The Effects of Attachment Types on the Child



Attachment begins when the baby is placed in the hand of the caregiver. Some studies show that after the 26th week of the fetus, bonding between mother and baby begins.

Secure Attachment

  The first condition of attachment begins with the emotional acceptance of the infant by the caregiver . The emotional acceptance of the baby by the caregiver and the sense of ensuring the safety of the baby increase the skin-to-skin contact with the baby. Here, the caregiver is the mother. There may be another caregiver in the biological mother deprivation due to some negative reasons; but the continuity of the caregiver is the first condition of attachment. The continuity of the caregiver enables the infant to “internalize the image of the caregiver”. This person can be the mother or someone who should replace the biological mother; The important thing is that this person is persistent and willing to be attached to the child and has a strong mental state that will ensure the child’s safety.

Attachment is bilateral, not unilateral. Attachment, “attachment channels” should occur from mother to baby, from baby to mother. The mother’s postpartum depression or the child’s colic may damage attachment. In this process, the mother’s being able to receive social support will reduce the damage to a lesser extent.

The baby continues to see himself as a part of his mother when he is born. The sense of separation has not yet developed. This first “attachment object” in the baby’s life is the baby’s first “social object” with which he/she establishes a social relationship, and the relationship with this object will also affect the other social environment that will be formed in the future. The infant’s relationship with this first social object in his life will
affect the infant’s model of self and his view of the model of others. The self-model is the extent to which a person is perceived as trustworthy, caring, and ready to offer love to others.

The ” secure bond” established between the mother and the baby will also bring the child’s desire for little separation from the mother; This is the first sign of a healthy bond between baby and mother. Desire for Separation-Individuation begins to be seen after the 6th month. The baby’s desire to get away from the mother and explore the environment is expected healthy steps. On the contrary, those who cannot be separated from the mother, who have difficulties in separating from the mother even for the purpose of exploration, and have difficulty in calming down in the absence of the mother, cannot settle down easily even if she returns to her mother’s lap. The unhealthy attachment patterns of these babies’ own mothers also affect the mother’s negative attachment patterns with her own baby. This, in turn, harms the formation of a secure bond between mother and baby.

Attachment Theorist John Bowlby argues that during the child’s growth, the mental examples that the child creates for the caregiver and himself on the basis of the stimulus and reactions given by the caregiver to the child are life-long and determine the quality of interpersonal relations in all periods.

The baby tries to suppress the “empty feeling” born in unhealthy attachment patterns with negative behavior patterns in the future. When these negative attachment patterns between the baby and the mother are not reversed; It will cause the baby to form wrong relationships and even develop addictions when he becomes an adult in his later years (smoking, alcohol, excessive sexuality , overeating , addiction in relationships…).

Consistent and ongoing relationship between baby and caregiver (mother) increases secure attachment. The mother’s tone of voice, the way of contact, the feelings she feels while holding the baby in her arms and the emotions she carries in her arms increase the emotional bond of the baby by reaching the mother; It also provides the secretion of oxytocin hormone, which strengthens the happiness and immune system secreted in the body through contact . Thanks to this hormone, the mother
feels better and becomes happy. This hormone also relaxes the crying baby of the mother and calms it down more quickly, and the baby’s transition to sleep will be easier.

Since the postpartum mother’s depression, social support that she cannot get around, excessive suggestion, intervention, etc. affect the mother’s mood negatively; This harms the mother-infant relationship. It is observed that the babies of such mothers are not able to settle down, show breast refusal (the baby does not have physical problems) and cannot make the transition to sleep.

Attachment Theorists’ Experiments

Canadian Psychologist Ainsworth Experiment;

Ainsworth does a study on mothers and babies. Ainsworth uses the “alien state test” experiment, which assesses infants’ reactions to various situations. During this test, she recorded how the baby reacted when she was alone in a new environment, when she was with her mother, and when there was a stranger in the room. Three types of attachment patterns were identified as a result of Ainsworth’s study;

1-Secure Attachment
2-Insecure/Resistant Attachment
3-Insecure/Avoid Attachment

The baby, who develops a secure attachment, moves around the room to explore , plays with toys, while checking on the mother from time to time. When the mother leaves the room and the baby stays with the stranger, the baby shows restlessness for a while and starts to cry. When the mother comes into the room, the baby calms down and continues to explore the room.

Children with insecure/resilient attachment seem insensitive to the mother, and sometimes they can be attached. They overreact when the mother leaves the room, the presence of the stranger makes the baby uneasy. The return of the mother does not calm the child and reactive behaviors appear against the mother.

The insecure avoidant doesn’t seem to care much about the mother’s presence. He does not react to the mother leaving the room. The presence of the stranger in the room does not bother him. When the mother returns to the room, she does not react much.

After this study, many more experiments continued. Main and Solomon added “Disorganized (unorganized) attachment type to these three types of attachment at the end of their studies. In this type of attachment, the baby perceives the mother as a danger, on the other hand, the mother is his only safe harbor. These babies behave strangely when the mother leaves the room, and it has been observed that they shout when the mother returns to the room. It has been observed that these babies suddenly froze, then suddenly threw themselves on the ground and started to stomp after they hugged their mother and let go. These children experience intense feelings of fear and hopelessness. It is another result of the research that the mothers of these babies are depressed or individuals who show violence to their babies and are not able to hear the needs of the baby.

It is observed that children who have difficulty starting kindergarten are resistant, avoidant and have disorganized attachment patterns. Children who cannot get used to school for a long time and even have problems throughout their education life are children who show resistant and scattered attachment.

Situations that Promote and Harm Secure Attachment

While consistent parental behavior increases attachment, psychologically stressful situations decrease secure attachment. Secure attachment if the caregiver’s behaviors are self-explanatory, satisfying, and guiding; If the caregiver’s behavior is inattentive, intrusive, irresponsible, and rejecting, the infant will develop insecure attachment.

Methods to Enhance Secure Attachment

* The mother’s sensitivity to the signals given by the baby.
* Formation of common pleasure between mother and baby.
* Mom’s soothing voice.
* Skin-to-skin contact in the early period, frequent and ongoing skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby during the first 6 months increases the secure bond.
* Starting breastfeeding on time (mother and baby have no physical discomfort).
Keeping the mother and baby in the same room so that the mother can catch up with the baby ‘s crying signals in time.

* “Kangaroo Care”, which is not very common in our country ( it has the effect of increasing the mother-baby bond ).
* The mother’s ability to receive social support.
* Baby massage and yoga-meditation…
* Safe environment (the caregiver comforts the baby), safe ground (the caregiver’s ability to provide an environment for the baby to explore), maintaining closeness (the caregiver is nearby) and separation distress (the baby is upset when the caregiver is not present). These four conditions are in balance.

Contribution of Secure Attachment to Infant Development

A secure attachment contributes to the baby’s development of self-confidence , friendships, problem-solving skills, and self-control. For this reason, early
detection of attachment problems between mother and baby ensures that they are resolved before psychopathologies develop in the baby.

Play Therapist Özlem A. TURAN

1- Mutlu karataş N./ Şahin Dağlı F. ” The importance of attachment in infants and the factors affecting it ” 2-GÖRGÜ Ertan ”Examination of the relationship between the attachment styles of 5-6 year old children attending school, their personality traits and their children’s attachment styles” 3-John BOWLBY ”Attachment Theory”