(ref Theresa O’Neill - Bristol University, RP, & Bomber 2007) Secure: Not preoccupied with basic survival needs. View others (eg teachers) as potential supporters. Able to settle to learn. Self esteem contributes to resilience - increases likelihood of making subsequent rewarding relationships. Avoidant: actively seeks to meet their needs on their own (had to in their infancy). Shut down – can even blank out or dissociate. Hard to connect with emotionally. Sometimes staff feel they have to really concentrate on being tuned into this child – easy to become distracted with other thoughts… Easy to manage in class but we need to be aware of high levels of anxiety (“Don’t get too close; you’ll hurt me!”). Achievements valued more than intimacy –&gt; very task-oriented. Ambivalent: child becomes so tuned into a significant adult that they are continually on edge, attempting to get needs met by constantly working out how the other is feeling/what doing. (Adaptation to inconsistent caregiver.) Helplessness as way of keeping you connected. Exhausting for teacher. Little energy for learning. Quick to blame, resentful – early exps of adults not responding to needs. Disorganised: Fear, panic, helplessness. Erratic responses, bizarre or distressingly extreme behaviours. Out of the blue. Shock element: risk/safety issues – severe neglect, abuse. Hyper vigilance – little energy left for learning. Anxiety heightened and threatens sense of self – behaviours do not reduce anxiety (as can be the case in other styles).
Session Two Presentation: Attachment Theory
TT7860 – BAL30
In this session we will work to:
•outline the key aspects of attachment
•recognise the significance of attachment in
•consider the implications for our role in
•consider the implications for children’s
“Attachment is a bond which ties … the mother and
baby together. It emerges out of evolution. It
developed in order to protect us from predators, it
is central to our survival and what we are beginning
to realise now is that it’s also central to our well-
being.” (Svanberg, 2005).
Clip to View:
Reactive Attachment Disorder
What is attachment?
“What is believed to be essential for mental health is
that an infant and young child should experience a
warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his
mother (or permanent mother-substitute) in which
both find satisfaction and enjoyment.” (Bowlby,1953).
Clip to View:
John Bowlby: The Father of Attachment Theory
• Historical context – post WWII (women wanted
back in the home)
• Research context – ‘looked after’ teenagers
(deprived backgrounds and orphans)
• Maternal Deprivation Theory led to revised
policies in care of children in homes and
• Implications for day care and the role of the
mother in developing the child
• Idea of ‘monotropism’ where mother is viewed
as the sole attachment figure
The Context of Attachment Theory
J. Bowlby’s Attachment Theory
• Attachment is crucial for children's’ psychological
• Infants have built-in propensity to form strong
• Need warm, intimate and continuous relationship
with mother or substitute.
• Believed attachment forms basis of personality
development and socialisation
• Caregiver plays role in infant’s emotional
• ‘Maternal Deprivation Theory’
• Development of the affective system =
infant/caregiver regulation (contingent attunement)
• Important for social relationships (temperament
probably plays role)
• Attachment responses are social-learning processes.
• First signs of attachment to specific caregiver take 6
months or so, but process begins at birth.
Clip to View:
Still Face Experiment
Process of Attachment
From birth – 2 months: indiscriminating social
responsiveness but general preference for main caregiver;
built-in responses (or signals) designed to draw caregiver
near and keep her near (e.g. crying); some believe
maternal bonding must occur (conflicting evidence for
From 2 – 7 months: discriminating social responsiveness
– more directed social responses to caregiver and other
familiar people (e.g. smiling); interactional patterns
between child and caregiver for communication and
development of relationship; child develops cognitive
representation = working model of caregiver based on how
reliable and trustworthy s/he is seen to be; caregiver also
acts as social referencing person i.e. guidance on how to
Process of Attachment Continued
From 8 – 24 months: focused attachment = strong
development of attachment bond; attachment related to
emotional and cognitive development e.g. recognition of
what is strange and familiar plus fear; separation protest,
awareness of strangers; also related to physical
development as child explores treating caregiver as secure
base; development of self-regulation of feelings via mobility
(ventures forth when feeling secure, retreats for comfort
when feel threatened etc.).
“Children who were judged secure with mother in
infancy are found to be more co-operative, more
empathetic, more socially competent, more invested in
learning and exploration, and more self-confident than
children who were judged insecure with mother in infancy”
(Association for Infant Mental Health 2003).
