Secure Attachment Relationship with a Child

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 10
Words: 2839
Reading time:
10 min
Study level: PhD

Introduction

One of the well-known biological instincts is the development of a strong attachment between a child and a parent or a primary caregiver. It is hard to give clear, rational explanations and definitions of what happens during the first contact with a mother. Still, it is evident that this kind of attachment takes place at the earliest stage and has an impact on a whole life. Malekpour (2007) admits that the majority of early experiences influence the later development of a human. Therefore, the attachment between a child and a caregiver (usually, it is one or two parents) has to be properly investigated and analyzed. In this paper, the concept of a secure attachment relationship with a child and the peculiarities of attachment theory will be discussed to understand if it is possible to prevent behavioral problems in life, what strategies can be offered to parents to instill a strong sense of attachment in their children, and why the consideration of ethical, legal, and socio-cultural aspects cannot be neglected.

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Importance of a Secure Attachment Relationship with a Child

The relations that can be developed between parents and their children vary considerably. There are many examples of how the children of the same age may demonstrate different attitudes to and relations with their parents: some children cannot spend a minute without their mothers, some children find it normal to be separated, and some children have rather aggressive behavior in regards to their parents. Many parents want to believe that the relations they can be developed at the early stage have nothing in common with the relations they can get in ten or twenty years, and there is no connection between child-parent relations and child behavior. Still, the neglect of the importance of a secure attachment relationship between a child and a caregiver is one of the most terrible mistakes people can make as soon as they become parents. Fraiberg (as cited in Malehpour, 2007) underlines the importance of this kind of relationship in the following way:

our personal identity – the very center of our humanness – is achieved through the early bonds of child and parent. Conscience itself, the most civilizing of all achievements in human evolution, is not part of the constitutional endowment, but the endowment of parent love and education” (p. 81)

Attachments are usually unique and depend on the abilities of parents to demonstrate their attitudes to and care for their children. Still, all of them may be divided into two main categories in regards to the behavior demonstrated by parents: secure and insecure (Eysenck, 2005). An insecure attachment takes place when a child cannot get the required portion of comfort and safe from his/her parents, suffers from unclear supervision, parental control, or even intimate behaviors, and promotes a child’s dependence on a constant parental presence.

A secure attachment provides children with a feeling that their caregivers are available to them physically and emotionally (Herr, 2013). As soon as children have to investigate a new room or meet new people, they try to use the presence of their mothers or other primary caregivers as the source of safe, confidence, and comfort (Benson & Haith, 2010). The development of a secure attachment relationship is a chance for children to be properly developed and an opportunity for parents to be satisfied with an upbringing process.

Alleviation of Behavioral Problems

A secure attachment relationship is also important for consideration due to the possibility to alleviate many behavior problems as a child starts growing. The investigations of Kestenbaum, Farber and Sroufe (as cited in Simpson & Rholes, 2015) prove that children with a secure attachment are more likely to behave in empathetic ways and get involved in free-play interactions quicker in comparison to the children who experience insecure attachment relations. The children, who are securely attached, have positive expectations, create good relations with society, and stay confident and definite as soon as they face some alarming situations. The secure attachment relation developed at the early stage helps to behave properly with time. Such children know how to analyze a situation, what questions should be asked, and to whom it is possible to address for help. Securely attached children know that they are free to make decisions that are logically approved. Even if they make mistakes, they realize that it is not the end of the world, the situation may be clarified, and explanations can be given. Insecurely attached children are not able to make the same decisions and behave the way people may expect.

Kail and Cavanaugh (2007) investigate the behaviors of securely and insecurely attached children and conclude that secure relations promote the development of a number of skills and qualities among children that help them to avoid conflicts, have high-quality friendships, and meet the social expectations set. In other words, a properly developed secure attached relation is a chance to achieve success in social interactions and alleviate such behavior problems as anxiety, aggression, depression, social contact, and even sleeping disorders (as the result of the challenges experienced during the day).

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History of Attachment Theory

Essence

There are many ways of how a secure attachment relationship can be investigated, but attachment theory is one of the best and most appropriate options to rely on. Attachment theory is an area of psychology that deals with different forms of attachment, its development, and the effects it may have on a child and the development of their relations (Manson, 2011). The development of this theory began in the middle of the 1950s. Bowlby and Ainsworth were the researchers, who worked on the theory during their lives. Their work served as the basis for the development of different strategies and attachment types with the help of which people become able to analyze their behavior, improve the conditions under which the entire world is studied, and comprehend how human relations and behavior can be developed.

