Advertising
Advertising

Is Attachment Parenting a Good or Bad Thing for My Children?

Is Attachment Parenting a Good or Bad Thing for My Children?

“If you were on an island, and you had no mother-in-laws, no psychologists, no doctors around, no experts, this is what you would naturally and instinctively do to give your baby the best investment you’ll ever give.” – Dr. William Sears on Attachment Parenting

Your baby cries. You bend over and pick him up or offer him a soothing hand. His little hand wraps around your fingers and you both are smiling. Granted, not every interaction with your baby goes so smoothly, but you proved the attachment theory naturally: that it’s the response to the security & touch of a caregiver that is important to a baby.

Attachment Parenting, a phrase coined by Dr. William Sears, pediatrician and author, promotes a maternal figure providing crucial warmth, security, nourishment and love in the critical stages of infancy to help ensure a successful, well balanced child.[1]

Advertising

Attachment parenting promotes very close connection between the mom and her baby.

The four key elements that center around Attachment Parenting encourage what is instinctively given between a loving caregiver and baby. These items help to form a bond and strengthen that connection between the caregiver, usually the mother, and the newborn child.[2]

  • Responding to Crying – tending to needs when crying begins and not letting baby get distressed.
  • Body Contact – Keeping baby physically close through holding it when feeding and wearing baby close to your body in a baby carrier or sling for as many hours as possible.
  • Co-Sleeping – sharing the same bed/ same room with baby, using safety guidelines. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges against using the same bed, due to possibility of parents rolling over on their babies, but suggests sleeping in the same room- in a separate bed to help prevent SID.[3]
  • Feeding on demand– Feeding baby when he wants, even if he is snacking and not at the parents convenience. Attachment parenting encourages feeding a child past the stages of infancy.

Why is parental attachment necessary?

It is essential in healthy childhood development for a baby to make that maternal bond. If the attachment is broken during the baby’s critical stage, the result could be detrimental to that child and their future.

In a highly criticized experiment done by psychologist Harry Harlow in 1958, a group of baby Rhesus monkeys were taken from their mothers. Half were put in a cage with a cloth mother, while the other half were given a wire mother who had milk. It was the monkeys with the the cloth mother who were more secure and ran to the safety of their mother when feeling scared, not the milk provider. Further experiments proved that lack of close maternal connections resulted in emotional and social problems when they were introduced to other monkeys.[4]

Advertising

The good things about Attachment Parenting

Children reared using Attachment Parenting are healthier, have higher self-esteem and are more resilient under stress.[5] The other positive side effects are:

  • It makes you a better person. – Giving love and care to an infant is rewarded by smiles, giggles and love in return.
  • It reinforces your parental instinct skills.  By paying close attention to your child, you begin to pick up on their non-verbal cues, like when they start sucking on their hand means they are hungry.
  • It helps your children to be more trusting, confident & secure.  Providing a close, secure environment, your child learns that you have got their back. They will face their fears with you there by their side.
  • Your child becomes better at learning to speak. – Being at your side, observing and listening to a parent speak, they are quicker to pick up on language and use it.
  • It helps to make them smarter & independent. – When all of their needs are met, and they don’t need to stress over not being fed or having that wet diaper too long, they can focus their resources on exploring/observing their world.
  • You and your child are more connected. – The child-parent connection grows strong with Attachment Parenting, and they can have a closer relationship growing up because of it.
  • Disciplining your child becomes easier. – A simple look can convey disappointment and displeasure when parent and child are more connected. That quick shake of the head can dissuade a child from doing something ill-advised.

The negative side of Attachment Parenting

With all pros, there are cons, and the Attachment Theory is not without critics.

