Following an acrimonious divorce or separation, arguments are frequently presented as to why a child should not be with a non-resident parent. The custodial parent, whether a father or amother, uses the concept of a child being attached to himself or herself and therefore this should prevent the child from having actual or reasonable contact with the absent parent. This view is based on antagonism between the former partners rather than the importance of the attachment theory being relevant. The attach-ment theory is also used to discredit the intentions of the noncusto-dial parent. This is especially the case for the younger child. Witholder children this is not likely to be as relevant. The history of the development of the attachment theory commencing with Bowlby and Ainsworth is presented, and the counterarguments are also presented. Attachment to the mother is obviously important initially but attachment to the father is equally important to the child and such bonding is likely to lead to positive emotional and behavioral development. It is therefore argued that both fathers and mothers have an important role to play and are, or should be,responsible for the rearing of children. The acrimony between the couple should not be considered as relevant as it is, in fact, the real reason why attachment theory is used against a nonresident parent
The Dynamic–Maturational Model of Attachment and Adaptation (DMM) emphasizes the dynamic interaction of the maturation of the human organism, across the life-span, with the contexts in which maturational possibilities are used to protect the self, reproduce, and protect one’s progeny.
Overview of the DMM
The Dynamic-Maturational Model of Attachment and Adaptation (DMM) emphasizes the dynamic interaction of the maturation of the human organism, across the life-span, with the contexts in which maturational possibilities are used to protect the self, reproduce, and protect one’s progeny.
- Maturation is both neurological/mental and also physical.
- Maturation involves both the increase in potential during childhood and adulthood and also the ultimate decrease in potential in old age.
- Contexts include both the people and places that affect development, e.g., family, school.
- Context also includes the intra-and-interpersonal challenges of different periods of the life-span, including:
- Infancy: The parents mediate the effect of the context upon the infant, including risk to the infant.
- Preschool: learning safe forms of self-reliance for short periods of time;
- School-age: establishing symmetrical attachments with best friends while concurrently maintaining affiliative peer relationships;
- Adolescence: transforming best friend attachments into romantic, reciprocal attachments with a sexual component;
- Adulthood: establishing (1) symmetrical and reciprocal spousal attachments that foster both partners’ development, (2) the nurturance of children in non-reciprocal, and (3) non-symmetrical attachment relationships in which the adult is the attachment figure;
- Aging: attachments in later life when the adult is becoming less physically and mentally competent and in need of protection once again.
I think it is absolutely essential that social workers have a basic understanding of attachment theory and the importance of the early relationship between baby and mother (again used as shorthand) from the first moments of birth, and even in utero as there is evidence that babies can be adversely affected if there is tension, hostility, domestic violence etc., and how this insecure attachment pattern will affect the children as they grow through the ages and stages of childhood. They need to understand that attachment patterns are secure or insecure/anxious, not “strong” or any of the other adjectives that are often used. However it is only by observing the interaction between the mother and child that can demonstrate the attachment pattern. Having said that, great care should be taken not to jump to conclusions, and indeed I don’t think it fair that social workers should be expected to determine the exact attachment pattern between mother and child. This is more the work of clinical psychologists and play therapists, often working collaboratively.
The other important point is that LAs should make it a priority to ensure that all prospective and approved foster carers and adopters are given the opportunity to learn about attachment theory and practice. These children with insecure attachment patterns, or an attachment disorder are going to be in their care, and it can only be positive for them to have an understanding of the reasons for the child’s often difficult and challenging behaviour.
Adopters need to know that “love is not enough” (a commonly held view, and not unreasonable) but the child who has an insecure/anxious attachment with his mother, or an attachment disorder is going to prove a huge challenge for the adopters, especially in the case of the attachment disordered child. Indeed these children should be able to receive play therapy and the adopters should be assisted/guided by the therapist as to the best way of caring for the child, to enable the adverse effects of his early life to be minimised, and for him to begin to feel loved and valued for who he is, and that love and care is not conditional. There is no “quick fix” and sadly LAs are so cash strapped that they are highly unlikely to pay for play therapists. Some LAs have clinical psychologists who are able to offer training on attachment to social workers, managers, foster carers and adopters.