Tests

It was important to check the quality of attachment that developed between people. Ainsworth developed the procedure in order to measure the quality and called it the Strange Situation. Child behavior was observed for a certain period of time. Children were challenged by various stressful stimuli such as the presence of an unfamiliar person, staying in an unknown room, or an unexpected separation with a mother or another primary caregiver and demonstrated different reactions and activities to stay protected against any of these disturbances (Benson & Haith, 2010). This assessment technique helps to investigate the behavior and predict the problems that can take place.

One- or two-year-old children are investigated. They have to pass through eight stages such as the presence of a mother and an experimenter with a baby, the period a mother and a child stay alone, the time when a stranger joins their company, the time when a mother leaves a child with a stranger, then a mother returns and a stranger leaves the room, the period when a child is left alone in a room, and the time when a stranger returns, and, finally, a mother returns and a stranger leaves (Benson & Haith, 2010).

Research Findings

The conclusions made in the research were based on the importance of a mother (primary caregiver) in a child’s life and her possibility to demonstrate the required behavior. Children can be divided into three main categories: securely attached, insecurely avoidant, and insecure ambivalent. A secure attachment relation promotes the development of confidence in children and the ability to cope with any situation and helps to create a responsive and helpful person. An insecure-avoidant relation is characterized by independent attachment. It means that a child does not find it necessary to stay in contact with a mother or another caregiver because of his/her insensitive behavior and the negligence of child needs. As a rule, such children may cope with difficult tasks. Still, their emotional conditions may be unstable. It is hard to prevent the behavior of such children when they grow. Finally, an insecure ambivalent relation seems to be the most dangerous because it is characterized by the child’s ambivalence in relation to a caregiver. It may happen that children may be dependent on their caregivers but cope with different tasks independently or stay indifferent to their caregivers when they are alone and unable to take a step if a caregiver is a way or a stranger joins a company.

Strategies and Steps for Parents to Instill a Sense of Attachment

There are many strategies and steps that can be used to instill a sense of attachment among children and help parents identify the most appropriate ideas on how to develop good parent-child relations. Each type of attachment requires a number of steps to be taken and a number of thoughts to be evaluated. Children cannot understand what they do wrong if some problems take place, and parents need more time and information to be confident that their activities are appropriate, and they do not do harm to their children.

Strategy One

One of the first attachment strategies people may adopt is secure. This strategy helps people enjoy the comfort and opportunities they get. Children can stay alone and make independent decisions as well as prioritize their relations with their caregivers. There are no definite boundaries on how child behavior may be developed. At the same time, this strategy is a so-called boundary to what is normal and acceptable and what is out of the norm. The key aspects of this strategy are repetition and stability. The main steps that can be done in the frames of this strategy are the provision of children with support, care, and understanding and the presence of time they can spend on the development of new relations under new conditions. The more support children get, the more powerful their sense of attachment can be. Children are able to develop positive expectations and know that everything that happens to them can be supported and explained by parents in case they ask for additional help.

Strategy Two

Another strategy is based on the anxious attachment type. This strategy is developed on anxious and nervous relations that parents introduce to their children. It is hard for children to stay alone and get used to some new environment. Children are under a threat of developing unhealthy relations with their peers and abusive relations with unknown people. As a rule, a number of irrational steps take place. It is necessary to promote self-regulation in such situations. Therefore, the main steps that can be offered for this strategy are training, listening, concentrating, and sharing new information. Children may be easily disturbed by environmental noise or other unpredictable interactions. They cannot even understand that they have to address their parents or other primary caregivers for help. What they need is additional monitoring and the introduction of new information in the most convenient for them ways. Any kind of intervention strategy is appropriate.

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Strategy Three

Finally, there is an avoidant attachment strategy when children do not get the required portion of support and understanding. Parents remain to be unavailable and unsupportive. Children suffer from the inability to learn and comprehend the world and the peculiarities of the relations that can be developed. Such a strategy leads to the development of anxiety and even a kind of disillusion among children. The main steps that can be done to improve the sense of attachment to this strategy are frequent cooperation with parents, training for parents on how they can support their children, and routine activities with the help of which children can develop their positive attitudes and are not disturbed by the environmental changes they are not ready for. In such situations, children do not suffer from stable routines but learn how to cooperate and gain control of their emotions and behavior problems. Parents have to understand that their role is crucial in this strategy, and they cannot neglect their duties to help raise a child in a proper way.