Process of Attachment Continued
• Can have attachment to more than one
attachment figure, including fathers
• Caregiver sensitivity is greatest predictor
of secure attachments
• Emotional regulation
• Mind-mindedness – caregiver/child synchronicity
• Nature of attachment type is predictor of
emotional responses e.g. secure child more likely
to be expressive and mindful of others’ emotions;
insecure child tends to be less emotionally astute
• Nature of attachment has implications for later
• Early insecure attachments may have links with
Revisions/Additions of Attachment Theory
• Possible critical periods for mother/child
interactions, but can have secure relationships
formed in later life. Plus interventions have led to
more secure attachment (i.e. severe deprivation
can be ameliorated).
• Lifespan dimension of attachment recognised
• Influence of family systems acknowledged
(sibling order, gender) and sibling attachment
• Multiple attachments can occur (but multiple
caregivers can cause problems) – what is the
• Cultural context affects attachment processes
and social bonding depends on particular
Revisions/Additions of Attachment Theory
• Nature of attachment is internalised via mental
representations of close relationships, self-worth
• “The mind’s almost exclusive function is to reduce
threat and create safety” (Hughes, 2006).
• Mental models that mediate, in part, the ability of
an infant to use the caregiver as a buffer against
the stresses of life, as well as the later
development of important self-regulatory and
• A child’s view of himself is influenced by how his
mother sees him and that “whatever she fails to
recognise in him he is likely to fail to recognise in
himself” (Bowlby, 1988).
Internal Working Model Theory
• Gerhardt describes the internal working model as
“inscribed in the brain outside conscious
awareness” (Gerhardt, 2004).
• Bowlby said it is “built in the mind during childhood”
• A child that does not experience a sense of security
from their caregiver is likely to have difficulty in
forming relationships and in showing empathy as
these are “capacities that are internalised through
experiencing them first hand” (Gerhardt, 2004).
• Gerhardt suggests that it is not possible for a child
to be aware of their own feelings if someone hasn’t
done it for them (Gerhardt, 2004).
Internal Working Model
• If a child is not able to rely on an adult to respond to their
needs in times of stress they are unable to learn how to
soothe themselves, manage their emotions and engage
in reciprocal relationships.
• “Dependence on others for protection provides the skills
to help a child cope with frustrations, develop self-
confidence and form the ability to relate to others -
qualities necessary to promote positive engagement
with learning” (Geddes, 2006: p127).
• Through attunement with his caregiver “the infant learns
that feelings can be recognised, given meaning by being
understood and named” (Geddes, 2006: p41)
• Attunement is beginning the “process of self-awareness
and thus the capacity to empathise” (Bomber, 2008).
Creating the IWM - Attunement
• Developed primarily in the orbital medial pre-frontal
• Secure attachments develop mental process
enabling child to balance emotions, reduce fear,
attune to others, have self-understanding and
insight, empathy for others and well-developed
• By experiencing attunement a child
feels safe enough to explore and
understand their own feelings and,
in turn, begins to feel empathy for others.
• Making sense of our feelings helps us to build
resilience and self-esteem.
• IWM contains expectations and beliefs about self,
self-worth, and emotional availability of others
• Also contains behavioural strategies
• Become self-fulfilling and self-confirming
• Carried through to adulthood (intergenerational
transmission), but open to modification
IWM and Behaviour
• “Integrative communication between caregiver
and child stimulates the activation and growth of
integrative fibers in the brain. Integrative fibers
in the brain are those that enable the
coordination and balance of the nervous system
at the heart of self-regulation. In other words,
interpersonal integration cultivates neural
integration” (Siegel, 2012).
• Can create ‘synaptic shadows’ = strategies of
Attachment and the Brain
Memories of day to day
or event scripts
Guiding actions based upon
Internal Working Model
Safe Haven Secure Base
Relative Dependency Independence
Most fit into 3 categories:
•A = insecure-avoidant
•B = securely attached;
•C = insecure-resistant
•Further research found additional type
•D = insecure-disorganised (e.g. bizarre
responses such as freezing, unusual
expressions, apprehensive, confused)
Clip to View
• Secure – I’m ok, you’re there for me.
• Avoidant – It’s not ok to be emotional.
• Ambivalent – I want comfort. but it doesn’t help me.
• Disorganised – I’m frightened.
• Patterns of attachment are essentially self-
protective strategies and develop dynamically -
emphasizing the dynamic interaction of the
maturation of the human with the environmental
context across the life-span
• Diagnosis – Strange Situation
Clip to View:
Strange Situation Experiment
a) Caregiver’s Responsiveness:
•Sensitivity to child’s needs and signals (e.g.
more responsive to signals)
•Demonstrations of affection
•‘Interactional synchrony’ - caregivers’ actions mesh
with baby, turn-taking etc.
•Synchrony associated with securely attached
•Studies show life events can create change in
category (e.g. loss of partner etc.)
