What is Attachment?
Attachment is a relational bond. This bond is intended to serve two functions; a protective function and an exploratory function.
The protective function is intended to keep the small, weak, defenceless, vulnerable child close to a grown-up, using proximity-seeking behaviours.
The exploratory function is intended to allow the grown-up to serve as a safe base from which to go off and explore. Babies, toddlers and children use their parents/carers in this way.
As children, we lay down templates (an internal working model) for how the world works. This includes how we feel about ourselves, how we feel about other people, how we feel about the world. If we’ve had attachment to adults who’ve attuned to our needs, empathised with our feelings and emotional states, and who’ve been reliable, consistent, and been able to readily repair our relationship with us when things go wrong, our template will be secure and positive.
How insecure attachment develops
Some babies, toddlers, children and teenagers have experienced what is known as toxic stress (that is, overwhelming stress), some since pregnancy.
Toxic stress can interfere with the bonding experience. If a child grows up experiencing relational traumas and losses, or parental addiction, domestic violence, different kinds of abuse, neglect … she or he may develop insecure patterns of attachment, and grow up feeling negatively about themselves, about other people, and about the world. Their behaviour may communicate their pressing need to survive in what they experience as a hostile world, even when immediate threat is no longer present. It is these children whom we want to help by working in an attachment aware way.