  • It is too demanding on parents. – Responding to every cry can be taxing on parents and being awake for all those nighttime feeding is rough and dangerous, as it was proven that an over tired driver is just as dangerous as a drunk driver. Studies show that being awake for 18 hours is similar as having a .05 blood alcohol level.[6]
  • It’s not feasible when parents work. – Unfortunately society does not always allow us to keep our babies strapped to our bodies. Work commitments often separate parents from their children, and third party caregivers are brought into the mix. Babies are often handed over to day-care centers to be taken care of during those hours.
  • The baby doesn’t learn to soothe itself. – If parents respond to their child’s every cry, then how can this baby learn to soothe itself? Babies learn techniques to calm themselves and even put themselves to sleep, that a well-meaning parent can disrupt by picking them up.
  • The baby becomes too accustomed to being held/fed and can be hard to wean. – A baby that has grown accustomed to food on demand can be harder to wean. And a baby that is picked up and comforted at every cry can become spoiled for attention and demanding.
  • Putting the child’s needs in front of parents’ can lead to a future of serving the child above parents themselves. – Critics of Attachment Parenting argue that by serving your child above yourself, you are opening up for a life of servitude- always putting your child first.

Taking the Middle Ground

Though with modern day lifestyles, wearing your baby in a sling for hours may not be feasible, taking a middle ground on Attachment Parenting by using what works for you and your baby best. Do what feels natural.

Advertising

Spend quality time with your infant

The most important time for your baby during this critical infant stage is time spent with you. This is necessary for parental bonding and can be done through quality time. One on one.

Offer your baby unconditional love

Your baby reaches out by crying and getting your attention as instinctive act of survival. They are also aware when they are not receiving the love and nurturing that they need.[7] A newborn is a clean slate. Untainted by time or experiences. Hold your baby often. Speak kindly. Comfort him when he is stressed. Offer reassurances.

Invest in a baby carrier

The closer your child is to you, the more you bond. A child carrier enables you to hold your baby and have your hands free to perform other tasks as well.

Advertising

Hold your baby during feedings

Not everyone breastfeeds their baby, but the mere act of holding your baby close during feeding- be it with a bottle or otherwise, can establish a close connection between you and your child.

Infancy is just a brief period but its impact on the child can be forever.

With the arrival of this new baby, your life has changed forever. Even though in the moment it can seem eternal, babies grow up at lightening speed. Infancy is a brief period and that one precious time you can form a lasting bond with your child. Use that time wisely. Use your instincts with your child to parent naturally.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1]Sears, Bill; Sears, Martha: The Attachment Parenting Book: A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby
[2]Susan Krause Whitbourne Ph. D. Psychology Today. The 4 Principals of Attachment Parenting and Why They Work
[3]AAP.org: American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Safe Sleep Recommendations to Protect Against SIDs, Sleep-Related Infant Deaths
[4]Saul McLeod. SimplyPsychology.com: Attachment Theory
[5]AhaParenting.com: Pros and Cons of Attachment Parenting
[6]NationalSleepFoundation.org. Drowsy Driving Vs Drunk Driving: How Similar Are They?
[7]ChidhoodDevelopmentMedia.com: The Infant Brain: An Long Way to Grow

More by this author

Sally White

writer, artist & blogger

There are 5 stages of love, but sadly most couples stop at stage 3 There Are 5 Stages Of Love, But Sadly Many Couples Stop At Stage 3 40+ Quotes To Read When Everything Appears To Be Going Wrong In Your Life This Innocent Little Comment on a Child’s Drawing Can Kill Their Creativity Why the Less Your Children Have, the More Successful They Will Be in the Future Is Attachment Parenting a Good or Bad Thing for My Children?

Trending in Psychology

1Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts 2Being in Narcissism Relationships Is Like Playing With Fire. It Is Risky. 313 Crippling Social Anxiety Symptoms Explained & How to Deal with Them 48 Powerful Reasons to Love Your Enemies 5Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Published on July 13, 2018

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

What if you could discover some tools and methods that could improve your relationships? What if by gaining a little knowledge you could understand your relationship dynamics better and give them a boost up?

By learning what secure attachment is and how to restructure your thoughts, you can become more self-aware of your relationship dynamics. After becoming more aware, you can then take a few steps to make them better than ever. That’s something that many of us could benefit from.

When we hear the term secure attachment, our mind typically goes to a relationship. And that’s exactly what it’s about.

In this article I’ll discuss the concept of secure attachments in more detail and how restructuring your thoughts can help you strive towards achieving better relationships.

Relationships are a hugely important part of our lives and whatever we can do to improve them is a good thing for everyone involved.

What is attachment theory?

