You may have heard the term ‘attachment’ being thrown around. Psychologists Bowlby and Ainsworth popularized the term through their ‘attachment theory’ and to date, many modern parenting techniques still incorporate the principles of attachment theory with the end goal of building a ‘secure attachment’ (don’t worry, we’ll explain all these terms).
What is attachment in the context of your baby?
It is the deep, abiding confidence a baby has in the availability and responsiveness of the caregiver.” - Alan Sroufe, a developmental psychologist at the Institute for Child Development at the University of Minnesota
Bowlby and Ainsworth described 4 main types of attachment
- 1. Secure attachment
This is the one that parents should aim for. Children with a secure attachment to their caregivers may become upset or agitated when their caregiver leaves, but is comforted when they return. They feel secure and safe with their caregiver.
- 2. Ambivalent attachment
Children with ambivalent attachment show a lot of distress when their caregivers leave. They are not used to receiving consistent support from their caregivers, so they feel like they cannot rely on others.
- 3. Avoidant attachment
Children with avoidant attachment usually don’t have a preference for their own caregivers and strangers. Often, this is a result of caregiver neglect, abuse, or an overuse of punishment. Hence, they may be less likely to seek help from others.
- 4. Disorganized attachment
This is usually the result of inconsistent parenting styles. If a caregiver is sometimes responsive to their child’s needs, and other times, they are abusive, their child will associate their caregiver with both comfort and fear, which can lead to confusing behavior.
To build a ‘secure attachment’ with your child, you should:
- 1. Pay attention to your child’s needs - Learn to identify signs of when they are hungry, tired, or uncomfortable.
- 2. Respond to their needs - Once you learn to identify their needs, respond to them in a timely manner.
- 3. Be a source of comfort - Whether that’s in the form of cuddling, playing, storytime and so on.
- 4. Be present - Bond and play with your child, and put all distractions aside. Engage with them and be available.
- 5. Be trustworthy - Keep your promises, even if it’s something like ‘I’ll take you to the park this weekend’. Your child will only be comfortable if they can trust you.
Remember, a secure attachment is the result of months and years of consistency. Most children who have secure attachments display increased resilience, empathy, and willingness to seek help from others.