Are you having your first child? Are you struggling with parenting issues? Attachment Parenting is an Important Way to Give Your Child a Secure Start;
John Bowlby, a British Psychoanalyst, was one of the leading theorists to write about attachment styles. Dr. Bowlby believed that children were born with a biological predisposition to attach to a primary person (McLeod, 2009). Attachment is a profound and persistent emotional bond an infant develops to a caregiver. The powerful connection grows as the helpless infant gets early needs met by the caregiver in an attuned timely manner. Biologically, the early experience of the infant’s attachment experience stimulates the growth of neural pathways that will affect types of attachments through life (Psychology Today, 1991-2017). We would like all our children to live their lives with a secure-attachment.
John Bowlby, and. Mary Ainsworth, a developmental theorist, were two of the leading scholars to write about attachment styles. Their research allowed for the theory recognizing that children are born with a biological predisposition to attach to a primary person as a means of survival. Also, Bowlby and Ainsworth viewed several unique `types of attachment patterns. The attachment style related to the degree the caregiver was attuned to the baby’s communications. The more engaged a caregiver could respond to infants need promptly allowed the child to feel secure and soothing due to the infant’s perception of reliability.
Interpersonal psycho-biological, patterns become evident in the level of engagement a primary caregiver repeatedly responds to the baby’s needs. A linkage in the brain connects the model to the need and the quality of response by the caregiver. This dynamic contributes to an internal working model that develops within the infant. This model becomes ingrained and then is transferred to other meaningful relationships as the infant grows and develops through life (Siegel, 2012).
Categories of Attachment
As attachment theory developed, research revealed several types of attachment patterns. Attachment style developed in infancy is perceived as a baseline of managing and maintaining relationships throughout an individual’s life due to a comfort level resulting from experience (Becker-Weidman, 2009).
The strongest form of attachment is the secure attachment. An infant develops a secure attachment when s/he can rely upon the caregiver dependable to be attuned to and meet specific needs in a timely fashion.
Children who are securely attached can regulate emotion, self-soothe, show empathic connections, as well as separate easily at an appropriate developmental age knowing that the caregiver will return (Siegel, 2012).
In adulthood, those people who have a secure attachment pattern seem to be more content in romantic relationships. They can feel secure and connected which allows them to have separate activities and enjoy their individual pursuits as well as the couple relationship (Firestone, 2013).
In the realm of interpersonal neurobiology, the securely attached adult can develop mindsight. According to Siegel, Mindsight is the ability to know the mind of oneself as well as sense the experience of others. More specifically, having an awareness of individual needs as well as interpersonal attunement. The secure attachment with integrated properties develops within the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is involved in nine functions related to both internal awareness and interpersonal cognizance. The prefrontal cortex responsibilities include body regulation, attuned communication, emotional balance, fear modulation, the flexibility of response, insight, empathy, morality, and intuition (Siegel, 2012).
Caregivers can certainly have their issues of attachment. When caring for an infant if the caregiver is anxious themselves, overprotective or inconsistent meeting the needs of the helpless infant, the child may develop an anxious-ambivalent attachment. The infant cannot rely on the caregiver to consistently meeting primary needs.
Children who develop an Anxious-Resistant Attachment need to remain close to their parent. Due to a caregivers inconsistency inability to respond to the needs of the baby. The infant can become extremely upset if they need to separate from their parent. Unlike the securely attached child, the anxious-resistant attached child has not formed and internalized feeling that their parent will be available when they need them. Therefore, if they are separated from the caregiver, they are unsure that the caregiver will return.
Theoretically, children develop anxious-resistant attachments because their primary caregiver was unpredictably available for the infant. The challenging caregiver was frequently preoccupied. So as the child develops the attachment behavior is anxious, clingy, and demanding for fear their need will remain unmet. (Grinnell, 2016). Many of these infants grow into children and adults who have an anxious sense of themselves. They have not been able to develop a psychobiological manner to internalize a function of self-soothing(Siegel, 2012).
Adults who attach in an Anxious-Preoccupied manner are inclined to feel eager to find a partner. However, these adults tend to create a fantasy of a potential partner imbued with only unusual characteristics. These adults fear to trust a partner to love them or be available to them truly. Many adults with this type of attachment feel empty and repeatedly find partners who they fantasize being rescued and their partner filling empty feelings so they can finally feel satisfied (Firestone, 2016).
The sad part is that consciously these adults are desperate to feel secure in relationships. Early childhood fears and distrust people will be available creates desperate behaviors of needing the other to be consistently present. Often these adults are possessive and demanding which may drive their partner away Firestone (2016).
The Avoidant Attachment
It may seem hard to believe, but children do form avoidant attachments in infancy and early childhood. Parents of children who have developed avoidant attachment are inclined to be unavailable and/or unresponsive to their child’s needs. Some of this parent discourage children from expressing emotion and encourage early autonomy beyond the developmental capacity of the child (Catlett, 2015).
As a survival skill, the child quickly learns to quash their yearnings for parental comfort and help. Some of these kids disconnect from their bodily and emotional needs. They can learn self-soothing behaviors and get the message they need to take care of themselves. Often these children avoid asking anyone for help as well as develop a disconnected sense of self (Siegel, 2012).
Adults who have lived their lives with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style may consciously wish for a close relationship. However, their early experience has taught them that no one will be there for them, When meeting a potential romantic partner, the individual may unconsciously appear distant; they may seem very well put together and independent. However, their fear of attachment and disappointment may contribute to lead lonely lives. When in a relationship their partners may feel unimportant to them (Firestone, 2013).
Siegel explains a final attachment style, the disorganized attachment. The disorganized attachment is a combination of extremely anxious attachment and a tremendous sense of avoidant attachment. The brain receives two opposed messages at the same time (Siegel, 2012).
Muller discusses how inconsistent care and abuse contributes to a child’s dissociation. Dissociation often happens with kids who have coped with early sexual abuse. The brain compartmentalizes the traumatic experience so the child can survive without feelings that are so overwhelming they would be immobilized (Muller, 2014). Siegel, calls this phenomenon the fragmented sense of self and agrees that these children have a sense of dissociation (Siegel, 2012).
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Muller, R. (2014). Fragmented Child: Disorganized Attachment and Dissociation. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/talking-about-trauma/201406/fragmented-child-disorganized-attachment-and-dissociation
Psychology Today. (1991-2017). Attachment. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/attachment
Siegel, D. (2010). About Interpersonal Neurobiology. Retrieved from http://www.drdansiegel.com/about/interpersonal_neurobiology/
Siegel, D. (2012). Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology. New York, N.Y.: W. W. Norton and Company.