategy, which paradoxically permits whatever proximity is possible under conditions of maternal rejection" by de-emphasising attachment needs.
Main proposed that avoidance has two functions for an infant whose caregiver is consistently unresponsive to their needs. Firstly, avoidant behaviour allows the infant to maintain a conditional proximity with the caregiver: close enough to maintain protection, but distant enough to avoid rebuff. Secondly, the cognitive processes organising avoidant behaviour could help direct attention away from the unfulfilled desire for closeness with the caregiver—avoiding a situation in which the child is overwhelmed with emotion "disorganized distress" , and therefore unable to maintain control of themselves and achieve even conditional proximity.
Ainsworth herself was the first to find difficulties in fitting all infant behaviour into the three classifications used in her Baltimore study. Ainsworth and colleagues sometimes observed "tense movements such as hunching the shoulders, putting the hands behind the neck and tensely cocking the head, and so on. It was our clear impression that such tension movements signified stress, both because they tended to occur chiefly in the separation episodes and because they tended to be prodromal to crying.
Indeed, our hypothesis is that they occur when a child is attempting to control crying, for they tend to vanish if and when crying breaks through. Crittenden, for example, noted that one abused infant in her doctoral sample was classed as secure B by her undergraduate coders because her strange situation behavior was "without either avoidance or ambivalence, she did show stress-related stereotypic headcocking throughout the strange situation.
This pervasive behavior, however, was the only clue to the extent of her stress". Drawing on records of behaviours discrepant with the A, B and C classifications, a fourth classification was added by Ainsworth's colleague Mary Main. If the behaviour of the infant does not appear to the observer to be coordinated in a smooth way across episodes to achieve either proximity or some relative proximity with the caregiver, then it is considered 'disorganized' as it indicates a disruption or flooding of the attachment system e.
There is rapidly growing interest in disorganized attachment from clinicians and policy-makers as well as researchers. Sroufe et al. Main and Hesse  found most of the mothers of these children had suffered major losses or other trauma shortly before or after the birth of the infant and had reacted by becoming severely depressed. Across different cultures deviations from the Strange Situation Protocol have been observed. A Japanese study in Takahashi studied 60 Japanese mother-infant pairs and compared them with Ainsworth's distributional pattern.
Although the ranges for securely attached and insecurely attached had no significant differences in proportions, the Japanese insecure group consisted of only resistant children, with no children categorized as avoidant. This may be because the Japanese child rearing philosophy stressed close mother infant bonds more so than in Western cultures. In Northern Germany, Grossmann et al. Another study in Israel found there was a high frequency of an ambivalent pattern, which according to Grossman et al.
Techniques have been developed to allow verbal ascertainment of the child's state of mind with respect to attachment. An example is the "stem story", in which a child is given the beginning of a story that raises attachment issues and asked to complete it. For older children, adolescents and adults, semi-structured interviews are used in which the manner of relaying content may be as significant as the content itself.
Main and Cassidy observed that disorganized behavior in infancy can develop into a child using caregiving-controlling or punitive behaviour in order to manage a helpless or dangerously unpredictable caregiver. In these cases, the child's behaviour is organized, but the behaviour is treated by researchers as a form of 'disorganization' D since the hierarchy in the family is no longer organized according to parenting authority.
What is secure attachment?
Patricia McKinsey Crittenden has elaborated classifications of further forms of avoidant and ambivalent attachment behaviour. These include the caregiving and punitive behaviours also identified by Main and Cassidy termed A3 and C3 respectively , but also other patterns such as compulsive compliance with the wishes of a threatening parent A4. Crittenden's ideas developed from Bowlby's proposal that "given certain adverse circumstances during childhood, the selective exclusion of information of certain sorts may be adaptive. Yet, when during adolescence and adulthood the situation changes, the persistent exclusion of the same forms of information may become maladaptive".
Crittenden proposed that the basic components of human experience of danger are two kinds of information: . Crittenden terms this "affective information". In childhood this information would include emotions provoked by the unexplained absence of an attachment figure. Where an infant is faced with insensitive or rejecting parenting, one strategy for maintaining the availability of their attachment figure is to try to exclude from consciousness or from expressed behaviour any emotional information that might result in rejection.