Let’s do a quick overview of what attachment theory is. This will provide a good foundation for the rest of this article.

The esteemed psychologist John Bowlby first coined the term attachment theory in the late 60’s. Bowlby studied early childhood conditioning extensively and what he found was very interesting.

His research showed that when a very young child has a strong attachment to a caregiver, it provides the child with a sense of security and foundation. On the other hand when there isn’t a secure attachment, the child will expend a lot more developmental energy looking for security and stability.

The child without the secure attachment tends to become more fearful, timid and slow to explore new situations or their environment.

Advertising

When a strong attachment is developed in a child, he or she will be inclined to be more adventurous and seek out new experiences because they feel more secure. They know that whoever is watching out for them will be there if needed.

Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, took the theory further. She did extensive studies around infant-parent separations and provided a more formal framework for the differing attachment styles.

How attachment develops

Simply put, attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Attachment doesn’t have to go both ways, it can be one person feeling attached to another without it being reciprocated. Most of the time, it works between two people to one degree or another.

Attachment begins at a very young age. Over the history of time, when children were able to maintain a closer proximity to a caregiver that provided for them, a strong attachment was formed.

The initial thought was that the ability to provide food or nourishment to a child was the primary driver of a strong attachment.

It was then discovered that the primary drivers of attachment proved to be the parent/caregivers responsiveness to the child as well as the ability to nurture that child in a variety of ways. Things such as support, care, sustenance, and protection are all components of nurturing a child.

In essence a child forms a strong attachment when they feel that their caregiver is accessible and attentive and there if they need them; that the parent/caregiver will be there for them. If the child does not feel that the caregiver is there to help them when needed, they experience anxiety.

Different types of attachments

In children, 4 types of attachment styles have been identified. They are as follows:

  • Secure attachment – This is primarily marked by discomfort or distress when separated from caregivers and joy and security when the caregiver is back around the child. Even though the child initially feels agitated when the caregiver is no longer around, they feel confident they will return. The return of the parent or caregiver is met with positive emotions, the child prefers parents to strangers.
  • Ambivalent attachment – These children become very distressed when the parent or caregiver leaves. They feel they can’t rely on their caregiver for support when the need arises. Even though a child with ambivalent attachment may be agitated or confused when reunited with a parent or caregiver, they will cling to them.
  • Avoidant attachment – These kids typically avoid parents or caregivers. When they have a choice of being with the parent or not, they don’t seem to care one way or the other. Research has shown that this may be the result of neglectful caregivers.
  • Disorganized attachment – These children display a mix of disoriented behavior towards their caregiver. They may want them sometimes and other times they don’t. This is sometimes thought to be linked to inconsistent behavior from the parent or caregiver.

What attachments mean to adults

So the big question is how does this affect us in adulthood? Intuitively it makes sense that as a child, if we have someone who will be there when we need them, we feel secure. And on the other end of the spectrum, if we aren’t sure someone’s going to provide what we need when we need it, we may become more anxious and fearful.

Advertising

As an adult, we tend to wind up in one of three primary attachment types based on our childhood experiences. These are secure, avoidant, and anxious. Technically, there is a fourth one, anxious-avoidant, but it is quite a bit less common. They are described as follows:

  • Secure – When you have a secure attachment, you are comfortable displaying interest and affection towards another person but you’re also fine being alone and independent. Secure types are less apt to obsess over a relationship gone sour and handle being rejected easier. Secure types also tend to be better than other types with not starting relationships with people that might not be the best partners. They cut off the relationship quicker when they see things in a potential partner they don’t like. Secure attachment people make up the majority of the attachment types.
  • Anxious – Folks who have an anxious attachment style typically need a lot of reassurance from their partners. They have a much harder time being on their own and single than the other styles and fall into bad relationships more often. The anxious style represent about 20% of the population. It’s been shown that if anxious attachment styles learn how to communicate their needs better and learn to date secure partners, they can move towards the secure attachment style.
  • Avoidant – Avoidant attachment style represents approximately 25% of the population as adults. Avoidants many times have the hardest time in a relationship because they have a difficult time finding satisfaction. In general, they are uncomfortable with close relationships and intimacy and are quite independent. They are the lone wolf type person.
  • Anxious-avoidant – The anxious-avoidant style is relatively rare. It is composed of conflicting styles – they want to be close but at the same time push people away. They do things that push the people they are closest to away. Many times there can be a higher risk of depression or other mental health issues.