Many foster carers and adopters in the LA in which I worked said that it was “like the scales falling from their eyes” as they recognised the child who was insecurely attached to his mother, and the behaviours that were manifested as a result. Many of them went on to read and study the topic further and in turn were able to share their knowledge with other foster carers and adopters. https://childprotectionresource.online/category/attachment-theory-2/
This attachment pattern forms when parents are insensitive, unreliable and inconsistently responsive. Children very often adapt the psychological defence of fight, and show angry behaviour, crying, whining, fretting, clinging, demanding, shouting and tantrums. This is an attempt to break through the emotional neglect, unavailability and lack of responsivity. Needless to say this generally doesn’t bring the desired response, and these children grow up feeling that they are not worthy of automatic interest. Other adults are seen as inconsistent and not always able to soothe and provide comfort. These children grow up to be particularly vulnerable to stress and are very frustrated (sub consciously of course) that the mother is emotionally desired but emotionally unreliable. At any one times these children’s relationships with their mother are guided by strong feelings of either love or anger.
It’s important to recognise that even when children are insecurely or anxiously attached to their mother, they can adapt their behaviour (or organise themselves) in an attempt to get physically and emotionally close to their attachment figure, with varying degrees of success.
There is however a type of insecure attachment that is so severe that children are unable to organise their behaviour or develop a defensive strategy to achieve proximity or security, and their distress remains heightened and unregulated. The parents of these children are often dangerous (abusive) or emotionally unreachable because of severe mental illness, and/or abuse of drugs and alcohol. If one parent is the abuser, the other fails to protect. Children are severely neglected and/or abused. Without an organised strategy children may freeze, either physically or psychologically. These children have an attachment disorder and are going to need a great deal of understanding and resilience by the foster carers or adopters, who have a full understanding of how their early life experiences have affected these children.
By definition therefore ALL children who are removed from their parents by a Court Order are going to have one type or another of insecure or anxious attachments with their mother or parents/step-parents. https://childprotectionresource.online/category/attachment-theory-2/
This attachment pattern is sometimes referred to as dismissive. The mother (or parents) of these babies are often rejecting and controlling. If the baby cries it annoys or agitates the parents, and they lack sensitivity to the child, are unreliable and largely disinterested in the baby. These babies are often “prop fed” a bottle put into their mouth propped up by a towel (or something similar) while they are lying in the pram. The parents do not get any pleasure from the baby.
Hence at times when the baby is in need of comfort, care, protection, and this is manifested by crying, clinging, following, demanding, it actually brings the opposite reaction to what the child needs, in that the parents are rejecting or controlling.
The child’s strategy in this attachment pattern is often to minimise their needs and deny or not communicate their distress. Strong feelings are defensively excluded and emotional self-containment is established. This allows the child to stay in reasonable proximity to the attachment figure without causing him or her too much irritation, thus reducing the chances of being rejected. This strategy can be seen as the psychological defence of flight, rather than fight, e.g. a child may sit close to his mother, gradually moving nearer and if not rejected, attempting some kind of physical contact. Maybe they sit on the floor next to their mother’s chair, and then stand up and lean on the arm of the chair, and eventually chance getting into a mild form of physical contact e.g. putting their arm around their mother or laying their head on her arm. If they are not rejected they may try to sit on their mother’s lap and if the mother is not rejecting but not responsive either, the child will usually remain as long as possible.
These children are often described by foster carers and adopters as difficult to “reach” emotionally, “detached” “can’t make him out” “never know what he’s thinking” and in extreme cases, unable to show any affection other than very superficially. One adopter described her child as “fine on the outside, mostly pleasant and co-operative, but “hollow” – he has no middle.” Emotional self-containment was learned very early on in his life as a way of survival. https://childprotectionresource.online/category/attachment-theory-2/
These attachment patterns are broken down into Avoidant or Ambivalent attachments. Children who show these insecure attachment patterns have learned that there are conditions attached to their gaining proximity to their mother.
Interestingly these children develop appropriate strategies that a) increase the mother’s emotional availability and do not cause her to withdraw and b) bring care and protection. These strategies are of course devised for survival and can be effective, but the feelings of anxiety and insecurity remain in relation to the mother.
