Saturday, March 28, 2009

Attachment Theory


I had a most interesting discussion with a colleague this week. And as we were both mothers, it inevitably led to our “pet” topic – raising children.

Now, she is a very different person from me. She is as meticulous as I am forgetful, and so her parenting style is based upon  her own research and convictions about what the so-called early childhood experts may say or assert, but she comes to a conclusion and adheres by it. My parenting style? I basically let Nic decide. He has a degree in Social Work, and in the University did a course on child psychology, and has first-hand experience with “undiscipled and undisciplined” (my words, not his) adults in his work.

Both my colleague and I agreed that we did not subscribe to the “Cry It Out” method, but rather our parenting styles (and by “our” I really mean her style and Nic’s style, which I follow) is generally based on the Attachment Theory.

(Disclaimer: I may not 100% accurate, but this is my understanding and interpretation, as a lay non-social work background person :) )

The Attachment Theory basically states that an infant becomes securely attached to adults who respond appropriately, promptly and consistently to their needs. This adult (primary caregiver) becomes a “secure base,” a base from which the child can explore the surrounding environment. A baby will show some signs of distress when separated from their primary caregiver, but will be happy and comforted upon the caregiver’s return. They will not be overly distressed at a parent’s absence, but clearly prefer parents to strangers.

This is generally the best sort of attachment, as a securely attached child becomes a securely attached adult. These adults will have a good self-esteem and be able to have trusting and lasting relationships.

Other attachments that can develop through are avoidant attachment (where the caregiver offers little or no response to a distressed child, and generally discourages crying), ambivalent attachment (where the caregiver is inconsistent in his/her response to the child, sometimes appropriate and sometimes neglectful) and disorganized attachment (caused by mistreatment). Insecurely attached children grow up to be insecurely attached adults, and face different issues with their life and relationships.

Interestingly, securely attached children are the least isolated and most popular and least likely to be bullied in school! And most remarkably, school bullies are often insecurely attached.


So these are not mere theories and attachment “principles”, our parenting styles do influence our kids, not just for a few months or even a few years, but it impacts the child’s entire life!

God, please grant us the wisdom to be great parents!

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