What Is Attachment?
Attachment is the emotional bond that typically forms between infant and caregiver, and it is the means by which the helpless infant gets primary needs met. It then becomes an engine of subsequent social, emotional, and cognitive development. The early social experience of the infant stimulates growth of the brain and can have an enduring influence on the ability to form stable relationships with others.
Learning about your own relationship with your parents helps you better understand your children’s relationship with you. What you also might not realize is that you may be mimicking your parents ways of parenting and therefore mimicking the type of relationship formed between child and parent. In some cases this may be a good thing and in some cases maybe not so much.
What I hope you find when reading about these types of relationships, is yourself reflecting on your own attachment with your parents when you were growing up. If not, I encourage you to do so. Help yourself remember and understand the dynamics of relationships and the effect they play in a child’s life; reflect on how they affect your current parenting.
When looking at attachment relationships between child and parent, there is only one real form of secure attachment. There are many ways to parent and form a meaningful relationship with your child, but in order for it to be successful and allow the child thrive the parent must, in their way, meet the mental, emotional, and physical needs of their child. Parenting right is not just matter of keeping a roof over a child’s head, food in their belly or clothes on their back.
With that being said, there are 3 forms of insecure attachment which can occur when a secure attachment is not formed: Avoidance, Ambivalent, and Disorganized.
Insecure attachments can be displayed and perceived in many ways, however, they all stem from parents whom are emotionally and mentally out of tune with their child. They hold their child to the adult standard of communicating, acting, and listening, and when these expectations are unmet the parent does not connect and listen to understand their child, but instead disciplines and punishes; causing a further snowball of effects. More often than not, this type of parental behavior comes from a parent’s own childhood of growing up in an “emotion desert”. When they have not made sense of their childhood experiences, and the ways they had to adapt when their own needs were unmet, the insecure attachment that was formed as a child is carried forward as an internal process that directly influences how they interact with others in the future – including their own children.
In both avoidance and ambivalent insecure attachments, children develop an organized approach to the relationship with their parents. They want to make sense out of their experiences because children do the best they can to adapt their worlds.
Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed.
“The genes that children inherit have a large impact on their development influencing the inborn characteristics of their nervous systems and shaping how people respond to them. Genetic factors can shape the way the brain functions and, in this way, have a direct impact on how we behave. Experience also directly shapes children’s development and can influence the specific activation of beings in sculpting of the connections that make up the structure of the brain.”
Explanations of attachments described by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed. in the book Parenting From The Inside Out:
“Thought to occur when a child has consistent, emotionally attuned, contingent communication with their parent or other primary caregiver. Relationships that provide contingency, especially at times of emotional need, offer children repeated experiences of feeling connected, understood, and protected. This way of communicating with our children helps them to feel seen, safe, soothed, and secure. We see their internal world and recognize their behaviours, we keep them safe from harm and a sense of threat, we tune in to them and sue their distress, and these experiences enable them to develop a sense of security. Studies suggests the security influences both neural connections And Regulatory molecules in the brain that support Behavior, resilience, and relational well-being.”
– Page 108 parenting from the inside out
“When a parent is repeatedly unavailable, a child may become avoidably attached – meaning that the child adapts by avoiding closeness and emotional connection with the parent.”
“A child experiences their parents communication is inconsistent and at times intrusive. The child cannot depend upon the parent for connection. When children experience and inconsistency in availability and unreliable communication from their parents they develop a sense of anxiety and uncertainty about whether they can depend upon the parents. They are not sure what to expect. This ambivalence creates a feeling of insecurity in the parent-child relationship, and continues forward in the child’s interaction with the the larger social world.”
“When children’s parent’s behavior is a source of disorientation or terror, they develop a disorganized attachment. A child will have repeated experiences in which the parents behavior is overwhelming, frightening, and chaotic. When the parent is the source of alarm and confusion, children are in a biological Paradox. The biological system of attachment is constructed to motivate the child to seek proximity, to get close to the parent at a time of distress in order to be subdued and protected. In this situation the child is stuck, because there is an impulse to turn toward the very source of the terror from which he or she is attempting to escape. High rates of disorganization attachment are seen in children abused by their parents. Abuse fractures the relationship between child and parent and it creates an impossible situation for the child’s mind by fragmenting a sense of self. Parental abuse has been actually shown to damage the areas of the child’s growing brain that enables neural integration. For children with disorganized attachment, impaired neural integration maybe one mechanism that leads a child to have difficulty with regulating emotions, trouble and social communication, difficulties with academic reasoning test, a tendency toward interpersonal violence, and a predisposition to dissociation.
Disorganized attachment is also found families where, even though physical abuse is absent, child has repeated experiences and which the parents behavior is very frightening or in other ways disorientating to the child. Parents who repeatedly rage at their children or become intoxicated May create a stage of alarm that leads to disorganized attachment. There is no solution to the Paradox that your parent is creating it.”
Pages 108 – 112, Parenting From The Inside Out.
These symptoms of disorganized attachment are often diagnosed later in life as borderline personality disorder, which is something being recognized today as a result of a traumatic upbringing.