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What does good attachment look like?

(78 Posts)
nephrofox Sun 25-Oct-15 18:18:49

I keep hearing and reading about how important good attachment in the early years is, but how do you know if you've got it right? And how do you promote it?!

I have a 2.5yo and a 6 month old. I care for them and (I think) meet all their needs. I have never left them to cry, altho can have a quite 'no nonsense' style with toddler tantrums. Obviously I've had to get used to splitting my time when the baby arrived.

So why can't I shake off the idea that they're not going to grow up "well attached" or whatever that means?

IndomitabIe Sun 25-Oct-15 18:27:28

I remember having the exact same anxieties. I was on my first day back at work when DS was still less than 6 months old, listening to a talk about attachment disorder and the subsequent impact on behaviour and development. How could I have left my child?!

But, that's not what they mean. My child was in a good nursery/with a good childminder who responded to his needs. The children we were learning about had been neglected by parents with huge issues.

Remember the advert: "Myles is a quiet baby, he's learned that when he cries, no one comes". That's the level that causes attachment problems.

Your children, and mine, might be difficult at times, but they've been looked after responsively at the crucial times and in the right ways.

You're doing great. Try not to worry about it. thanks

JasperDamerel Sun 25-Oct-15 18:28:51

I think the test used is that your young child will be visibly upset when you leave, but can be distracted and will be happy when you return, will prefer you to other caregivers, and will respond positively to your signs of affection/play.

lightgreenglass Sun 25-Oct-15 18:32:31

It's what Jasper mentions - they know you're coming back and are secure in that knowledge. If they were ambivalent then they wouldn't give two hoots you've left them in simplistic terms.

lightgreenglass Sun 25-Oct-15 18:34:34

I think some people think a secure attachment is that they want you all the time and are upset when you're not around and cannot be calmed by anyone but yourself - I would be classified anxious attachment not secure.

NorthernLurker Sun 25-Oct-15 18:37:14

You can see good attachment with even very young babies who, when given to somebody else rather than a parent look intently at that person's face. Because they are used to being spoken to, making eye contact and responding to what they see, they look at all faces in the same way, expecting the same. They obviously prefer the faces they know best but they find all faces rewarding. A baby who doesn't have attachment to a primary care giver has no point of reference and won't find faces interesting at all. Why should they - the face they know best never shows interest in them sad
So basically OP - you're fine smile

nephrofox Sun 25-Oct-15 19:00:07

But how do I know I'm fine?

Toddler goes to nursry 3 days / week. They always say he's happy and he runs over to me excitedly when I pick him up with happy cries of "mummy, my mummy is back" . Is that a good sign then?

He also regularly refuses cuddles and wants daddy / grandma to do things, not mummy. He is best behaved with me when we're on our own (or with baby, I just mean when I'm the only adult). When there's others around he often seems to prefer them.

nephrofox Sun 25-Oct-15 19:01:19

The baby goes happily to other people at the moment but always looks back at me from their arms. I think she is happiest with me, but at 6 months it's a bit early to tell I guess?

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Sun 25-Oct-15 19:07:20

When others are around he wants them is good attachment. He is secure in you so free and confident to 'experiment' with other care givers.

My DF fosters and talks a lot about 'the first naughty' - usually a sign that a child is developing attachment to her is that the child feels able to be naughty without thinking the sky is going to fall down. I usually get a smiley text that day!

NorthernLurker Sun 25-Oct-15 19:19:41

Your key there is 'my mummy'. He's telling everybody there that you belong to him thanks very much. Secure, happy children will find lots of adults interesting. They should. They've only ever known interest and love from adults.

You seem quite anxious about this OP and I notice you've quite a young baby. Have you felt yourself more anxious about things in general since the baby came?

Tfoot75 Sun 25-Oct-15 19:38:15

I think I read somewhere that attachment theory doesn't work unless the child has attachments to more than one person. I don't know where so can't verify, but it makes sense to me.

I notice you're comparing your relationship with toddler to fathers and grandmothers, but your child should be attached to them too shouldn't he?

I would say that my Dd is securely attached to several family members, particularly to both of her parents and she finds other adults very interesting. It doesn't make me feel jealous or anything, just proud that she can communicate and make relationships with other people. She's nearly 2.5.

SealSong Sun 25-Oct-15 20:02:19

Any parent who is loving and caring to their child, meets their basic needs and is generally speaking attuned to their needs will produce a child with a good attachment. It does not mean that you have to 'bend to every whim and whimper', off days, mistakes, and so on a par for the course in any normal attachment, as is normal sanctions and boundaries.

The signs of good attachment change with age and development, e.g. a baby will enjoy being cuddled by their care givers, will make eye contact and give smiles, will not be fearful when handled by primary care givers but may cry when handled by other people. A toddler will still enjoy cuddles and comfort from primary carers but will gradually begin to have the confidence to venture away from primary carers to explore their world (playing nearby with toys, interacting with other children and adults) secure in the knowledge that their primary attachment figure is still 'there for them' whether in close proximity or not. Children with special needs or who are not 'neuro-typical' will not necessarily behave as I describe, but the attachment will still be a good one. Babies and toddlers having passing preferences for one parent over another is not a sign of poor attachment or a concern, it's a normal part of the developmental process and is more about the child beginning to experience their own autonomy.