Here’s where it gets really interesting:

Move towards secure attachment

The good news is that it is possible to move from one style to another. Specifically, it is possible to move towards a more secure attachment style.

Now as you might imagine, this is not an easy or a quick process. Like any type of big change where you are attempting to alter such a deeply ingrained mindset, it takes a strong will to accomplish.

The first step is developing an awareness of your attachment style. The next step is to have the desire and drive to move your attachment style towards the more secure style.

If someone with an anxious or avoidant style has a long term relationship with a secure type, the anxious or avoidant person can slowly get brought up more towards a secure style.

The opposite is also true, they could bring the secure person more towards their attachment style. Therefore, you have to be conscious of your type and if you want to move more towards secure, it takes persistence.

Therapy is an option as well. Anxious types many times need to work on their self-esteem, avoidants on their connection specifically and compassion.

How to restructure your thoughts

Ready for the way to do it? Here we go:

Advertising

For the Avoidant Style

As with any type of change on such a deep level, the first step is awareness. Realize you have an avoidant style and be aware of it as you have interactions with your partner(s).

Try to work towards a place of mutual support and giving/taking. Try to lessen your need for complete self-reliance. Allow your partner to do some things that make you a little uncomfortable that you would normally do yourself.

Don’t always focus on the imperfections of your partner. We all have them, remind yourself of that.

Make yourself a list of the qualities that your partner has that you are thankful for.

Look for a secure style partner if at all possible, they would be good for you to be with.

If you have a tendency to end relationships before they go too far, be aware of that and let it develop further.

Get into the habit of accepting and even instigating physical touch. Tell yourself that it’s good for you to have some intimacy. Intimacy can help you feel safe and secure.

And over time you can realize that it’s okay to rely on other people.

For the Anxious Style

For the anxious style, the #1 thing to work on is learning to communicate needs better. This is a huge issue for the anxious style.

Advertising

First and foremost if you communicate your needs more clearly, you will have less anxiety, that’s already a big win. This will also allow you to better assess if a potential partner is good for you.

Try to bring your feelings more to the surface and most importantly, share them with your partner. Remember that secure attachments typically communicate pretty well, this is what you are working towards.

For the Anxious-Avoidant Style

The anxious-avoidant is a very small percentage of the attachment styles. Since this type tends to be anxious in the relationship AND more or less a loner, the key here is working hard to be very self-aware of your actions.

Use the parts of striving towards secure attachment from the anxious tips and the avoidant restructuring of your thoughts to consciously work towards being more secure.

When you find yourself pushing someone away, ask why. If you feel worried that your partner is going to leave you, again, ask yourself where this is coming from. Have they shown you any reason to believe this? Many times there is no real evidence. In that case, allow yourself to calm down and try not to obsess over it.

For the Secure Style

Since the goal is to move towards a more secure attachment style, there isn’t much needed here as you might imagine.

Something to be aware of is being in a relationship just because it’s “okay”. Don’t stay if it’s not a good place for you and your partner. If your partner is of an anxious or avoidant attachment style, stay mindful to not start developing characteristics of those styles.

Strive towards Secure Attachment

As we wrap things up, you’ve probably developed a good idea of the benefits of secure attachment. If you don’t currently have a secure attachment style, here are some benefits of restructuring your thoughts more towards this style:

  • Positive self esteem and self image
  • Close and well adjusted relationships
  • Sense of security in self and the world
  • Ability to be independent as well as in relationships
  • Optimistic outlook on life and yourself
  • Strong coping skills and strategies for relationships and life
  • Trust in self and others
  • Close, intimate relationships
  • Strong determination and problem solving skills

If you are an anxious or avoidant style or the combination of anxious-avoidant, it is possible to move towards a secure attachment style.

It takes self-awareness, patience and a strong desire to get close to being secure but it can be done. You will find that putting the effort into it will provide you with more open, honest and satisfying relationships.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Read Next