Causal or other sequentially ordered knowledge about the potential for safety or danger.
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In childhood this would include knowledge regarding the behaviours that indicate an attachment figure's availability as a secure haven. If knowledge regarding the behaviours that indicate an attachment figure's availability as a secure haven is subject to segregation, then the infant can try to keep the attention of their caregiver through clingy or aggressive behaviour, or alternating combinations of the two.
Such behaviour may increase the availability of an attachment figure who otherwise displays inconsistent or misleading responses to the infant's attachment behaviours, suggesting the unreliability of protection and safety. Type C was hypothesized to be based on heightening perception of threat to increase the disposition to respond.
By contrast, type B strategies effectively utilise both kinds of information without much distortion. This may lead their attachment figure to get a clearer grasp on their needs and the appropriate response to their attachment behaviours. Experiencing more reliable and predictable information about the availability of their attachment figure, the toddler then no longer needs to use coercive behaviours with the goal of maintaining their caregiver's availability and can develop a secure attachment to their caregiver since they trust that their needs and communications will be heeded.
Research based on data from longitudinal studies, such as the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and the Minnesota Study of Risk and Adaption from Birth to Adulthood, and from cross-sectional studies, consistently shows associations between early attachment classifications and peer relationships as to both quantity and quality.
There is an extensive body of research demonstrating a significant association between attachment organizations and children's functioning across multiple domains. Although the link is not fully established by research and there are other influences besides attachment, secure infants are more likely to become socially competent than their insecure peers. Relationships formed with peers influence the acquisition of social skills, intellectual development and the formation of social identity.
Classification of children's peer status popular, neglected or rejected has been found to predict subsequent adjustment. Their social and behavioural problems increase or decline with deterioration or improvement in parenting. However, an early secure attachment appears to have a lasting protective function. Studies have suggested that infants with a high-risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders ASD may express attachment security differently from infants with a low-risk for ASD. Some authors have questioned the idea that a taxonomy of categories representing a qualitative difference in attachment relationships can be developed.
Examination of data from 1, month-olds showed that variation in attachment patterns was continuous rather than grouped. However, it has relatively little relevance for attachment theory itself, which "neither requires nor predicts discrete patterns of attachment. There is some evidence that gender differences in attachment patterns of adaptive significance begin to emerge in middle childhood.
Insecure attachment and early psychosocial stress indicate the presence of environmental risk for example poverty, mental illness, instability, minority status, violence. Environmental risk can cause insecure attachment, while also favouring the development of strategies for earlier reproduction. Adrenarche is proposed as the endocrine mechanism underlying the reorganization of insecure attachment in middle childhood. Childhood and adolescence allows the development of an internal working model useful for forming attachments.
This internal working model is related to the individual's state of mind which develops with respect to attachment generally and explores how attachment functions in relationship dynamics based on childhood and adolescent experience. The organization of an internal working model is generally seen as leading to more stable attachments in those who develop such a model, rather than those who rely more on the individual's state of mind alone in forming new attachments.
Age, cognitive growth, and continued social experience advance the development and complexity of the internal working model. Attachment-related behaviours lose some characteristics typical of the infant-toddler period and take on age-related tendencies. The preschool period involves the use of negotiation and bargaining. Ideally, these social skills become incorporated into the internal working model to be used with other children and later with adult peers. As children move into the school years at about six years old, most develop a goal-corrected partnership with parents, in which each partner is willing to compromise in order to maintain a gratifying relationship.
Generally, a child is content with longer separations, provided contact—or the possibility of physically reuniting, if needed—is available. Attachment behaviours such as clinging and following decline and self-reliance increases. By middle childhood ages 7—11 , there may be a shift toward mutual coregulation of secure-base contact in which caregiver and child negotiate methods of maintaining communication and supervision as the child moves toward a greater degree of independence. The attachment system used by adolescents is seen as a "safety regulating system" whose main function is to promote physical and psychological safety.
