Attachment & Trauma Resources
EMPOWERING TRAUMA-INFORMED FAMILIES, SCHOOLS, AND COMMUNITIES
What is ATTACHMENT?
Attachment can be defined as a reciprocal relationship. In parenting (or child development) it generally refers to the relationship that develops first between the infant/child and his primary caregiver (often Mother). The quality of this attachment impacts the child’s physical, emotional, psychological and cognitive development. The quality of this primary relationship shapes the child’s basic ability to trust and how positively or negatively he views the world, himself and others. The quality of this first attachment impacts all other relationships.
When an infant experiences consistent care where his/her needs are met, he/she internalizes three things:
- I am safe
- I am heard
- I am valuable
With this as the foundation, a child can then develop other healthy relationships.
Psychoanalyst John Bowlby is considered the father of modern attachment theory. His definition of attachment is “the affectional tie between two people”. It begins with the bond between the infant and mother. This bond then represents how the child’s life relationships will be formed.
Bowlby stated, “The initial relationship between self and others serves as a blueprint for all future relationships.”
The importance of attachment affects more than just future healthy relationships. It also impacts a child’s ability to self-regulate. When an infant’s needs are met by a nurturing primary caregiver (mother), the infant’s emotional dysregulation is calmed. Over many repetitions of an infant feeling stress, expressing distress and receiving a nurturing response, the child is able to integrate this pattern as self-soothing during stressful times. This is important as the child matures into an adult who is able to handle disappointments, opposition and stressful situations by remaining regulated.
New research into attachment shows that there is a neurological and sensory link as well. Activities often attributed to “normal” parenting of an infant, such a rocking, bouncing, swinging, patting (burping) an infant activate the baby’s sensory system, and the positive sensory input becomes connected to the nurturing acts. Experts in neurodevelopment and sensory integration can show actual changes in the brain’s development due to this input or lack thereof. Children who have not had normal sensory input are at increased risk of not only attachment difficulties, but learning delays, social impairment and having a difficult time with change.
Stress chemicals, such as cortisol and adrenaline, can severely affect an infant’s brain development. So, the infant’s brain chemistry, specifically in utero and during the first year, can have a significant impact on the child’s ability to attach. Neurological research actually shows visible signs of difference in size and structure of healthy infant brains and those of infants who have been neglected or abused.
The Origins of Attachment Theory – a paper about John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth and their work.
What is Attachment Theory? from About Psychology website
Serve and Return – a key concept from the Center for the Developing Child, Harvard University
Getting attached: Parental attachment and child development – blog from Brookings Institution, April 2015
The Importance of Early Childhood and Relationships – A 2013 Chicago’s Idea Talk – Dr. Bruce Perry (video)
Looking for Attachment-Focused Therapists? Check out ATN’s Resource Directory
More on Attachment
–by Laura Dennis I don’t know about you, but parenting a child who has suffered trauma and been diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder can bring out a side of me no one should ever see. I’ve yelled far more than
–by Sara Borgstede (originally posted on the author’s blog, The Holy Mess, on November 14, 2017) Have you recently given birth to a baby or brought a new family member into your home through foster care or adoption? Maybe you
–by Emerging Mama Monica Reynolds [originally published on the author’s blog, November 14, 2017, just in time for the biggest food extravaganza of them all!] Just this past week, I discovered a new secret stash of food and food wrappers in
–by Sara Borgstede This was originally posted on the author’s website, The Holy Mess – Balancing Faith, Family, and Fitness, on June 4, 2017. As we drive through the beautiful rolling hills of western New York, my husband reaches over to
–by Janyne McConnaughey, PhD I sat on the floor next to her. I understood her fear of abandonment, the trauma she had experienced, and how her mother had been unable to provide any form of comfort. I watched her body
–by Janyne A. McConnaughey, Ph.D. originally published June 21, 2017 on Janyne’s blog I stood in the doorway. I was very small, maybe two. I was sucking on my two middle fingers and watching my mother in the kitchen. I was
–by Julie Beem In my last post, I wrote about a mom in search of an appropriate consequence for her daughter’s misbehavior at school. I suggested that an at-home consequence (taking away Wednesday night church activities) for an in-school behavior
–by Laura Dennis Author’s note: I was working on an entirely brand-new post for this week, but life happened. I present instead an edited version of a a post I wrote for my own blog, Les Pensées du chat noir, in
There is so much that society doesn’t understand about attachment and trauma. People don’t “get it” when it comes to how a child can be traumatized, how a child reacts to trauma, and how difficult it is to help a child