Child attachment theories

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Key People:
John Bowlby Mary Salter Ainsworth
Related Topics:
emotion infant and toddler development egocentrism secure attachment insecure attachment

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attachment theory, in developmental psychology, the theory that humans are born with a need to form a close emotional bond with a caregiver and that such a bond will develop during the first six months of a child’s life if the caregiver is appropriately responsive. Developed by the British psychologist John Bowlby, the theory focused on the experience, expression, and regulation of emotions at both species (normative) and individual (person-specific) levels of analysis.

Bowlby believed that the attachment system, as he and others called it, served two primary functions: to protect vulnerable individuals from potential threats or harm and to regulate negative emotions following threatening or harmful events. The normative component of attachment theory identifies the stimuli and contexts that normally evoke and terminate different kinds of emotions, as well as the sequence of emotions usually experienced following certain relational events. The individual-difference component addresses how people’s personal histories of receiving care and support from attachment figures shape their goals, working models (i.e., interpersonal attitudes, expectations, and cognitive schemas), and coping strategies when emotion-eliciting events in relationships occur.

Bowlby’s fascination with the emotional ties that bind humans to each other began with an astute observation. In all human cultures and indeed in primate species, young and vulnerable infants display a specific sequence of reactions following separation from their stronger, older, and wiser caregivers. Immediately following separation, infants protest vehemently, typically crying, screaming, or throwing temper tantrums as they search for their caregivers. Bowlby believed that vigorous protest during the early phases of caregiver absence is a good initial strategy to promote survival, especially in species born in a developmentally immature and very dependent state. Intense protests often draw the attention of caregivers to their infants, who would have been vulnerable to injury or predation during evolutionary history if left unattended.

If loud and persistent protests fail to get the caregiver’s attention, infants enter a second stage, known as despair, during which they usually stop moving and become silent. Bowlby believed that from an evolutionary standpoint, despondency is a good second strategy to promote survival. Excessive movement could result in accident or injury, and loud protests combined with movement might draw predators. According to this logic, if protests fail to retrieve the caregiver quickly, the next best survival strategy would be to avoid actions that might increase the risk of self-inflicted harm or predation.

After a period of despair, infants who are not reunited with their caregivers enter a third and final stage: detachment. During this phase, the infant begins to resume normal activity without the caregiver, gradually learning to behave in an independent and self-reliant manner. Bowlby believed that the function of emotional detachment is to allow the formation of new emotional bonds with new caregivers. He reasoned that emotional ties with previous caregivers must be relinquished before new bonds can fully be formed. In terms of evolution, detachment allows infants to cast off old ties and begin forming new ones with caregivers who might be able to provide the attention and resources needed for survival. Bowlby also conjectured that these normative stages and processes characterize reactions to prolonged or irrevocable separations in adult relationships, which might also have evolutionary adaptive value in terms of maintaining, casting aside, or forming new romantic pairings.

In addition to identifying the course and function of these three distinct stages, Bowlby also identified several normative behaviours that infants commonly display in attachment relationships. Such hallmark behaviours include sucking, clinging, crying, smiling, and following the caregiver, all of which serve to keep the infant or child in close physical proximity to the caregiver. Bowlby also documented unique features of caregivers and their interactions with the infant that are likely to promote attachment bonds. The features include the competence with which the caregiver alleviates the infant’s distress, the speed with which the caregiver responds to the infant, and the familiarity of the caregiver to the infant. These behaviours and features are also believed to be critical to the development of adult attachment relationships.

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Attachment Theory - The Child Psychology Service

Attachment Theory is one of the most influential theories that informs the work of adopters and foster carers. It provides a great theoretical foundation and many of the recent advances in caring for abused and neglected children have stemmed from this theoretical approach. This article offers a summary of the most influential researchers and writers in the area, an overview of the different attachment styles, including; parenting styles which trigger them, and typical child behaviours.

Key figures:

There are many names that you may associate with understandings of attachment theory. Here is a summary of the key figures.

