Attachment is the emotional bond that forms between infant and caregiver, and it is the means by which the helpless infant gets primary needs met. It then becomes an engine of subsequent social, emotional, and cognitive development. The early social experience of the infant stimulates growth of the brain and can have an enduring influence on the ability to form stable relationships with others.
Attachment provides the infant’s first coping system; it sets up a mental representation of the caregiver in an infant’s mind, one that can be summoned up as a comforting mental presence in difficult moments. Attachment allows an infant to separate from the caregiver without distress and to begin to explore the world around her.
Neuroscientists believe that attachment is such a primal need that there are networks of neurons in the brain dedicated to setting it in motion in the first place and a hormone—oxytocin—that fosters the process.