Factors that Help Determine Nature of Attachment
b) Baby’s Temperament:
• Conflicting results from research but does seem
temperament affects interactions and responses
in the dyad
• ‘Goodness-of-fit’ between child’s temperament
and social/physical environment
• Same type of caregiving received differently and
c) Cultural and Environmental Contexts:
• No attachment relationship exists in isolation,
cultural and environmental variants etc.
Factors that Help Determine Nature of Attachment
• Children of ‘over stimulating’ caregivers
(e.g. physical abuse) tend to develop an
insecure-avoidant pattern of attachment.
• Children of ’under stimulating’ caregivers
(e.g. withdrawal/neglect) tend to develop
an insecure-resistant pattern of
• Maltreated children tend to develop an
insecure-disorganised pattern of
attachment (often at risk of developing
• Way of ‘measuring’ internal working model or state
of mind regarding attachment
• Descriptions of recollections of childhood
attachment-related experiences leads to
classification of mothers into:
i) Dismissive (little recall and assign little
significance to experiences)
ii) Preoccupied/enmeshed (emotional recall with
some continued dependency on parents)
iii) Unresolved (may display characteristics of all
three but unresolved attachment-related trauma
evident in some form)
iv) Autonomous (good recall with balanced
perspective even if negative)
Adult Attachment Interview
• Some success in correlating attachment types
with adult versions
• e.g. secure become autonomous, avoidant
become dismissive, resistant become
• Also adult attachment types with offspring
• e.g. autonomous adults have secure infants,
unresolved adults have disorganized infants etc.
• But potential to reverse situation via ‘reflective
self-function’ (i.e. changing internal working
Impact on Future Relationships
Securely attached infants are likely to:
Be better problem-solvers
Be more curious
Increase quality and duration of play
*Cognitive competence at 4 can be judged
by responsiveness of mother at 3 months.
Impact on Cognitive Competence
Securely attached infants more likely to:
Develop emotional and behavioural problems
Be more socially empathetic
Be more self-aware (i.e. self-knowledge)
Be less biased in interpreting behaviour of others
Impact on Social Competence
• Learning is an emotional experience
• To be able to engage in learning a
pupil needs to be able to take risks
to learn new things and face new
• A good learner needs to be able to
manage frustration and anxiety, have good self-esteem, be
willing to take risks and be able to ask for help when needed.
• “As confidence in the secure base becomes an internalised
process, then exploration and experience in the wider world is
possible” (Geddes, 2006).
• Having a secure base provides the reassurance to enable a
pupil with attachment difficulties to explore their environment
and gives them the confidence and resilience to engage in
Impact on Learning Behaviour
Why attachment matters – foundations of
• Roots of attachment related to primary caregiver but full expression of
attachment potential requires social and emotional interactions with others
• Practitioners provide different and complementing social and emotional
opportunities that help child's attachment capabilities mature
• Research shows positive associations found between quality
of practitioner-child relationships and achievement
• Also, high quality practitioner-child relationships buffered children from
the negative effects of insecure or other maternal attachment
• Secure attachment relationships correlate strongly with higher academic
attainment, better self-regulation and social competence
• Priority of attachment system over exploratory system – feeling safe
and secure is more important than playing/learning
• In order to be capable of forming wide array of healthy relationships
throughout life, a young child's attachment capacities must mature
• It is estimated that at least one third of children have an insecure attachment with
at least one caregiver (Bergin and Bergin, 2009).
• Around 20% of people experience a potentially traumatic event in any given year
• It is estimated that as many as 80% of children diagnosed with ADHD have
attachment issues (Clarke et al, 2002 and Moss and St-Laurent, 2001).
• One Scottish study found 98% of children have experienced one or more trauma
event – for one in four this trauma can result in behavioural and/or emotional
disturbance (Clackmannanshire Survey).
What this means:
• Mirror systems employed to defend vs. cooperate.
• Attachment schemas are used as battle plans vs. ways of connecting.
• Regulatory systems become biased/primed towards arousal and fear vs. relaxed
• Reward systems seek alternatives (e.g. drugs) vs. contact with loved ones
Children with Unmet Attachment Needs
• “Self-esteem is not just thinking well of oneself in
the abstract; it is a capacity to respond to life’s
challenges” (Gerhardt, 2004).
• Children with attachment difficulties “have such
low self-esteem that they do not value
themselves or anyone else” (Dann, 2011).
• Therefore, children with attachment disorders
are less resilient (although may be able to
‘function’ and exhibit ‘false independence’).
Attachment and Resilience
• Believe they are lovable and good
• Have experiences of competence and mastery
in their lives
• Believe they can change, ameliorate, or at the
very least cope with, the difficulties in their lives
• Can realistically appraise their capacities and
• Have at least some strategies and skills for
dealing with problems in their lives
• Are optimistic about their future
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