John Bowlby was the man who developed attachment theory in the 1940s and 50s. His ideas stemmed from the ideas of Freud and his colleagues in that he formally and empirically demonstrated that children who experienced emotional difficulties in early life often went on to suffer psychological, behavioural and mental difficulties in later life. He went on to draw more precise conclusions about the predictable pattern of distress behaviour displayed by babies when they were separated from their mothers, even for short periods.

Bowlby moved on to conclude, from his observations, that babies form a strong bond with their primary carers which, when broken, causes immediate distress and the potential for long-term psychological damage.

Mary Ainsworth worked as a researcher with John Bowlby and then went on to contribute significantly to our current understanding of attachment, particularly the attachment style classifications that we use today (see Attachment Styles Map).

Ainsworth developed this classification system via her use of “The Strange Situation” protocol. This is an experimental procedure that enabled her and her colleagues to assess the reactions of young children to separation and reunion with their primary caregiver.

This ability to classify attachment behaviours has contributed to a better understanding of optimal and problematic parenting and therefore enabled us to improve our childcare strategies and parenting interventions.

Ainsworth also developed the idea of “Internal Working Models” which is the premise that infants’ experience of their relationship with their primary caregiver becomes internalised as a template for future relationships. This template provides us with expectations of our involvement in relationships by enabling us to hold an idea of, ourselves, other people and the relationship between ourselves and others. It therefore gives us a guide as to how to judge, our own behaviour, other people’s behaviour, our lovability and self-worth and others’ emotional availability, interest and ability to protect. In summary, the idea of internal working models helped to extend our understanding of how our experience as infants extends into our relationship patterns throughout life.

The ability to classify attachment styles was taken further by researchers such as Jay Belsky and Pat Crittenden.

Summary of Attachment Styles:

Attachment Styles are patterns of adaptive (i.e. sensible and helpful) ways for a child to respond and adapt to the environment into which they are born. Children develop their attachment styles by the age of 3 years old; this is often called the critical period (link to glossary) developing attachments. Therefore, the pattern developed in the first three years of life is then fixed unless therapeutic parenting or intervention is used to change the person’s way of relating.

The following is a summary of the four basic attachment strategies.

1. Secure Attachment

Securely attached children are confident to approach their carers and expect that their distress will be understood and responded to unconditionally. This sense of trust extends into the child’s expectations of other relationships.

Research indicates that 55% of the population display a secure attachment pattern.

2. Avoidant Attachment

Children who have an avoidant attachment pattern have learnt that their emotions are not responded to empathically. Such children have learnt to anticipate that expressions of their emotions will anger or irritate their carer. Their cries, anger, neediness or frustrations have typically been ignored or punished and so their attachment seeking behaviour has generated the opposite of what is needed from their carer i.e. distance rather than closeness.

In order to cope with such parenting, children who have an avoidant attachment have learnt that in order to avoid distance and have the best chance of proximity to their carer they should deny and/or repress their emotional needs i. e. they minimise their attachment behaviour and become insular. This can be seen as a “flight” strategy.

Children who display avoidant attachment are, at least, able to work out an organised way of achieving some access to their attachment figure.

Research indicates that 23% of the population display an avoidant attachment pattern.

Typical Avoidant Attachment presentations:

  • Detachment in relationships;
  • Excessive independence;
  • Disappearing into a bubble;
  • Eating disorders;
  • Self-harm;
  • Depression etc.

3. Ambivalent (or Resistant) Attachment

Children who show an ambivalent attachment style have typically experienced a primary carer who is inconsistent and unreliable in their ability to meet the child’s emotional needs. This may be due to the adult’s preoccupation with their own difficulties, for example depression, drug and/or alcohol use or more subtle difficulties in tuning into the meaning of the emotional expressions of their child (which can be due to the adult’s own attachment difficulties).

Children with an ambivalent approach will work very hard to get their needs met by their primary carer by any means necessary e.g. angry, exaggerated, threatening, clinging behaviours. This is borne of a learnt expectation that they are undeserving of automatic, unsolicited attention.

When such children are successful in gaining the attention of their hard-to-reach carer they are typically angry and rejecting of that carer, thus resulting in a constant “push-pull” battle between children with an ambivalent attachment and their carers. This simultaneous anger and desperate need for the care of another person is constantly infuriating for such children. This can be seen as a “fight” strategy.