I have worked for years with children with damaged attachments and know from experience that it actually takes quite a lot for an attachment to be significantly damaged, such as abuse, loss and trauma, severe family or parenting dysfunction, severe mental health or drug and alcohol problems in the parents etc.

I think you're being un-necessarily anxious, OP. You're fine, honestly. smile

SealSong Sun 25-Oct-15 20:03:32

Sorry, ignore the 'speaking' in attuned to their needs bit, second line

Obs2015 Sun 25-Oct-15 20:12:19

Please don't worry OP.
I don't see that you have anything to be worried about.
I see attachment as a very serious very severe issue. I wonder how often it is actually diagnosed? I wonder how severe it needs to be to develop into attachment disorder?

JasperDamerel Sun 25-Oct-15 20:20:04

Didn't the Baby Bonds study suggest that only 60% of children were securely attached? I remember being surprised when it came out.

sleepingdragon Sun 25-Oct-15 20:22:04

There was a study in the US last year that found 40% of children were not securely attached to their parents. To make up that 40%, 25% of children did not want to be comforted by their parents when upset, and 15% who tried to avoid their parents all the time as they caused them distress. A shocking statistic (and I have no idea how accurate it is), but from what you describe you really have nothing to worry about. I worry sometimes about how attached my son is to me, but if you are aware of it and think its important the way you treat your children will mean they are securly attached to you.

Obs2015 Sun 25-Oct-15 20:31:05

How odd. I never realised it would be that high. Seriously, why is it that high? That can't be right, can it?

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Sun 25-Oct-15 21:09:34

Can you link to that study sleeping? That's a massive % and I would be shocked if that was a 'general population' sample.

Obs2015 Sun 25-Oct-15 21:20:04

› news › baby-bonds study

Obs2015 Sun 25-Oct-15 21:22:00

Sugar. Sorry, don't know why that didn't link .
It's the Bristol : baby bonds report

Threesocksnohairbrush Sun 25-Oct-15 21:45:09

SealSong talks a lot of sense. I am an adoptive mum of a child who does have significant attachment difficulties. He got that way because he was seriously neglected in his earliest months. You have to try hard to create a diagnosable attachment disorder. Nobody has yet found a reliable measure of attachment and used it in a whole population, so we really don't know how 'attached' most children are, or whether it matters to their future lives exactly how well attached they are within the 'normal' range.

In general, most parents and most babies are hard wired to respond to each other in particular ways - playing, chatting, singing, mirroring what the child does - and this promotes a secure attachment. It's why people talk about 'good enough' parenting.

If you are generally happy to be with your toddler and they with you, and you feel able to meet most of their needs most of the time (which includes a need for loving sensible limits!), I think you'll be absolutely fine.

And as others have said, strong relationships with others are a good thing. You are the child's first, most enduring idea of what a relationship should be. If that 'working model' is a good, secure one, they will have the confidence to expect the same of other adults, and hopefully will be rewarded.

To give you an eg of that, I have two adopted children. The one with much 'better' attachment is clear we are their no 1 secure base, but is a friend to the whole world. The one with more problematic attachment finds it very hard to build relationships and friendships outside the family. He hasn't had enough experience of loving trusting relationships to be confident about building them sad

Scattymum101 Mon 26-Oct-15 10:41:38

I worry about this all the time too. I worry I don't spend enough time playing with the kids (3 and 8 months) and that I shout too much etc. Both girls want me when they're tired or hurt so i suppose that's good. My older dd loves her grandparents and my best mate and will completely ignore me if they're there but if she falls during that time she just wants mum.

I'm a teacher and see a lot of attachment issues and I'm so scared of messing my kids up.

CultureSucksDownWords Mon 26-Oct-15 11:06:44

Baby Bonds Report

Obs2015 Mon 26-Oct-15 14:13:06

Really scatty? Are you sure what you are seeing is attachment? Or is this deeply abused children?

Because it seems to me that all the experts are being a bit overzealous with their labelling of attachment.

I still can't accept that 40% of parents are getting this so very wrong.

My son has a diagnosis of autism. But many professionals thought this diagnosis was wrong, preferring to view it as attachment.

I found this very offensive. I breast fed , make both pots of carrot goo for weaning aswell as blw. I chose to work part time.
I gave my time, my energy, my love. I was devoted. I gave everything I had to give.

That's why this 40% upsets me. I can't accept that this isn't just over zealous labelling.

Lottapianos Mon 26-Oct-15 14:24:34

I'm an Early Years professional and like Scatty, I see lots of what looks very much to me like attachment issues. The 40% figure doesn't sound ridiculous to me. I come across quite a few parents who demonstrate no empathy with their child, spend hardly any time playing / chatting / reading / generally hanging out with their child, want them to be as convenient as possible, treat them as an inconvenience and seem to have no motivation to do better. I grew up with an insecure attachment myself and I know how devastating the outcomes can be.

Obs2015, parents like you who are clearly highly motivated, loving, responsive and dedicated often have a hard time believing that so many other parents are extremely different. You're not part of the 40%, or whatever percentage it is. I'm sorry you felt your son's attachment to you was questioned. Autism can be very difficult to diagnose, but I'm sure that hurt very much for you to hear.

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