Child Attachment

Child Attachment

A Secure Child Attachment

Research on child attachment indicates that children who enjoy a secure attachment relationship with their primary caregiver/s do better in life across a range of psychological domains. A secure child attachment contributes to psychological resilience and well being, and promotes positive psychological outcomes that extend well into the adult years. Compared to less securely attached children, securely attached children do better socially, they show higher levels of self-esteem. better ability to navigate relationships with children and other adults and to self-regulate and control their emotions and behaviors. They are also likely to do better at school, and to show better ability to concentrate and pay attention.

Securely attached children also do better as adults. Compared to children with less secure attachments they are more apt to:

  • Enjoy stable long lasting romantic relationships 
  • To enjoy rewarding, close  friendships.
  • Do well at work and cope successfully with professional challenges.
  • Show psychological resilience, including good problem solving skills, good emotional and behavioral regulation and the ability to set appropriate boundaries with others. 
  • Show good self-esteem. 
  • Raise securely attached children.

The quality of the chlld attachment relationship with our primary caregivers affects many aspects of our development, including how our brains develop. Our child attachment relationships shape our self-perceptions, our perceptions of others and how we perceive their intentions and behaviors. Child attachment relationships can influence our levels of physiological arousal, our psychological well being, including our abilities to regulate our emotions and behaviors and the quality of our relationships with others.

The child who lacks a secure child attachment  with a primary caretaker/s is likely to show psychological upset and distress. Children who live in the stressful environments that  can contribute to insecure child attachments show negative alterations in brain chemistry. The elevated stress hormones that can typify these children may impair their functioning across  major developmental domains. They are at greater risk than securely attached children of showing child behavioral problems. For example:

  • Behavior problems, including conduct disorders
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anger, lack of impulse control, violent behavior
  • Depression
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Poor physical health
  • Inability to trust others and problems forming and maintaining healthy rewarding relationships

Attachment Theory

Attachment theory rests on the belief that our earliest attachment relationships with our primary caregivers help lay the foundation for our social, emotional and psychological development. Secure attachments develop in children whose primary caregiver/s  are able to meet the child's needs. These include needs for attention, physical contact, understanding, acceptance, comfort and a sense of security,  Emotionally secure environments where the child feels safe and secure foster secure child attachments.   

Children's relationships begin to build from birth, and centre on the child's relationship with his or her primary caregiver/s. With time the child's relationships branch out to include extended  family members, including grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings, as well as teachers, and others who play a role in the young child's life. 

These relationships interact to strengthen the child's feelings of security and trust and assist him or her in building secure and trusting relationships with others from childhood and into the adult years. Or depending on the quality of the relationship they can do the opposite.

So do what you can to help build secure, trusting relationships with the children you care about and work with.  

To learn more about child attachment and how to promote a secure attachment style in a child, click here.

Dr O'Connor offers Psychological Assessments that she tailors to the specific needs of a child or adolescent who is showing attachment problems.