Best Practices for Parents

Researchers from different regions are eager to offer their ideas on how parents can improve their practices in order to promote a secure attachment relationship with their children. Some of them require the participation of psychological experts and their best pieces of advice, and some practices may be developed by parents individually in regards to the behavior of their children, the presence of time, and the evaluation of the environment.

Kail and Cavanaugh (2007) underline the importance of secure attachment in regards to a child’s later development and promote the development of individual relations between parents and children. They rely on the experiments by Cox et al. (as cited in Kail & Cavanaugh, 2007) according to which infants at 12 months are able to develop appropriate secure relations in case parents were sensitive and able to respond quickly and appropriately, when their infants were at three months. In the same book, the research of the Netherland psychologists showed that constant training and monitoring developed by parents to their children at the age of three months and sensitive treatment were the key issues in a secure attachment (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2007). Kail & Cavanaugh (2007) conclude that the best practices that parents can do to their children are connected with their responsiveness and sensitivity to all emotional demands and physical needs of their children.

Benson and Haith (2010) explain the importance of such factors as affection and a high-quality soothing. In case children observe an anxious and inappropriate behavior of their parents or other primary caregivers, they may be avoidantly attached and have to cope with a number of challenges with time. Manson (2011) offers to identify the style of attachment first in order to understand what kind of activities and practices are more appropriate to a particular family. The author underlines the fact that it is possible to change the type of attachment in case the results of the test are not satisfactory. Parents have to realize that their impact on children is impressive, and some of them cannot be able to develop relations with their peers and enjoy the beauty of friendship.

Finally, parents are always able to make some improvements personally. Their best practices are as follows:

  • Reading educative literature and the case when children need urgent help to solve their behavior problems;
  • Following the examples of other families and their experiences with the development of the required attachment style;
  • Observing the behavior of a child and analyzing the outcomes;
  • Care for a child and yourself as the possibility to avoid stresses, depressions, and other situations that may challenge a child.

Considerations for Parents

In addition to the theoretical aspects of a secure attachment relationship and the evaluation of the possible practices, parents have to consider the impact of ethical, legal, and socio-cultural issues.

Ethical Aspects

There are many ethical considerations in regards to the analysis of secure attachment relations because children are usually put under stress or other disturbing factors. It is necessary to protect people against the impact of tests and investigations. In brief, there is a question of moral responsibility to protect the participants. On the one hand, such investigations help to comprehend the needs of people and the requirements that should be met. On the other hand, in case people are informed and know what is expected and required, they can make the necessary agreements and contracts to identify their rights.

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Legal Concerns

From a legal point of view, there are no properly identified considerations that can or have to be mentioned. There are no well-known cases when people have some problems as the participants of secure attachment research. Parents should remember that their impact on their children and the information they share with young citizens should not contradict the law.

Socio-Cultural Issues

The role of social and cultural aspects is huge for parenting and developing parent-child relations because people choose their methods in regards to the social and cultural expectations of their environment. Culture influences many aspects of the relations under analysis (Benson & Haith, 2010). Many parents regard the social expectations in order to organize the feeding and educational process of their children. In some cultures, there is a tendency to separate children from their mothers and provide a child with another primary caregiver. In some countries, the connection between parents and children is strong indeed. Secure attachment relations are developed in regards to all these expectations, and parents should make the decisions in regards to their own interests and intentions.

Conclusion

In general, a secure attachment relation plays an important role in the life of every human. The environment that primary caregivers (usually mothers) offer to their children defines the quality of a child’s life and identifies all aspects of early development. Mother-child relations are powerful by their nature, and mothers have to understand that their role as the suppliers of food and physical comfort is not the only one. Caregivers have to take care of their children, be helpful and available anytime, and understand that all their words and activities influence their children.

References

Benson, J.B. & Haith, M.M. (2010). Social and emotional development in infancy and early childhood. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Eysenck, M.W. (2005). Psychology for AS level. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.

Herr, O.E. (2013). Children with reactive attachment disorder: A quilting method approach for restoring the damaged years. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.

Kail, R.V. & Cavanaugh, J.C. (2007). Human development: A life-span view. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

Malekpour, M. (2007). Effects of attachment on early and later development. The British Journal of Developmental Disabilities, 53(105), 81-95.

Manson, M. (2011). Attachment theory. Web.

Simpson, J.A. & Rholes, W.S. (2015). Attachment theory and research: New directions and emerging themes. New York, NY: Guilford Publications.