Attachment in children is “a biological instinct in which proximity to an attachment figure is sought when the child senses or perceives threat or discomfort. Attachment behaviour anticipates a response by the attachment figure which will general bases of development of children of preschool age threat or discomfort”. Attachment theory has led to a new understanding of child development. Children develop different patterns of attachment based on experiences and interactions with their caregivers at a young age.
The sensitive caregiver responds socially to attempts to initiate social interaction, playfully to his attempts to initiate play. She picks him up when he seems to wish it, and puts him down when he wants to explore. However, it should be recognized that “even sensitive caregivers get it right only about 50 percent of the time. Their communications are either out of synch, or mismatched.
There are times when parents feel tired or distracted. The telephone rings or there is breakfast to prepare. In other words, attuned interactions rupture quite frequently. But the hallmark of a sensitive caregiver is that the ruptures are managed and repaired. William Blake’s poem “Infant Joy” explores how to name a child and feel emotionally attached to it.
This copy, Copy AA, printed and painted in 1826, is currently held by the Fitzwilliam Museum. The ‘Strange Situation’ is a laboratory procedure used to assess infant patterns of attachment to their caregiver. The procedure consists of eight sequential episodes in which the child experiences both separation from and reunion with the mother as well as the presence of an unfamiliar stranger. The pattern the child develops after age five demonstrates the specific parenting styles used during the developmental stages within the child. These attachment patterns are associated with behavioural patterns and can help further predict a child’s future personality. The strength of a child’s attachment behaviour in a given circumstance does not indicate the ‘strength’ of the attachment bond.
Some insecure children will routinely display very pronounced attachment behaviours, while many secure children find that there is no great need to engage in either intense or frequent shows of attachment behaviour”. The extent of exploration and of distress are affected by the child’s temperamental make-up and by situational factors as well as by attachment status, however. In the traditional Ainsworth et al. Strange Situation, secure infants are denoted as “Group B” infants and they are further subclassified as B1, B2, B3, and B4. Securely attached children are best able to explore when they have the knowledge of a secure base to return to in times of need. When assistance is given, this bolsters the sense of security and also, assuming the parent’s assistance is helpful, educates the child in how to cope with the same problem in the future. Therefore, secure attachment can be seen as the most adaptive attachment style.