Secure attachment or insecure attachment?
Our instant interpretation leaves little doubt that secure attachment must be 'better' than insecure.
So far, so good ... but what do those concepts really mean and what is their relevance?
Well, let's start with the relevance of these attachment styles, because it's quite a biggie!
Attachment theory research and many other studies in the developmental psychology of children have shown that our very first close relationship with - or attachment to - our primary caregiver (typically our mother) the first two years of our lives shapes how we:
• View ourselves: our self esteem and self image ...
• See our place in the world and how we think other people see us ...
• Approach problems and cope with challenges, trauma and stress ...
• Establish and maintain friendships and romantic relationships ...
• Deal with strong emotions and impulses ...
... for the rest of our lives!
Of course, other factors also have a great say: individual temperaments, dispositions or social standing ...
... but numerous studies of the psychology of children show that the 'quality' of infant attachment – the way our mother responded to our need for comfort, security, attention etc. - is paramount in the shaping of our personality and how we deal with relationships.
Yes, it may seem quite overwhelming, and for some, even unfair that our mother's attention, responsiveness and sensitivity have such a strong influence on who we become.
For instance, studies of Western families' adoption of Romanian orphans after the fall of Ceausescu demonstrated that proper love and care can heal a lot.
When these kids were in their teens, 70% of them were said to display no severe insecure attachment problems (which does not mean that there weren't insecure issues of attachment at all).
That is quite remarkable considering that as orphans they probably had little or no opportunity to form this important early attachment.
According to attachment theory, infants and young children communicate attachment behavior to get their mother's attention or to be in her proximity.
A mother's consistent response to these signals is necessary for the infant's physical survival and healthy psychological development.
Insecure and secure attachment refer to specific attachment behavior patterns that the infant shows, typically when being under some form of stress.
These patterns have been largely shaped by the mother’s sensitive responsiveness (secure attachment) – or lack or inconsistency of responsiveness (insecure attachment).
The character of a child's attachment behavior also changes as the child grows older (see typical attachment behavior through the ages and stages of child development)
In this experiment she put a mother and her toddler in an unfamiliar playroom along with a female stranger.
Then the mother was to leave the room, leaving the child alone with the stranger.
After a few minutes the mother would return and reunite with her child.
These actions allowed Mary Ainsworth to observe separation and reunion behavior which would demonstrate whether a toddler was securely attached
or displayed one of three attachment styles characterized by
insecurity: avoidant attachment , ambivalent attachment or disorganized attachment.
What an infant or child 'needs' from his or her parents are, among other things, attention, physical contact, presence, understanding, acceptance, comfort, a sense of security etc.
Insecure attachment is logically the result of the opposite situation - ignoring or inconsistently fulfilling the infant's needs.
If the basic existential needs are met, the child will be 'free': He or she will feel secure to explore the world, and consequently develop skills and feel the mastery of them, which builds self esteem etc.
If the infant's needs are not met, and as a consequence, the child has formed an insecure attachment to his or her primary parent, life will obviously prove more difficult and challenging in several areas (some of these will be listed further down).
The scientifically documented effects of good, early secure attachment are:
The lack of a 'secure base' in early childhood may mean:
One thing that researchers found was that when compared with the other two attachment categories
(the insecure ones), children with disorganized attachment concerns are at more risk of developing aggressive behavior problems, which might already surface at the age of about five.
Please note that the above attachment styles and their outcome show the general picture, which means that individual exceptions are not included.
Therefore, use your critical eye! Don't take anything, any postulate, for granted.
Your Positive Parenting Ally,
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