Attachment

Psychotherapy for children and families is a wonderful resource and opportunity to create healthy attachment patterns, increase connections within families and gain support for parenting and the wellbeing of children and families.  Please connect with Rachel for more information or to schedule a session.

Attachment is the bond and connection established between an infant and caregiver during the first few years of life.  Although attachment was once considered to be a process that began once an infant is born, cutting-edge research finds that the nine months before birth are significant opportunities for parents to begin healthy bonding with their baby in the womb.

Attachment is a primal need and is an instinctual part of being human.  Babies naturally seek out safety from their caregiver and caregivers naturally protect and nurture their children, therefore attachment is an on-going process that children and their caregivers create together.  Healthy attachment is formed through the nurturing nature, eye contact, touch and engaging facial expressions of the caregiver, as well as the caregiver’s ability to meet the child’s needs for shelter, clothing, food and water.

Attachment effects brain development, personality development and the ability to form relationships with others (Psychology Today).  It involves psychological, social, neurological, physical, cognitive and emotional components that influence the baby’s development, relationships, and beliefs about self and the world.

In their book, Attachment, Trauma and Healing, Terry M. Levy and Michael Orlans discuss some of the main functions of secure attachment, which involve closeness with a caregiver that provides the child with safety, protection and love.  Below are several important functions of secure attachment for babies and children that Levy and Orlans discuss in their book:

 

  • To learn basic trust that serves as a model for future emotional relationships.
  • To openly explore the environment with feelings of safety, protection and security.
  • To develop the ability to regulate emotions.
  • To develop a sense of self-worth while balancing dependence and independence.
  • To generate a system of core beliefs.
  • To provide resilience against stress and trauma.

If the attachment process is disrupted, the child’s secure base for future healthy relationships may not be developed.  Sudden and traumatic separation or loss of a parent during the first two years of life puts children at risk for further attachment problems (attach.org).  Attachment disorders can be triggered by physical and emotional abuse, abandonment, trauma during birth, neglect, divorce or family transitions (such as moving often as a child), mental health issues in caregivers (especially maternal depression) and separation from biological parents.

Below are some signs and symptoms of children with attachment problems or disorders taken from attach.org (Website of Association for Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children):

  • Lack of eye contact
  • Poor peer relationships
  • Poor impulse control
  • Stealing
  • Abnormal speech patterns
  • Abnormal eating patterns
  • Chronic lying
  • Learning delays or disabilities
  • Inappropriately clingy
  • Superficial engagement

 

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