Children who display ambivalent attachment are, at least, able to work out an organised way of achieving some access to their attachment figure.

Typical Ambivalent Attachment presentations:

  • Overreaction to hurts;
  • Excess energy;
  • Difficulty in regulating emotion, all emotions go straight to maximum level;
  • ADHD;
  • Anxiety and reassurance seeking etc.

Research indicates that 8% of the whole population display an ambivalent attachment pattern.

4. Disorganised Attachment

The most extreme and disturbing style of attachment is the Disorganised pattern. This is typically displayed by children exposed to a parenting style which does not allow them to develop a “safe” response to their attachment needs i.e. their carer is typically the cause of their distress as well as being the child’s only figure for resolving distress.

No matter what the child does in response to their own needs it does not bring proximity, safety and comfort from their primary carer.

Children who have a disorganised attachment will typically be somewhat bizarre in their way of relating to others because they have not learnt any clear way to relate and regulate their emotion through relating. They can show chaotic, confused, incoherent and angry ways of relating to others. This can often be seen as a “freeze” strategy.

Typical Disorganised Attachment presentations.

The only thing that is typical is the atypical nature of the behaviour. Behaviours may include any of those cited in the previous sections.

Children will often be:

  • Chaotic
  • Fearful
  • Angry
  • Dissociative
  • Often the behaviours will have a bizarre element to them

Research indicates that 15% of the whole population display a disorganised attachment pattern.

how it helps in the upbringing of adolescents, types of attachment

What is attachment theory

Attachment theory was developed by the English psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby. Previously, it was believed that the child maintains a relationship with the mother for the satisfaction of physical needs. Bowlby, on the other hand, added a social component to this: the attachment of the child to the mother helps to adapt to the world around him. He introduced the concept of a significant adult, in constant contact with which the baby needs. If for a long time the child cannot interact with the person to whom he is attached, this can lead to psychological trauma. nine0005

Bowlby's report on the topic of child attachment to parents in European countries had a great effect. It was after him that parents began to be allowed into children's hospitals, round-the-clock kindergartens and nurseries were no longer considered the norm, and parental leave increased.

Investigating Bowlby's theory of attachment, psychologist Mary Ainsworth conducted a series of experiments in the 1970-1980s called "The Strange Situation". The mother and child were in a special studio where different situations were simulated, for example, the mother left, a stranger suddenly entered the room, and others. Based on the reactions of children, Ainsworth identified four types of attachment. nine0005

Types of child attachment to mother

  • Reliable. It arises from the right relationship between mother and child. Children of this type are drawn to their mother when they feel danger, but at the same time they are able to explore the world on their own, realizing that if there is something that threatens their life and health, their mother will help.
  • Alarm resistant. The type of attachment is formed when a significant adult often leaves the child and he is not sure that at the right time he will appear nearby. The child reacts negatively to separation from the mother, is wary of strangers. He is ambiguous about the return of his mother: on the one hand, he rejoices, on the other, he is angry that the separation has occurred. nine0014
  • Anxious avoidant. The most independent type of child attachment. Children of this type faced the absence of a significant adult early on, so they got used to doing without him. They do not expect any support from the parent, and in the future they try to avoid any attachments, since, in their opinion, this brings unnecessary trouble and discomfort.
  • Disorganized. Children with this type of attachment exhibit conflicting behavior, usually due to psychological trauma. They either seek closeness with adults or avoid it. nine0014

According to the research of psychologists, the types of attachment of a child to parents remain for life. As adults, people tend to build their relationships on the basis of a childish type of attachment.

The model of Dr. Neufeld, who introduced six stages of attachment development, expands and systematizes the theory of attachment.


Attachment theory principles

  1. The first level that appears in a child from birth is attachment through the senses. The child needs to feel that a significant adult is nearby. nine0014
  2. In the second year of life, the second level appears - the development of attachment through similarity. The child begins to imitate the behavior of those he loves.
  3. The third level, corresponding to the third year of life, is attachment through fidelity, the baby begins to show emotions of possession and jealousy.
  4. The fourth level (fourth year of life) — the child's desire for self-importance and significance. He wants to be valued.
  5. At the age of five, a child begins to realize what love is: talk about it, draw hearts and express it in every possible way. nine0014
  6. At the sixth and final level of attachment, the child wants to be known, to share his secret thoughts and to be understood.