There are 2 different events that can trigger the attachment system. Those triggers include, the presence of a potential danger or stress, internal and external, and a threat of accessibility and or availability of an attachment figure. The ultimate goal of the attachment system is security, so during a time of danger or inaccessibility the behavioral system accepts felt security in the context of the availability of protection.
By adolescence we are able to find security through a variety of things, such as food, exercise, and social media. Higher levels of maturity allows adolescent teens to more capably interact with their environment on their own because the environment is perceived as less threatening.
Adolescents teens will also see an increase in cognitive, emotional and behavioral maturity that dictates whether or not teens are less likely to experience conditions that activate their need for an attachment figure. For example, when teenagers get sick and stay home from school, surely they want their parents to be home so they can take care of them, but they are also able to stay home by themselves without experiencing serious amounts of distress. Here are the attachment style differences during adolescence.
Insecure adolescents identify more strongly with their peers than their parents as their primary attachment figures.
Their friends are seen as a significantly strong source of attachment support. Dismissing adolescents rate their parents as a less significant source of attachment support and would consider themselves as their primary attachment figure. Preoccupied adolescents would rate their parents a their primary source of attachment support and would consider themselves as a much less significant source of attachment support. Attachment theory was extended to adult romantic relationships in the late s by Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver.
Four styles of attachment have been identified in adults: secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant and fearful-avoidant. Securely attached adults tend to have positive views of themselves, their partners and their relationships. They feel comfortable with intimacy and independence, balancing the two. Feeling secure has to do with a person's perception of control, feelings of competence, and a belief that they possess the ability to meet the challenges that they will face in the future.
With adults, attachments in general, are more cumulative and much more multifaceted than earlier attachments. There are more exchanges of support within someone's inner circle relationships or secure relationships, such as respect, confiding, reassurance, sick care, talking about one's health, and talking about things that could worry or upset them. These types of exchanges provide adults with a secure base that they are able to depend on a daily basis. Anxious-preoccupied adults seek high levels of intimacy, approval and responsiveness from partners, becoming overly dependent.
They tend to be less trusting, have less positive views about themselves and their partners, and may exhibit high levels of emotional expressiveness, worry and impulsiveness in their relationships. The anxiety that adults feel prevent the establishment of satisfactory defense exclusion. Thus, it is possible that individuals that have been anxiously attached to their attachment figure or figures have not been able to develop sufficient defenses against separation anxiety.
Because of their lack of preparation these individuals will then overreact to the anticipation of separation or the actual separation from their attachment figure. Their thought and actions can lead to a painful cycle of self-fulfilling prophecies and even self-sabotage. They often seek a dismissive-avoidant partner. Dismissive-avoidant adults desire a high level of independence, often appearing to avoid attachment altogether. They view themselves as self-sufficient, invulnerable to attachment feelings and not needing close relationships.
They tend to suppress their feelings, dealing with conflict by distancing themselves from partners of whom they often have a poor opinion. Adults lack the interest of forming close relationships and maintaining emotional closeness with the people around them. They have a great amount of distrust in others but at the same time possess a positive model of self, they would prefer to invest in their own ego skills. Because of their distrust they cannot be convinced that other people have the ability to deliver emotional support.
They try to create high levels of self-esteem by investing disproportionately in their abilities or accomplishments. These adults maintain their positive views of self, based on their personal achievements and competence rather than searching for and feeling acceptance from others. These adults will explicitly reject or minimize the importance of emotional attachment and passively avoid relationships when they feel as though they are becoming too close. They strive for self-reliance and independence. When it comes to the opinions of others about themselves, they are very indifferent and are relatively hesitant to positive feedback from their peers.
Dismissive avoidance can also be explained as the result of defensive deactivation of the attachment system to avoid potential rejection, or genuine disregard for interpersonal closeness. Fearful-avoidant adults have mixed feelings about close relationships, both desiring and feeling uncomfortable with emotional closeness. They tend to mistrust their partners and view themselves as unworthy.