However both secure and insecure attachment patterns represent efforts by children to ORGANISE their behaviour, to achieve some kind of proximity to their mother and with it a “felt security” – and when there is an insecure attachment pattern, these behaviours in children have varying degrees of success. https://childprotectionresource.online/category/attachment-theory-2/
Basically ‘attachment’ is a theory developed by psychologists to explain how a child interacts with the adults looking after him or her. If a child has a healthy attachment, this means the child can be confident that the adults will respond to the child’s needs, for example if he is hungry, tired or frightened, the adult caregiver will respond to meet his needs or reassure and comfort him.
This gives the child confidence to explore his environment and develop a good sense of self-esteem. This will help the child grow up to be a happy and functioning adult.
If a child can’t rely on his carers to look after him and respond consistently, this has been noted to have potentially very serious and damaging consequences for the adult that child will become. If adults are seriously inconsistent or unresponsive in their behaviour to the child, he may become very anxious as he is not able to predict how the adults around him will act; the child may even give up trying to get his needs met.
So Its clearly an issue of interest; unsurprisingly as it often takes centre stage in discussions about children’s welfare in care proceedings. In this post I will look at at more particular question – who are the people the court rely on to give evidence about attachment?
I am grateful to everyone who took the time out to consider my question – there is clearly a lot to think about and I am increasingly concerned that the knowledge base of the lawyers may not be sufficient to allow us to navigate this area with ease. https://childprotectionresource.online/category/attachment-theory-2/
Attachment Parenting is an approach to childrearing that promotes a secure attachment bond between parents and their children. Attachment is a scientific term for the emotional bond in a relationship. The attachment quality that forms between parents and children, learned from the relational patterns with caregivers from birth on, correlates with how a child perceives – and ultimately is able to experience – relationships. Attachment quality is correlated with lifelong effects and often much more profound an impact than people understand. A person with a secure attachment is generally able to respond to stress in healthy ways and establish more meaningful and close relationships more often; a person with an insecure attachment style may be more susceptible to stress and less healthy relationships. A greater number of insecurely attached individuals are at risk for more serious mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety.
How parents develop a secure attachment with their child lies in the parent’s ability to fulfill that child’s need for trust, empathy, and affection by providing consistent, loving, and responsive care. By demonstrating healthy and positive relationship skills, the parent Provides critical emotional scaffolding for the child to learn essential self-regulatory skills.
Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting are designed to give parents the science-backed “tools” – valuable, practical insights for everyday parenting – that they can use to apply the concept behind Attachment Parenting. These tools guide parents as they incorporate attachment into their individual parenting styles:
- Prepare for Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Parenting — The overarching message within this principle is the importance of parents to research their decisions regarding pregnancy care, childbirth choices, and parenting styles; childbirth without the use of interventions shows the best start to the parent-infant bond. However, there are ways to modify the initial bonding experience for mothers who do encounter complications.
- Feed with Love and Respect — Research shows unequivocal evidence for breastfeeding for infants along with gentle weaning into nutritious food choices. Breastfeeding is the healthiest infant-feeding choice. The physiology of breastfeeding promotes a high degree of maternal responsiveness and is associated with several other positive outcomes. In the case breastfeeding is not possible, bottle-nursing — attentive bottle-feeding — should emulate the closeness of breastfeeding.
- Respond with Sensitivity — This Principle is a central element in all of the Principles; it is viewed by many parents as the cornerstone to Attachment Parenting. It encompasses a timely response by a nurturing caregiver. Baby-training systems, such as the commonly referred-to “cry it out,” are inconsistent with this Principle. The foundation of responding with sensitivity in the early years prepares parents for all their years of parenting, by modeling respect and caring.
- Provide Nurturing Touch — Parents who “wear” their babies in a sling or wrap are applying this Principle. Infants who are opposed to babywearing enjoy being held in-arms. Touch remains important throughout childhood and can be done through massage, hugs, hand-holding, and cuddling.
- Ensure Safe Sleep — This principle is the basis for one of the more controversial subjects in parenting. Many attachment parents share a room with their young children; those who exclusively breastfeed and who take necessary safety precautions may prefer to share their bed. However, this principle can be just as easily applied to crib-sleeping situations. The point is not the sleeping surface but that parents remain responsive to their children during sleep.
