Attachment and the impact this has on a child's developmental stages through to adulthood.

You may have heard of attachment theory when associated with the connections and bonds we as humans form in our lives, but how many of you understand the significance of those formable years?

Attachment theory focuses on relationships and bonds (particularly long-term) between people, including those between a parent and child and between romantic partners. It is a psychological explanation for the emotional bonds and relationships between people.

This theory suggests that people are born with a need to forge bonds with caregivers as children. These early bonds may continue to have an influence on attachments throughout life.

What Is Attachment?

British psychologist John Bowlby was the first to have discovered the enduring link of attachment and the impact this has of children's developmental stages through to adulthood.

The central theme of attachment theory is that primary caregivers who are available and responsive to an infant's needs allow the child to develop a sense of security. The infant learns that the caregiver is dependable, which creates a secure base for the child to then explore the world.

In the 1970's, another psychologist, Mary Ainsworth expanded upon Bowlby's principles and original works around attachment. Ainsworth described three major styles of attachment:

  • secure attachment
  • ambivalent-insecure attachment
  • avoidant-insecure attachment

Later, researchers Main and Solomon (1986) added a fourth attachment style called disorganized-insecure attachment based on their own research.

So why is it critical for us to understand the notion of attachment?

Children who are securely attached as infants tend to develop stronger self-esteem and better self-reliance as they grow older. These children also tend to be more independent, perform better in school, have successful social relationships, and experience less depression and anxiety.

Adults who were securely attached in childhood tend to have good self-esteem, strong romantic relationships, and the ability to self-disclose to others.

Research suggests that failure to form secure attachments early in life can have a negative impact on behaviour in later childhood and throughout life.

With a deeper understanding and knowledge around attachment theory, we as therapists can uncover and help bring to light some of the questions I hear in my clinic on a regular basis:
  • why do I keep doing the same things over and over again that always get me depressed?
  • why do I keep going back to bad men?
  • how come my child is so rude and angry all the time?
  • my child has been diagnosed with ADHD - I was a good parent so why is my child performing and acting out?
  • my partner is so cold - he/she never really understands what I am going through - they keep avoiding me - we are always in conflict

These are only few of the queries that arise in therapy which could link back to early childhood attachments or lack thereof.

Uncovering and understanding you is the holy grail of life. If we know who we are, understand how we have evolved from our childhood, then we are all in a far stronger position to make healthy changes to have a better tomorrow.

Commence your journey of self discovery here..give me a call so we can start to unpack you and re-write your 'user manual' so to get the best out of your life.


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