Like dismissive-avoidant adults, fearful-avoidant adults tend to seek less intimacy, suppressing their feelings. Sexually, securely attached individuals are less likely to be involved in one-night stands or sexual activity outside of the primary relationship, and more likely to report mutual initiation and enjoyment of sex. Dismissive-avoidant individuals tend to report activities reflecting low psychological intimacy one-night sex, extra-dyadic sex, sex without love , as well as less enjoyment of physical contact.
Research has demonstrated that for both sexes, insecure-ambivalent attachment was related to enjoyment of holding and caressing, but not of more clearly sexual behaviors. Relationally, insecure individuals tend to be partnered with insecure individuals, and secure individuals with secure individuals. Insecure relationships tend to be enduring but less emotionally satisfying compared to the relationship s of two securely attached individuals.
Attachment styles are activated from the first date onwards and impact relationship dynamics and how a relationship ends. Secure attachment has been shown to allow for better conflict resolution in a relationship and for one's ability to exit an unsatisfying relationship compared to other attachment types. Secure individuals authentic high self-esteem and positive view of others allows for this as they are confident that they will find another relationship.
Secure attachment has also shown to allow for the successful processing of relational losses e. Two main aspects of adult attachment have been studied. The organization and stability of the mental working models that underlie the attachment styles is explored by social psychologists interested in romantic attachment.
The organization of mental working models is more stable while the individual's state of mind with respect to attachment fluctuates more. Some authors have suggested that adults do not hold a single set of working models. Instead, on one level they have a set of rules and assumptions about attachment relationships in general. On another level they hold information about specific relationships or relationship events. Information at different levels need not be consistent. Individuals can therefore hold different internal working models for different relationships.
There are a number of different measures of adult attachment, the most common being self-report questionnaires and coded interviews based on the Adult Attachment Interview. The various measures were developed primarily as research tools, for different purposes and addressing different domains, for example romantic relationships, platonic relationships, parental relationships or peer relationships. Some classify an adult's state of mind with respect to attachment and attachment patterns by reference to childhood experiences, while others assess relationship behaviours and security regarding parents and peers.
The early thinking of the object relations school of psychoanalysis , particularly Melanie Klein , influenced Bowlby. However, he profoundly disagreed with the prevalent psychoanalytic belief that infants' responses relate to their internal fantasy life rather than real-life events. As Bowlby formulated his concepts, he was influenced by case studies on disturbed and delinquent children, such as those of William Goldfarb published in and He and Bowlby collaborated in making the documentary film A Two-Year Old Goes to the Hospital which was instrumental in a campaign to alter hospital restrictions on visits by parents.
In his monograph for the World Health Organization , Maternal Care and Mental Health , Bowlby put forward the hypothesis that "the infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his mother in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment", the lack of which may have significant and irreversible mental health consequences. This was also published as Child Care and the Growth of Love for public consumption.
The central proposition was influential but highly controversial. Over time, orphanages were abandoned in favour of foster care or family-style homes in most developed countries. Following the publication of Maternal Care and Mental Health , Bowlby sought new understanding from the fields of evolutionary biology, ethology, developmental psychology , cognitive science and control systems theory.
He formulated the innovative proposition that mechanisms underlying an infant's emotional tie to the caregiver s emerged as a result of evolutionary pressure. He set out to develop a theory of motivation and behaviour control built on science rather than Freud's psychic energy model. Bowlby argued that with attachment theory he had made good the "deficiencies of the data and the lack of theory to link alleged cause and effect" of Maternal Care and Mental Health.
Bowlby's attention was first drawn to ethology when he read Konrad Lorenz 's publication [ clarification needed ] in draft form although Lorenz had published earlier work. After recognition comes a tendency to follow. Certain types of learning are possible, respective to each applicable type of learning, only within a limited age range known as a critical period. Bowlby's concepts included the idea that attachment involved learning from experience during a limited age period, influenced by adult behaviour.
He did not apply the imprinting concept in its entirety to human attachment. However, he considered that attachment behaviour was best explained as instinctive, combined with the effect of experience, stressing the readiness the child brings to social interactions. Psychoanalytic concepts influenced Bowlby's view of attachment, in particular, the observations by Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham of young children separated from familiar caregivers during World War II. He called this the " cupboard-love " theory of relationships.