- Use Consistent and Loving Care — Secure attachment depends on continuity of care by a single, primary caregiver. Ideally, this is the parent. However, if both parents must work outside the home, this principle can be applied by ensuring that the child is being cared for by one childcare provider who embodies a responsive, empathic caregiver over the long-term; for example, an in-home nanny versus a large daycare center with rotating staff.
- Practice Positive Discipline — There is a strong push against physical punishment in recent years, but research shows that all forms of punishment, including punitive timeouts, can not only be ineffective in teaching children boundaries in their behavior but also harmful to psychological and emotional development. Parents are encouraged to teach by example and to use non-punitive discipline techniques such as substitution, distraction, problem solving, and playful parenting. Parents do not set rules so that their child obeys for the sake of structure, but rather to be the teacher, the coach, the cheerleader, and the guidepost as the child develops his or her own sense of moral responsibility within the construct of the family value system.
- Strive for Personal and Family Balance — Attachment Parenting is a family-centered approach in that all members of the family have equal value. The parent is not a tyrant, yet also not a martyr. Parents need balance between their parenting role and their personal life in order to continue having the energy and motivation to maintain a healthy relationship and to model healthy lifestyles for their children.
Damage to the brain’s frontal lobe is known to impair one’s ability to think and make choices. And now scientists say they’ve pinpointed the different parts of this brain region that preside over reasoning, self-control and decision–making.
First, attachment ensures the infant remain in the proximity of the caregiver to procure resources for survival and protection. Second, attachment “quality programs” the brain. This programming impacts immediate behaviors, as well as behaviors that emerge later in development.
We have known for decades that childhood experiences interact with genetics to change the structure of the brain and cause behavioral change.1 These early life experiences can dramatically alter the number of specialized communication cells within the brain (neurons), and these experiences can then increase or decrease the complexity of the neurons (dendritic branches) and the number of communication sites between them (synapses). The effects of this experience-based sculpting of the brain have profound effects on how the brain functions. In particular, they can determine how emotional centers of the brain communicate with the cortex and its higher functioning to determine our personality, our choices, and how we approach the world. This flexible, experience-based tuning of the brain’s development enables many parenting styles and relationships to produce children who grow into productive, law-abiding citizens that contribute to society. Aberrant experiences, including abuse and neglect from the caregiver, however, can hijack this experience-based system, leading to emotional and cognitive deficits and a view of the world as a dangerous place. These early life traumas go beyond the normal programming of the brain and initiate a pathway to pathology, which can often have a delayed expression until the child approaches periadolescence. Since early life abuse can be associated with brain damage from prenatal and postnatal (that is, via lactation) drug and alcohol abuse,2 the effects of child abuse can be comorbid with additional difficulties. Decades ago, we attributed these deficits to psychological problems as though there was no physical manifestation of the problems, but we now know better—the structure and functioning of the brain contribute to these behavioral traits. This Article reviews the child abuse and neglect neuroscience literature presented within the framework of attachment, because most abuse is from the caregiver. Attachment has two basic functions: (1) Attachment ensures the child remain in proximity of the caregiver, and (2) attachment programs the lifelong structure and function of the brain. Importantly, within this framework the effects of early life abuse can be expressed differently at different ages, with short- and long-term effects showing distinct patterns and the most dramatic effects delayed until later life.3
Furthermore, children tolerate considerable abuse while remaining strongly attached to an abusive caretaker. It appears that selection pressure and evolution have produced an attachment system that ensures the infant attaches to the caregiver regardless of the quality of caregiving received.
It is thought that the chronic stress of chaotic homes, divorce, abuse, and other stressors produce prolonged stress responses that are particularly damaging to children. One mechanism that can reduce stress hormone release is social buffering, whereby an attachment figure (or, at later stages of development, a trusted partner) can greatly attenuate the release of stress hormones. Indeed, the attachment figure is a strong social buffering stimulus in children, although this system appears compromised in some abused children. Social buffering can protect a child from the damaging effects of stress. The role of the attachment figure as a regulator of the child’s stress response for social buffering is related to the role of the mother as a “hidden regulator” of physiological functions discussed in Part II.24