Attachment – The Relationship Between Infancy Trust and Need

     There are many debates that about the idea of attachment between a child and a caregiver. Sigmund Freud (1940) believed that children became attached to those people who satisfied their needs, for example hunger or thirst. Therefore, the child becomes attached to the first person who nourishes them. Erik Erikson (1963) on the other hand, believed that babies become attached to those people they can trust to reliably fulfil their needs, making it an issue of trust, not just physical comfort. John Bowlby (1969) believes that children who are separated from their parents for a long period of time or are orphaned, become psychologically troubled, throw more tantrums, cry more often and go through periods of depression and despair, finally becoming indifferent to others. This indifference was termed “disattachment.” As well, see the link Separation Anxiety in the “Problems Children and Teens Face” section.

Making Sure your child is Healthily Attached:

     A parent may be asking themselves – how do I make sure that my child is happily attached and will grow up to be a healthy adult? Mary Ainsworth (1967) proposed three categories or styles of attachment.

     Secure attachment involves a child being comfortable in their parent’s presence, playing well with other children and responding positively to strangers. A securely attached child will become upset when the parent leaves and will not be consoled from strangers, however they will be easily calmed when the parent returns.

     Anxious/Avoidantly attached children are indifferent to their parent when in a room together. They may or may not cry when the parent leaves the room. If they are upset a stranger is as effective at comforting the child as the parent would be. When the parent returns they may turn or look away rather than seek their comfort.

     Anxious/Resistantly attached children have trouble in strange situations in general. They stay close to their parent and are anxious even when they are near. When the parent leaves they become very upset and will actively seek the parent when they return, but resist comfort when it is offered.

Causes for Different types of Attachment:

     Research on what leads to the different types of attachment has focused on the following factors.

1. Parent Behaviour: Ainsworth and Bell (1969) found that mothers who were more sensitive to their infants needs and responded to them more quickly and accurately were more likely to have children that were securely attached at one year of age.
2. The Child Behaviour: The response of the child is also important in how the parent will act towards their child. Mothers of infants who are temperamentally easy have an easier time of responding to their infants needs and establishing a bond than mothers with more difficult babies.
3. Family Influences: Stress on the parent has also been seen to reduce a child’s chances of becoming securely attached. An important factor in this stress is money – children living in poverty are less likely to show secure attachment.

Related Links

Child Psychology
Early Childhood
Mental Development
Social development & Identity
Aggression & Prosocial Behaviour
Community Influences
Middle Childhood
Developmental Psychology
Problems of Children & Teens