How attachment theory can help parents raise their children

Psychologist Lyudmila Petranovskaya has also researched attachment theory in detail. In the book Secret Support: Attachment in a Child's Life, she explained that it is in the first years that a child needs support, care and affection, this creates a sense of security and self-confidence in the baby. nine0005

“There may be an economic crisis around, a flood or a war – if the parents themselves are in order, if they are not separated from the child for too long and look confident and calm enough – he is fine. Because the well-being of a child does not depend on the conditions in which he lives, but on the relationship in which he is.

Another important thought of Lyudmila Petranovskaya regarding the theory of attachment and upbringing: parents should help the child to experience stress and pain. When something doesn’t work out for a baby, he goes to mom and dad for help and comfort. According to the psychologist, an adult should not suppress the negative feelings of the child, not tell him “stop it”, but be there and empathize with his little “grief”. nine0005

Any change of environment, whether it be a move or transition from a traditional public school to home schooling, is stressful for a child. In the period of adaptation, a teenager, more than ever, needs the support of his parents.

Be close - the basic principle of the theory of attachment

The closeness of a loved one calms even without words. Be close, study together, walk - any joint activity will benefit.

“For the first year, my son got into rhythm. It was difficult for him to hold his attention for a long time. Lessons at Foxford are voluminous and rich in content - some for an hour and a half, like lectures at the institute. He had to help. In order not to miss something important, I attended the classes. Let me tell you, I enjoyed learning! :) My son and I even discussed many topics. This allowed us to better understand each other.” nine0050

Elena Yashina, mother of a student of the Foxford home online school

Do not scold mistakes

to make mistakes is normal, and the task of parents in education is to teach the child to perceive mistakes as experience and the possibility for growth, and not as a catastrophe. Tell your teenager how you dealt with difficulties and mistakes. Praise the child, motivate and do not condemn for mistakes.


Based on the theory of attachment, you can understand how to raise a child so that in adulthood he can build harmonious relationships with others. To do this, it is necessary to study and correctly go through all six stages of attachment formation. nine0005

Stay close to your child, support him in difficulties, allow him to show emotions - both negative and positive. Spend time together, filling it with communication, joint creativity, discussion of what interests you and what excites you. Try to create a close emotional connection with your child so that he sees you as an ally and a loved one who will always come to the rescue and be on his side. By creating in his mind the image of a significant adult, you will help him form into a harmonious personality and a self-confident person. nine0005

What is Attachment Theory and How to Apply It in Parenting - Orthodox Magazine "Foma"

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From the first moments of the birth of a child, invisible threads of affection connect him with his parents. Day after day, these threads first grow stronger and develop, and then weaken and become almost imperceptible, but they are there. Child psychologist Natalya Barlozhetskaya tells about how attachment arises, how it can be distorted and how to grow it correctly. nine0005

How attachment arises

In 1958, the English psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby (1907–1990) first formulated the theory of attachment, first in a series of his articles and then in his book Attachment and Loss. Bowlby said that "attachment is a biological instinct in which a child begins to seek closeness to a significant adult when he feels threatened or uncomfortable." From an evolutionary point of view, attachment increases the likelihood of an infant's survival. For this, special mechanisms of influence are used: crying, smiling, babble, grasping, following. Mother's hormones help respond to this call. Oxytocin, which is abundantly secreted in the body of a woman in the first months after the birth of a child, tightly binds the baby and his mother. nine0005

However, attachment can be formed not only in relation to the mother. Dad, grandma, babysitter, and other adults are just as likely to become the “key significant adults” for a child if they provide basic care and concern. The child becomes attached to that person who is always there, who responds sensitively and satisfies his needs, who is able to provide a reliable safe base for exploring the world around him. It is this person that the child will listen to at an older age, it is to him that he will be trusted with his secrets. nine0005

How attachment changes with age

John Bowlby identified four main stages of attachment formation:

