Does our ability to show our children love and affection have long-term effects on their wellbeing? An ABC News article released earlier last week suggests that 40% of infants born in the US form insecure attachments with their caregivers. Unfortunately those first experiences will shape their adult relationships.
The basic premise of the Princeton study being discussed in the article, is that children who grow up in fear and distrust of their parents ability to meet their needs, adopt traits such as aggression, defiance and hyperactivity. According to the study, roughly 25% of children didn’t bond with their parents because their physical and emotional needs were not getting met, and another 15% avoided bonding with their parents as they found it “too distressing”.
There are various reasons why an attachment between a child and its caregiver might not develop securely. We have all experienced difficult times in life where our emotional ability to cope is challenged. Circumstances such as the loss of a loved one, abuse or trauma, depression, or even poverty, are all factors that contribute to the development of an insecure bond between a mother (or other primary caregiver) and their baby. All of these factors impact the caregiver’s emotional and physical ability to be completely present and in tune with their child’s needs.
Does this mean that insecurely attached infants are destined to have insecure and dysfunctional relationships throughout life? Sophie Moullin, the lead researcher in the Princeton study, said that these patterns could be overcome.
Did you hear that all you parents out there? They can be overcome! It is never too late to begin modeling secure attachment for your children. Attachment is most malleable from birth to six month old, but it can still be influenced in the toddler years. The best thing that parents can do is educate themselves on what constitutes a secure attachment, and try their best to model those traits in their relationship with their child. Learning to be in tune with your children’s needs and how to respond appropriately will drastically change their behaviour and foster a stronger relationship dynamic.
On the other hand, if you are like me and your parents were educated in the school of life rather than attachment research, there is still hope! Science is revealing all kinds of ways to help us work towards secure attachment in our interpersonal and romantic relationships. The first step is identifying and understanding our attachment style; from there we can better understand our needs in relationships. For more on attachment styles and how to build secure relationships check out Erica Djossa’s blog, Inspiring Wholehearted Connection and join our Google Hangout this Thursday at 10 am PT/ 1:00 pm ET.
By Erica Djossa, B.A., M.A.