Healthy attachment parenting is a must for the child’s personality development and good mental health later in life.
In a very simple definition, an attachment is a relationship or affective bond that develops between two or more individuals. In this article, we are talking about the attachment parenting and the emotional bond that the child develops with his/her family.
Considered the strongest attachment to an individual’s life, children and parents are biologically programmed to create this emotional connection. However, the little ones can also connect affectionately with the people who care for them and offer them love or attention (grandparents, educators, friends, etc.).
The need for attachment is an innate one, and the formation of it begins in the early years of childhood.
Thus, according to the pediatrician and psychoanalyst John Bowlby, considered the father of the attachment theory, there are four main stages of attachment development:
1. Pre-attachment (from birth to 6 weeks of age) occurs when the child’s behavior is purely reflexive and genetically motivated by the need for survival. The new-born tries to keep the caregivers close to him, touching them with their hands, smiling or crying.
2. “Attachment in Making” (6 weeks to 6 to 8 months) occurs when young children start to see and hear better, being able to understand the people who revolve around them. It is the time when the child expresses their preference for mother’s company.
3. “Clear Cut” attachment (6-8 months to 18 months – 2 years) is characterized by the fact that the little one shows a very clear attachment to the mother. At this stage, separation anxiety also begins to manifest itself.
By the age of 2, the little one requires the presence of his/her mother especially when s/he needs to feel safe.
4. The formation of relationships (from 2 years and after this age) is better outlined, and the child realizes that his/her mother and the other people who care for him/her are distinct individuals with their own purposes.
Around the age of 3, the child is increasingly accepting the temporary absence of these people, especially since separation anxiety fades.
What Factors Contribute to the Development of Attachment Parenting
Specialists claim that the way the attachment is created can influence all the subsequent relationships of the child. Moreover, healthy attachment parenting is a prerequisite for the child’s good mental health. Among the effects of attachment parenting that act positively on the development of the child’s personality are:
- A secure environment in which the child knows that his/her mother (or father, grandmother, etc.) is available and will help him/her when he or she will face an unpleasant situation or fear something. If the little child feels that his/her parents are attentive and responsive to his/her signals, giving him/her protection, care and affection, s/he will be confident and courageous, ready to discover the world.
- Good affective interaction with the mother and other adults around the child – the little one needs not only food, hygiene, sleep but also gestures such as visual contact, caresses, etc. Also, involvement in the child’s games is very important and contributes to the development of the attachment.
- Quality of mother-child relationship – The relationship between mother and child is, in most cases, a very special one. Children need to feel fully loved by the being that gave them life and to be at the center of their universe. Deprivation of love and maternal attention can have devastating effects.
- The proximity of healthy attachment patterns – if the child’s parents have a secure attachment to each other, there is a lot of chances for them to convey the same type of attachment to their child.
Positive Effects of Attachment Parenting
It has been found that the way in which attachment is formed in young childhood has consequences on many aspects concerning the psycho-emotional and intellectual development of the child. Attachment parenting, which is built under the influence of positive factors, helps the child to:
- Trust in their own capabilities.
- Cooperate well with the people around.
- Be courageous and able to easily overcome fears.
- Reach their maximum intellectual potential.
- Create stable and lasting relationships.
- Recognize the extremes of dependence and independence.
- Allow the excesses of jealousy.
Negative Effects of Excessive Attachment Parenting
The goal of a parent is not to become the beloved person in the world but to have a child, who has every chance to become a confident adult, with a high self-esteem and ability to enjoy life and other people.
Excessive protection from the parents can make the child feel helpless without them and unwilling to trust his/her own abilities. All these things can negatively influence a child’s personality development.
In other words, the child risks becoming an adult who will need reassurance from other people each time s/he attempts to accomplish a goal. S/he may struggle to recognize his/her own qualities and each difficulty may be seen as a threat rather than an opportunity to grow.
How to Help Your Child Develop a Sense of Independence
- Engage the child in various activities and make him/her feel useful.
- Praise him/her for the smallest success.
- Discipline her/him, but do not criticize.
- Engage in sporting or cultural activities such as swimming, foreign language classes, music, and theatre.
- Spend time with him/her, but also create some personal space for him/her. Encourage him/her to have playmates.
If your child is overly dependent on you, show them that you love them so much that you trust them to be able to handle themselves in certain situations.
By Andreea V.