Bonding and Attachment

Attachment is defined as the emotional bond between two people. It is the foundation and heart of healthy child development and lays the groundwork for future success in relationships. An attachment can be secure. Meaning that trust is established in the sense a child/infant knows that the parent/caregiver will be emotionally and physically available to them when needed. An insecure attachment can occur as well. An insecure attachment may form when the infant/child has a need that goes unmet by the parent/caregiver for a long period of time, repeatedly or through neglect, physical/emotional abuse or parental depression.

Attachments are formed by being responsive to the infant/child’s needs and when demands are met correctly and consistently in a loving way. For an infant their world for the first several months is about a foot to 18 inches (from about your elbow to your face when holding a baby).  For example, when feeding an infant, making eye contact, talking to them, smiling, touching,  etc., helps build the bond between child and caregiver, strengthening attachment. As they get older spending quality time, playing games, even setting a good routine and appropriate discipline can help the child attach securely.

There are influences that can interfere with attachment such as the infants’ temperament. Sometimes a baby can be challenging when they cry for hours despite the parent’s best effort to soothe the baby. a parent may feel like something is wrong with their baby, that their baby “hates them” or that they are “bad parents” because if they are good parents they would know what is wrong and how to fix it. But, sometimes babies just cry (see The Period of PURPLE Crying for further information on normal infant crying). This can be overwhelming especially if the caregiver is tired, feels helpless or even angry at the constant demand of their baby. If the infant is hard to soothe, cries frequently, for long periods of time a secure attachment may be difficult to develop due to the stress and frustration of the relationship.

Also, a parent/caregiver that may be depressed will not be as emotionally available to the infant/child. When a parent/caregiver is depressed the interactions may be less frequent or more negative in the interaction. The more severe the depression the more likely an insecure attachment will develop. If a baby has health problems at birth, or spends time in the NICU, there is a higher risk for an insecure attachment to develop.

Above are factors that can influence and interfere with attachment and if an insecure attachment does happen, it does not mean that a more secure attachment can’t replace the insecure one. It will take time, and consistency in being emotionally and physically responsive to the child’s needs.

So, why is attachment so important?  A secure attachment is the foundation for learning and for healthy, long lasting relationships in the future. Having a secure attachment or “safe base” allows children to explore their environments and relate to to others socially all while having a safe person to share in those experiences. A secure attachment may also reduce challenging behaviors and the risk for child abuse.

If you have questions or concerns about bonding with your child, depression, depressed like feelings, stress/frustration with a crying baby please call Karen Harvey at 918-699-0547 for further information.

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