Learning Objectives Explain the way the attachment system works and its evolutionary significance. Identify three commonly studied attachment patterns and what is known about the development of those patterns. Describe what is known about the consequences of secure versus insecure attachment in adult relationships. For example, some of the greatest sources of joy involve falling in love, starting a family, being reunited with distant loved ones, and sharing experiences with close others.
Received Apr 25; Accepted Sep 4. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.
Abstract Attachment theory predicts and subsequent empirical research has amply demonstrated that individual variations in patterns of early attachment behaviour are primarily influenced by differences in sensitive responsiveness of caregivers. However, meta-analyses have shown that parenting behaviour accounts for about one third of the variance in attachment security or disorganisation.
The exclusively environmental explanation has been challenged by results demonstrating some, albeit inconclusive, evidence of the effect of infant temperament.
In this paper, after reviewing briefly the well-demonstrated familial and wider environmental influences, the evidence is reviewed for genetic and gene-environment interaction effects on developing early attachment relationships. Studies investigating the interaction of genes of monoamine neurotransmission with parenting environment in the course of early relationship development suggest that children's differential susceptibility to the rearing environment depends partly on genetic differences.
In addition to the overview of environmental and genetic contributions to infant attachment, and especially to disorganised attachment relevant to mental health issues, the few existing studies of gene-attachment interaction effects on development of childhood behavioural problems are also reviewed.
A short account of the most important methodological problems to be overcome in molecular genetic studies of psychological and psychiatric phenotypes is also given.
Finally, animal research focusing on brain-structural aspects related to early care and the new, conceptually important direction of studying environmental programming of early development through epigenetic modification of gene functioning is examined in brief.
The human newborn, however competent in many ways [ 2 ], cannot survive unless responsive adults feed and protect them from environmental hazards. Beyond physical care, early experiences have a significant formative influence on children's later mental health, social adjustment and personality development.
Attachment theory, conceived by John Bowlby in an evolutionary framework, has proposed that the human infant is born with a set of behavioural mechanisms selected for increasing the chances of survival.
The dyadic regulatory system and associated behaviours are normally activated by impending or perceived external danger and by states of internal stress, such as illness or fatigue.
Thus, unlike earlier theories of parent-child relationships, which emphasized the role of any caregiver in satisfying the infant's physiological needs e. The attachment behavioural system is theorised to be integrated with other behavioural systems in reaching its "set goal", the felt security of the child under various external and internal conditions.
The actual behaviours of the dyadic attachment system clearly change in the course of physical and mental development of children, who come to be able to endure longer separations and increasing distances from caregivers.
Attachment relationships are formed in the course of interactions with caregivers. Infants accumulate information regarding readiness, quality and reliability of responses from others and, by the end of the first year of life, specific representations are formed about the caregivers, the self and the nature of relationships.
These representations are theorised to influence children's behaviour contemporaneously, as well as influencing their subsequent social relationships [ 3 ].
Variations of attachment patterns Individual variations in infants' attachment to caregivers can be observed through their behaviour, especially under conditions of stress that activate seeking and maintaining proximity.
The Strange Situation Procedure SSP [ 4 ] developed for measuring the balance between infants' exploration and attachment behaviour consists of short episodes inducing mild stress in the infant by the entrance and approach of a stranger and two subsequent brief separations from the caregiver.
Dyadic behaviour videotaped throughout the session is evaluated by experts for fundamental attachment strategies [ 5 ] and for the degree of disorganization of these strategies [ 6 ].
Secure B attachment can be characterized by the infants' open communication of emotions and their ability to make use of the caregiver as a secure base from which to explore. There are two organized insecure attachment patterns; infants avoiding contact or interaction with the caregiver upon reunion and minimizing the expression of negative emotions under stress are termed avoidantly attached Awhilst infants expressing intense negative emotions and wanting contact, but unable to settle following the separations are classified as resistantly attached C.
Infants who are unable to obtain comfort from the caregiver at times of fearful arousal, and whose behaviour in the reunion episodes appears to lack a clear strategy, may display simultaneous or sequential contradictory behaviours, misdirected, stereotypical movements, extended freezing and direct expression of fear in the presence of the caregiver.
Thousands of assessments during the last three decades have allowed the estimation of the frequencies of these infant attachment types across a range of populations. There is some cross-cultural variation in these frequencies, but differences within any culture can be just as large as between cultures [ 7 ].
Explanations for individual variability in attachment patterns Environmental factors Bowlby's attachment theory is a truly environmental theory as it has explained individual differences in attachment patterns attachment types by individual variations in caregivers' behaviour.
In their seminal study [ 5 ], Ainsworth and colleagues found links between observed care-giving behaviour at home and characteristic behaviour patterns in the laboratory-based SSP. They found that the optimal, secure behaviour pattern could be linked to sufficient sensitive responsiveness at home.
Sensitivity was conceptually distinguished from responsiveness, with sensitive responses defined as being guided by an appropriate interpretation of infants' signals and changing needs. The avoidant pattern could be related to rejecting, dismissing or neglecting responses to infants' signals, especially to those signals expressing negative emotions, while in the background of the resistant pattern, unreliable, inconsistent care was identified.
Although many studies demonstrated a significant link between early care and attachment, studies varied greatly regarding in estimates of the strength of the relationship. De Wolff and van IJzendoorn [ 11 ] reviewed 66 studies to evaluate effect sizes in relation to the methodology used for assessing caregivers' sensitivity.Parenting: Attachment, Bonding and Reactive Attachment Disorder.
On this page: What is secure attachment?
| How is secure attachment related to optimum development? | Secure attachment doesn't have to be perfect | What causes insecure attachment and attachment disorder? | What are the signs and symptoms of insecure attachment? | How does neurological dis-regulation affect the attachment .
Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and Other Attachment Issues Symptoms, Treatment, and Hope for Children with Attachment Disorders. Attachment is the deep connection established between a child and you, their primary caregiver, that profoundly affects your child's development and their ability to express emotions and build .
Why is attachment theory so important in some court proceedings? There is clearly room for debate about how attachment should be measured and what implications this has for trying to support families in crisis. Based on the responses the researchers observed, Ainsworth described three major styles of attachment: secure attachment, ambivalent-insecure attachment, and avoidant-insecure attachment.
Later, researchers Main and Solomon () added a fourth attachment style called disorganized-insecure attachment based on their own research.
The secure and dismissive attachment styles are associated with higher self-esteem compared with the anxious and fearful attachment styles. This corresponds to the distinction between positive and negative thoughts about the self in working models. Attachment Therapy Parenting Methods A report to Advocates for Children in Therapy May by Jean Mercer, PhD, and Linda Rosa, RN.