The first stage . From birth to three months. At this stage, the child's behavior is subject to reflexes: grasping, sucking, following. The child is illegible in relation to others and reacts to them in the same way. He calmly walks on his hands, listens to voices and looks at faces. By the end of the first month of life, a “social smile” appears. Prior to this, the child also smiled, but now his smile becomes turned towards an adult with whom there is direct eye contact. Gradually, babbling appears. nine0005

Second stage . Three to six months. There is an attenuation of many reflexes, such as clinging, stimulus seeking (hand touching cheek) and the Moro reflex. The kid becomes more selective in contacts. He begins to smile only at people he knows, and does not react to strangers or looks away. Babble now appears only in the presence of those people whom the baby knows, and only the preferred adult can calm him easily and quickly. By five months, the baby carefully follows the gaze of the chosen adult, begins to reach out and grab him, shows anxiety in case of his absence, although this connection is still being formed. nine0005 Jens Johnsson on Unsplash

Third stage : six months to two years. At this stage, the child already clearly demonstrates his attachment to the main adult. Most often it is the mother. If the mother leaves the room, the baby cries and screams. When mom returns, the baby reaches for her, asks for her arms, hugs and utters a joyful babble. At the age of seven or eight months, a fear of strangers develops, the so-called "eight-month-old anxiety". From this moment, the baby begins to follow his mother everywhere like a tail. Gradually, his capabilities expand, and the baby explores the world, gradually moving away from his mother, but invariably returning to her for support and protection. nine0005

By the end of the first year, a certain model of interaction between the child and the main adult is formed. The kid has already accumulated some experience of communication and understands how much help and protection is available to him. If the mother did not show enough attention and care, the child experiences anxiety when exploring the world. The baby tries not to stray far from her, hard to endure the lack of direct eye contact, anxious and fearful in a situation of communication with strangers, often crying and asking for hands. During this period, it is very important to remain not only physically, but also emotionally available to the child. Rejoice in his presence, laugh, hug and comfort when necessary. The main goal of the first two years of life is to instill in the baby the feeling: “I am loved. Other people are trustworthy and the world is safe.” It is on the basis of the nature of attachment between a child and an adult that the basic trust in the world is formed. If this mechanism is broken, serious mental disorders and disorders can be observed in adulthood. nine0005

Fourth stage : from two years to the end of childhood. Gradually, the nature of attachment changes. The kid gains more experience in exploring the world, and with experience, self-confidence grows, and independence develops. If at the previous stage the child constantly needed the presence of a significant adult, then by about two and a half years the baby switches to partnerships. Step by step, the child is moving away from the adult.

A normally developing three-year-old will behave relatively calmly in a situation of forced separation. Of course, this will cause tears and fear, but the baby is already able to console himself after a while and switch to communication with other children and adults. A good healthy attachment charges the child with confidence and trust in the world, and the stronger this charge, the easier the separation process goes. Now the child can stay in the kindergarten with caregivers and play calmly with other children. nine0005

Research shows that children who form secure attachments in early childhood are more cognitively active, independent, and self-confident. They do better in school, are more successful at work and socially, are more likely to create strong families and are less prone to mental disorders.

Distorted attachments

What happens if the process of attachment formation has been disturbed and the attachment itself has distortions?

In the 1960s and 1970s, the American psychologist Mary Ainsworth, a student and colleague of John Bowlby, conducted a series of experiments that identified different attachment styles. She developed a special procedure for diagnosing the type of attachment - "Strange Situation" and identified three types: reliable, anxious-ambivalent and avoidant. Later, Mary Main, a colleague of Mary Ainsworth, added a fourth type, disorganized/disorganized attachment.

Reliable type of attachment. nine0094 The healthiest type of attachment. It is formed in a child who grows up in a loving environment where adults show attention, care and maintain emotional contact with the child. The baby uses the main adult (more often the mother) as a safe haven for reinforcements, but still seeks to communicate with other people and to learn about the environment. The departure of the mother causes sadness and even short tears, but the baby is sure that she will return, so she quickly calms down and rejoices when the mother returns. In the absence of a mother, the baby does not react to a stranger, but is not afraid of him either. nine0005

As an adult, a person with a secure attachment style has healthy self-esteem, is able to build close relationships precisely because he relies on himself and does not fall into dependence on his partner. He trusts loved ones and feels worthy of love and respect.

