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This article supports the idea that young children's development is enhanced
or damaged by the degree of
(attachment) they achieve with their main caregiver - usually their
biological mother. This implies that mothers who
when they were very young may be
unable to bond with their
young kids. That predisposes their young ones to major personal and social
problems throughout their life.
See my comments after this article. The links and hilights below
are mine. - Peter Gerlach, MSW,
+ + +
The quality of love a mother gives during her child’s first years of life
has a tremendous and long-term impact on that youngster. A life that could
be described as emotionally healthy, happy, harmonious, constructive, and
productive depends on the quality of maternal love received at an early age.
This is a fact well known by psychologists. Unfortunately, however, many
parents remain unaware of the importance of maternal love for the very young
child. Nor are they aware of the problems that can result during childhood
and adolescence if an infant does not form a proper early attachment.
look at what attachment theory (Ainsworth 1978; Bowlby 1969) tells us about
the importance of early relationships for the development of an individual’s
basic sense of security in life. By attachment, we mean the
relationship formed between the infant and the primary caregiver. A primary
caregiver is the person, usually the mother, with whom the infant most
frequently interacts. Through bonding with this caregiver, a child develops
expectations about the extent to which he or she can acquire and maintain
secure relationships, as well as beliefs about others’ trustworthiness in
relationship between an infant and its mother can lead to two possible
outcomes: secure attachment or insecure attachment. In other words, the
experience can be positive or negative. Let’s look first at the positive
Development of Secure Attachment
develops a secure attachment when its mother sensitively and appropriately
meets the child’s needs. From an infant’s perspective, sensitive and
appropriate mean the mother observes and understands its needs. Sensitive
and appropriate also mean the mother responds in ways that please and
satisfy her child. A mother who fosters her child’s secure attachment meets
all needs soon after the child begins to show distress or cries. The
mother’s behavior is always tender and affectionate.
attachment is also created when the mother holds or cuddles her infant and
toddler in ways that are comforting. The mother reflects the infant’s
behaviors and responds in ways the child enjoys. For example, when the baby
smiles, the mother smiles at the infant. The infant shows pleasure and
interest in the mother’s smile.
who fosters secure attachment is in tune with her child. An ongoing,
interactive harmony develops as the mother learns to understand, interpret,
and then appropriately react to the child’s behavior. She successfully
communicates to her youngster that the child’s behavior is respected,
interesting, and significant to her.
For example, when an infant babbles,
makes sounds or syllables, or begins to talk, the mother notices these new
verbal abilities and responds in ways that lets the toddler feel valued. The
acquisition of speech is greatly facilitated when a mother holds, smiles at,
and talks to her infant (Bus & van Ijzendoorn, 1988).
toddlers love to explore and play. Mothers who wish to foster security in a
young child provide toys and activities in which the child expresses
interest. Because infants, toddlers, and preschoolers enjoy making choices,
parents who want their child to feel secure provide opportunities to make
choices throughout the day.
These mothers also allow the amount of playtime
the youngster wants. Without interrupting, they allow the child to focus on
an activity the child finds interesting, and do not distract the child until
he or she becomes bored with that activity.
desirous of having their child form a secure bond with them also evaluate
their own childrearing behaviors. They do this by paying attention to the
child’s reactions to them. If at any point the child becomes distressed or
acts out or displays insecure behavior, the mother does not blame the child.
Rather, the mother looks to her own behavior and adjusts it to provide
greater security and unconditional love.
childrearing behaviors described here allow an infant or toddler to feel
secure. These behaviors also build a foundation of social harmony between
child and mother. The child enjoys being with the mother, and the mother
enjoys being with the child. The way an infant reacts to the mother reveals
whether the child feels his or her needs have been met in ways that are
pleasing. Contrary to popular belief, this kind of parenting will not spoil
a child. In fact, spoiled, dependent, misbehaving, and demanding children
are created when parents consistently violate these childrearing practices.
Development of Insecure Attachment
maternal love is not consistently forthcoming, an infant develops an
insecure attachment. In this case, the bonding with its primary caregiver is
incomplete and unsatisfactory. For example, when the infant cries or shows
distress or expresses a need, the mother does not respond, or only responds
after a significant delay.
