Attachment & Attunement
It used to be thought that young children would develop a strong bond with whichever adult fed them. However research has confirmed that infants also need emotional nurturing otherwise the bonding process is impaired.
This matters as the question of how the infant bonded with his or her caregivers has been found to be predictive of the infant’s long-term health and wellbeing.
Babies are born utterly dependent upon their caregivers for their very survival. Having a parent who sensitively cares for them gives them a feeling of safety. Without that they can easily feel threatened and overwhelmed.
The sense of wellbeing that emerges from regular experiences of sensitive care creates what attachment theory pioneer John Bowlby called a ‘secure base’. This is an internal sense of security which enables children to confidently go and explore the world around them.
Secure attachment is associated with positive developmental outcomes in many areas, including social, emotional and cognitive domains.
Studies suggest that a secure attachment bond also positively influences the way children’s brains are wired, as well as their epigenetic regulatory molecules (which control which genes will become active and which will be inhibited). These in turn influence the way the child’s hormone, immune and nervous systems function.
However, parents are not always able to help their children form a secure attachment bond. Sometimes this is because of trauma that either the parent or child has experienced. Also, some babies are temperamentally more difficult to soothe than others. Both cases require extra sensitive attunement skills, which are not always easy to acquire, particularly when we parents are feeling stressed and exhausted ourselves!
If the child does not develop a secure attachment bond, he or she will find adaptive ways of coping, which in the short term will help the child, but in the longer term may have a negative impact on their health and wellbeing, as well as the quality of their future relationships.