Anxious-ambivalent type of attachment. Formed in situations where the child is not sure of his adult. He is painfully attached to his mother, constantly afraid of being abandoned, because he is not sure that she will return. Often, the mother herself provokes such an addiction: “That's it, I'm leaving you. I don’t need such a naughty child!” This type of attachment occurs if the significant adult is inconsistent, limited to serving one type of child's needs: physiological or emotional, while limiting his independence. “Let him scream, the lungs will be healthier”, “Mom knows better how you feel”, “No one but mom will pity you.” Unfamiliar situations and strangers cause anxiety and fear in the child. When parting with his mother, the baby can cry for a long time, calms down with difficulty, then withdraws into himself and refuses to communicate with others, is afraid of them. nine0005

In adulthood, a person with this type of attachment has low self-esteem, lack of initiative, is painfully dependent on a partner, is not confident in his relationship, worries about being abandoned, needs proof of love, and constantly seeks approval.

Avoidant attachment . It is formed in situations where the parent rejects the child, behaves coldly and dismissively, does not respond to his needs and does not support emotionally. “End the tantrum, I have to go to work”, “Do not need these veal tendernesses!” nine0005

The kid in such a situation has to rely only on himself. He avoids the significant parent, shows almost no emotion in his presence, and when the parent leaves or returns, he tries to ignore him. Although in fact he really needs intimacy.

An adult with this type of attachment is characterized by fear of close relationships. He is sure that he is worthy of love, but he tries to keep his partners at a distance, does not trust them, and therefore hides his own feelings. nine0005

Disruptive attachment . This type of attachment occurs in families where children are physically and psychologically abused. The child grows up in an environment where parents most often behave inconsistently and inspire fear: “Afraid, it means respect!” Already in early childhood, the baby seeks to run away in order to hide from a significant adult, he avoids closeness, at the same time feeling the need to be loved by him.

An adult with a disruptive attachment creates a very turbulent and complex relationship where violence is mixed with passion. "Beats means he loves." nine0005

Mary Ainsworth said that attachment style is a characteristic of a relationship. Within the family, a child may form different types of attachment to mom, dad, grandmother or aunt. However, by preschool age, as a rule, one, leading, type of attachment is determined. It is on its basis that we, already becoming adults, build close relationships with those we love.

What is alpha parenting?

Is affection a necessary condition for obedience? nine0005

If a child is securely attached to his parents, then he strives to please them, follow instructions, and shows obedience. In the presence of significant adults, he actively explores the world, while feeling safe. Everything seems to be logical and good. But in this state of affairs lies the threat of manipulating the child.

In 1999, Canadian psychotherapist Gordon Neufeld added to the theory of attachment. His main idea is that the task of an adult is not to achieve the obedience of a child with the help of attachment. No, the task is more global: based on affection, to reveal in the child his inner potential. nine0005

Neufeld singled out six levels through which the attachment of a child to an adult gradually manifests itself.

1. Feelings . This is the basic level of attachment that occurs in infancy. This attachment is formed through the sense organs. The child responds to various tactile, olfactory, visual and auditory stimuli. Mom, in turn, hugs the baby, presses him to her, inhales his smell, examines his fingers, listens to babble and answers him with affectionate words. With each act of attention and care, the bond between the child and the significant adult grows and strengthens. nine0005

2. Similarity . At this level, attachment is formed through imitation. The child tries to imitate a significant adult: he copies intonations and speech, imitates gait, manner of dressing and performing everyday activities. “I am just like mom/dad”

3. Belonging . Around the age of three, children make an important statement: "My mom" or "My dad." This is a sign that the child is aware of intimacy as belonging to someone or feeling like a part of another person. From now on, the child will take the side of the one to whom he is attached. He will obey this particular person, stand up for him and help him. nine0005

4. Significance . At this stage of attachment development, the child becomes unusually affectionate, kind, helpful and caring. He wants to become important to his parents, seeks to please them, please them, do something good to get their attention and approval. “Mom, I brought you a pillow”, “Dad, I will sit with my brother, and you lie down, rest.”