The mother may act in loud, abrupt, or
exaggerated ways that scare the youngster and cause insecurity. The mother
does not spend time holding and cuddling her infant or child. She does not
regularly play with, talk to, or exchange smiles with the child. Instead,
the mother may attempt to impose her own interests on the child, such as by
providing toys and activities of her own choosing.
In general, none of the
intimate behaviors that occur during secure bonding happen, or these
behaviors happen so infrequently that they are not noticed by the child.
As a result,
the child becomes frustrated because his or her needs are not being met
responsively. The child begins to expect that this will happen whenever a
need arises. Thus, the child fails to develop trust in adults and in himself
or herself. In short, the child becomes insecure rather than secure.
undesirable outcomes can occur when a child forms an insecure attachment.
Youngsters who experience insecure attachments at home also form insecure
attachments with their preschool, kindergarten, and first-grade teachers.
These teachers often have difficulty building a relationship with these
young students because these children harbor negative views of adults. The
children are not trusting of their teachers and may act out in class. In
turn, it is difficult therefore for teachers to learn about these children’s
needs and to respond to them in a manner that helps them learn and adjust (Bowlby
Effects of Secure and Insecure Attachment
The type of
emotional attachment established during the first four or five years usually
lasts a lifetime. The pattern of early attachment significantly influences
the quality of love relationship an individual will have as a teenager,
adult, and even as a parent with his or her own children. Let’s summarize
what research has concluded about the effects of secure and insecure
experienced a secure attachment at one year are better able to explore on
their own than are insecure infants (Waters, Whippman, & Sroufe, 1979).
Secure toddlers are more independent than are their insecure peers, and as a
result, more curious and interested in exploring the world around them.
Secure infants and toddlers develop a sense of agency; that is, the sense
that “I am a person” and “I can do.”
Insecure infants and toddlers are far
less curious, and are far more inhibited and withdrawn (Kagan, 1981; Suess,
Grossman, & Sroufe, 1992). As a result, secure children are better able than
are insecure children to master the environment using their senses. They are
also better able to perform related motor actions than are insecure infants
and toddlers (Matas, Arend, & Sroufe, 1978).
studies have concluded a positive relationship exists between the
development of secure attachment in the early years of life and later social
competence (e.g., Coleman, 2003; Lieberman, Doyle, & Markiewicz, 1999).
Preschool children who are secure demonstrate better social skills and
school adjustment than do their insecure peers (Sroufe, Carlson, & Schulman,
1993). Elementary school children who are secure are significantly more
accepted by their peers and have more friendships and are less lonely than
are less secure children (Kerns, Klepac, & Cole, 1996).
security a child feels throughout his or her early years has been associated
with that youngster’s later ability to pay attention, focus, and learn in
school. Children with secure attachment histories earn higher grades and are
more goal oriented and cooperative than are students with insecure
attachment histories (Crittenden, 1992; Jacobsen & Hofmann, 1997).
children are more likely to struggle academically than are secure children
(Wong, Wiest, & Cusick, 2002). Secure children successfully bond with their
teacher, view their teacher favorably, have the confidence to succeed, and
use the teacher as a secure base from which to engage in academic tasks and
challenges (O’Conner & McCartney, 2006).
Children who have experienced
secure bonding later have high self-esteem and are confident in their
ability to excel academically. These children prefer to be challenged in
class and are more motivated to learn for the sake of learning than are
their insecure counterparts.
attachment theory, the most essential task of the first years of life is the
creation of a child’s secure bond to the mother. Many studies have
demonstrated this by examining the interactions of mother and child and by
contrasting the long-term behavioral outcomes of securely and insecurely
More recently, research has shown that the type of
attachment formed during infancy affects right brain development (Schore
2002). In fact, this biologic foundation can last a lifetime.
References: see the
original article in The
Attached Family, July 2012, the online journal of Attachment Parenting
+ + +
The well-research idea of the vital importance of mother-infant bonding
(attachment) has profound social implications. Most societies do not require
parents to demonstrate they're qualified to conceive and raise
children. Restated: global societies ignore whether mothers are able to bond
with their infants or not, This promotes a wide range of social
Psychologically-wounded mothers are unable to self-evaluate their conception
and parenting decisions because of their ignorance (lack of knowledge) and
denial. This guarantees an expanding invisible subculture of
in every society.
in this free self-improvement Web site provides a way to
- inherited psychological
including an inability to bond. Lesson 6 provides a practical framework for
Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
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