In his view it failed to see attachment as a psychological bond in its own right rather than an instinct derived from feeding or sexuality. Bowlby instead posited that several lines of development were possible, the outcome of which depended on the interaction between the organism and the environment.
In attachment this would mean that although a developing child has a propensity to form attachments, the nature of those attachments depends on the environment to which the child is exposed. From early in the development of attachment theory there was criticism of the theory's lack of congruence with various branches of psychoanalysis.
Bowlby's decisions left him open to criticism from well-established thinkers working on similar problems. The philosopher Kenneth Craik had noted the ability of thought to predict events. He stressed the survival value of natural selection for this ability. A key component of attachment theory is the attachment behavior system. Bowlby applied Craik's ideas to attachment, when other psychologists were applying these concepts to adult perception and cognition.
Infants absorb all sorts of complex social-emotional information from the social interactions that they observe. They notice the helpful and hindering behaviors of one person to another. From these observations they develop expectations of how two characters should behave, known as a "secure base script. Theoretically, secure child and adult script, would allow for an attachment situation where one person successfully utilizes another as a secure base from which to explore and as a safe haven in times of distress.
In contrast, insecure individuals would create attachment situations with more complications. Childhood attachment has a direct impact on our adult relationships. A parent 's internal working model that is operative in the attachment relationship with her infant can be accessed by examining the parent's mental representations.
In the s, problems with viewing attachment as a trait stable characteristic of an individual rather than as a type of behaviour with organising functions and outcomes, led some authors to the conclusion that attachment behaviours were best understood in terms of their functions in the child's life. Selection of the secure pattern is found in the majority of children across cultures studied.
This follows logically from the fact that attachment theory provides for infants to adapt to changes in the environment, selecting optimal behavioural strategies.
Disorganized Attachment: How Disorganized Attachments Form & How They Can Be Healed
Securely attached Gusii infants anticipate and seek this contact. There are also differences in the distribution of insecure patterns based on cultural differences in child-rearing practices. The biggest challenge to the notion of the universality of attachment theory came from studies conducted in Japan where the concept of amae plays a prominent role in describing family relationships. Arguments revolved around the appropriateness of the use of the Strange Situation procedure where amae is practiced.
Ultimately research tended to confirm the universality hypothesis of attachment theory.
Building a Secure Attachment Bond with Your Baby
Critics in the s such as J. Harris , Steven Pinker and Jerome Kagan were generally concerned with the concept of infant determinism nature versus nurture , stressing the effects of later experience on personality. Kagan argued that heredity was far more important than the transient developmental effects of early environment. For example, a child with an inherently difficult temperament would not elicit sensitive behavioural responses from a caregiver. The debate spawned considerable research and analysis of data from the growing number of longitudinal studies.
Subsequent research has not borne out Kagan's argument, possibly suggesting that it is the caregiver's behaviours that form the child's attachment style, although how this style is expressed may differ with the child's temperament. Rudolph Schaffer concluded that parents and peers had different functions, fulfilling distinctive roles in children's development.
Mentalization, or theory of mind, is the capacity of human beings to guess with some accuracy what thoughts, emotions and intentions lie behind behaviours as subtle as facial expression. Object relations models which emphasise the autonomous need for a relationship have become dominant and are linked to a growing recognition in psychoanalysis of the importance of infant development in the context of relationships and internalized representations.
Psychoanalysis has recognized the formative nature of a child's early environment including the issue of childhood trauma. A psychoanalytically based exploration of the attachment system and an accompanying clinical approach has emerged together with a recognition of the need for measurement of outcomes of interventions. One focus of attachment research has been the difficulties of children whose attachment history was poor, including those with extensive non-parental child care experiences. Concern with the effects of child care was intense during the so-called "day care wars" of the lateth century, during which some authors stressed the deleterious effects of day care.
Although only high-quality child care settings are likely to provide this, more infants in child care receive attachment-friendly care than in the past. The English and Romanian Adoptees Study Team, led by Michael Rutter , followed some of the children into their teens, attempting to unravel the effects of poor attachment, adoption, new relationships, physical problems and medical issues associated with their early lives.