5. Love . Probably the most touching stage of affection. Around the age of four or six, a child realizes that close relationships can be expressed through words of love. “Mommy, I love you very much”, “Daddy, you are my best, I drew a heart for you.” Confessions, gifts, hugs and kisses seem endless, but this is how the child feels right now. He gives his heart to the one to whom he is attached. "Mom, I will grow up and marry you." This creates the capacity for emotional intimacy and deep relationships. nine0005

6. Recognition . The deepest and most vulnerable level of attachment. At this stage, the child needs to communicate with parents. He strives to share his life, thoughts, ideas and dreams with them. Intimacy now means the absence of secrets and mysteries, the opportunity to open up to another person and be accepted by him.

The child's successive development of all levels of attachment helps to form a strong bond between the child and the significant adult. The child will obey such a person, share his experiences with him, adopt his principles and values. This is called alpha parenting. nine0005

How to influence attachment?

Is it possible to strengthen attachment or form it at a more mature age? Yes, you can.

Attachment formation algorithm can be used at any age. To do this, with some changes, it is necessary to gradually go through all the above stages, gradually restoring contact and achieving closeness.

1. Feelings . Enter the "Eight hugs" rule. “To love is to want to touch,” said Konstantin Stanislavsky. Hugging, caressing, touching another person, we gradually throw the first threads of intimacy and understanding. Important note! In adolescence, one important condition must be observed - the child must give permission for a hug: “Sun, I missed you so much. Can I just hug you?" Agreed - great, refused - try again later. nine0005

2. Similar to . Be interested in what your child is interested in. Read the same books, ask about your favorite music and at least listen to it just for fun, watch movies that your child recommends, and even try playing computer games and getting on a snowboard. Do not seek to emphasize the external similarity, it is better to look for the similarity of interests.

3. Accessory . Always be by your child's side. School truancy, conflicts with teachers, problems with peers - in any situation, the child should feel that you are near and love him, despite his misdeeds. At home, you can seriously talk and even determine the punishment. But in a difficult situation, you need to be there and help. Having made a mistake, the child should call you first of all, and not think: “If only the parents would not know.” nine0005

4. Significance . Show genuine concern for wants and needs. When talking to your child, show how important dialogue is to you. Put aside all your affairs and try to listen carefully. Ask for his opinion more often and try to take it into account when making decisions. Enter the rule to knock when entering the room, respect the personal space and boundaries of the child. Respect your child's taste in style, even if you don't like it.

5. Love . Talk about your love in all available ways. The way children do it. nine0005

6. Recognition . Proximity is a two-way street. To reach this level, it is important not only to be able to hear. You must not be afraid to open up. Talk about your feelings, dreams, ideas, share impressions of victories and defeats. Do not be afraid to become vulnerable, admit your mistakes. All this leads to the emergence of real affection, gradually forms a response from the other side.

Critical opinions

Attachment theory has received many constructive criticisms. Psychologist Dr. Jerome Kagan has said in his papers that Mary Ainsworth's "Strange Situation" experiment was only correct in a short exposure situation, while children behaved differently over longer periods of time. nine0005

Further research has shown that how a child reacts to a "stranger situation" depends not only on the relationship between him and the significant adult, but also on his temperament, gender, age, social class and educational level of parents. For example, children with negative affect (excessive excitability with a reaction of anger and irritation in response to exposure) were assigned to the group with disorganized attachment, although this feature is innate and has nothing to do with attachment. And children with greater nervous system resilience (or even with ASD, that is, with an autism spectrum disorder) were classified as securely attached. nine0005

Judith Rich Harris (1938–2018), American psychology researcher, argued in her book The Parenting Assumption that attachment theory is overly absolute about the mother figure. According to the theory, a child from an orphanage can only have a disorganized attachment, which can be “fixed” if the adoptive parent constantly fills the lack of attachment and saturates the child with it. Judith Harris herself was a mother of an adopted child and did a lot of research in this area. She found that children from the orphanage in some cases did not show impairments, because they had a very stable nervous system and a high level of reflection, while there was no significant adult in their life.

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