Understanding Attachment in Young Children
Why do babies cry when their mother leaves the room? Why do young children seek out a parent for a hug when they get hurt? Why do infants want so insistently to be fed on a regular schedule? These and other questions relate to the key interactions that build a relationship between adults and young children - the attachment relationship.
The quality of the relationship between parents and young children is one of the most powerful factors in a child's growth and development. Understanding this relationship has changed our understanding of what is important in parenting young children. The term attachment often is used to describe the nature of this
Terms such as "attachment" and "bonding" often are used interchangeably. However, the meanings can be quite different.
Attachment is the word used to refer to the relationship developed between an infant and a parent or primary caregiver during the first two to three years of life. How this relationship forms is dependent on how a parent responds to a child's needs for care, comfort and security. It develops gradually and goes through a variety of phases. Note that this attachment refers to a child's feelings and actions in the relationship and not to the parent's feelings about the child.
Bonding often is the word used to refer to a parent's tie to an infant and typically occurs in the first hours and days of a child's life. Strong feelings of love and care that a mother or father feels toward a child help cement this bond. The "bonding experience" can help some parents develop a more permanent bond with their young children, although children need continuing care and sensitivity to form strong attachments.
Types of Attachment Relationships
The attachment relationship that a young child forms during the first two years of life takes time to develop. Typically, infants will develop this relationship with the parent(s) or person who provides the most direct, responsive care to their needs. This type of attachment with one to two significant adults is the primary attachment relationship.
Then children will form supporting relationships with other caring adults, which fall into the category of secondary attachment relationships. Ideally, a child will be able to form one to two strong and positive attachment relationships with parents, and then have a supportive web of secondary attachments with siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents, close friends, caregivers, etc. This is the most positive environment for a young child.
Reprinted with the permission of North Dakota State University.
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Child Development Theories
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Social Cognitive Theory
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- The Homework Debate
- Problems With Standardized Testing