The Basics of Attachment

 

Attachment is the way we relate to the important people in our lives. It is the key element of psychological and emotional wellbeing and forms our views about love and connection. The way we attach to others determines the quality of our relationships, how we see the world and the tone and depth of our lives. Our attachment styles and patterns are grounded in our first experiences, namely those primary relationships of our first years of life.

Children form attachments to their main caregivers and these attachments are fundamentals of life, as essential to growth and development as breathing or eating. When a child is consistently cared for by someone she knows and trusts and who can be relied upon to respond to her needs with sensitivity and warmth, a secure attachment relationship develops. Caregivers of securely attached children have the ability to make themselves available to their child for comfort and support when she needs them. This secure relationship gives the child confidence to follow her curiosity and explore the world in safe ways when she is ready to. She develops a model of other people as dependable and of herself as deserving of love and care that the securely attached baby will carry with her for life.

If the child experiences care that is inconsistent, unpredictable, cold, hostile or scary he is likely to develop an insecure attachment. Caregivers of insecurely attached children are often uncomfortable with too much closeness and neediness or too much distance and independence. The insecurely attached child has developed an expectation that the people important to him will not be dependably and reliably available to him in times of need. The insecurely attached child (and then adult) will have fewer resources for managing his own emotions and relationships with other people. The insecure child cannot easily identify, understand, tolerate or communicate his feelings leaving him vulnerable to a host of psychological difficulties. Being insecurely attached is a risk factor for social and emotional problems throughout a person’s life including depression, anxiety, aggression, addiction as well as a host of medical ailments.

Click here for more information on attachment theory and brain development.