Understanding Attachment

There has been a lot of back and forth about the merit of attachment parenting, a style of parenting that emphasizes the importance of a secure and close relationship between the parent and child. 

It seems like there is value in understanding the fundamentals of attachment theory, first articulated by John Bowlby in the 1940s and expanded on by Mary Ainsworth in the 1960s and 1970s. 

I typically blog about issues specific to parenting a child on the Autism Spectrum, but I believe that there is value in having a base of knowledge of important concepts in developmental psychology, and that good parenting is good parenting, regardless of diagnosis.

Understanding attachment theory, Autism Spectrum Disorder

Secure: Uses caregiver as a secure base for exploration. Shows appropriate distress when the caregiver leaves is comforted on return, returning to exploration. May be comforted by the stranger but shows clear preference for the caregiver.

Ambivalent: Does not use the caregiver as a secure base, for exploration, protesting before the caregiver leaves. Upset about the caregiver leaving and slow to warm on return. Expressed concern about the caregivers location, seeking contact but resisting angrily when it is achieved. Not easily calmed by stranger. In this relationship, the child always feels anxious because the caregiver's availability is never consistent.

Avoidant: ittle emotional sharing in play. few signs of emotion when the caregiver leaves or returns, Showing low affect when offered affection. Treats strangers similarly to caregivers. The child may express lack of attachment and low self esteem by acting out.

Disorganized: ack of attachment can be expressed by disorganized  emotional behavior such as approaching the caregiver but with the back turned.

*Ainsworth MD, Blehar M, Waters E, Wall S (1978). Patterns of Attachment: A Psychological Study of the Strange Situation. Hillsdale

Suggested follow up reading: Theories of Attachment