It’s in our biology! When a human infant gestates inside of his or her mother, a special area in the infant brain develops that is intended for the formation of an attachment relationship.
Because human infants are so vulnerable at birth, the attachment relationship is necessary for survival.
Many things impact the quality or health of the attachment that forms between an infant and his or her primary caregiver:
The caregiver’s own attachment history
Traumas or losses, especially if never resolved
Separations, especially early, long-term, or unplanned separations
The “goodness of fit” between the inborn temperaments of both infant and caregiver
The existence or absence of emotional support for the caregiver
The caregiver’s emotional state, including postpartum depression or anxiety
And many other things...
Did you know...?
Infants and children may identify more than one attachment figure, but the primary attachment has the most influence over their behaviors.
The quality of the attachment(s) an infant develops depends upon the nature and consistency of the child-caregiver interactions.
Attachment patterns form in the first 9 to 18 months of life, but we form additional attachments throughout our lives as we develop relationships with others.
Some infants do not form attachments and develop severe behavioral and emotional problems as a result.
Our attachment patterns influence how we relate to others including parents, siblings, friends, teachers, coaches, bosses, and romantic partners.
Infant or childhood attachment patterns eventually evolve into adult attachment patterns which influence the attachment of the next generation.
Four attachment patterns have been identified to exist:
Secure (or Autonomous for adults)
Anxious-avoidant (or Dismissing for adults)
Anxious-resistant/ambivalent (or Preoccupied for adults)
Disorganized-disoriented (or Unresolved for adults)
Unhealthy attachment patterns can heal or change with personal insight (self-reflective capacity) and a willingness to explore painful childhood memories or traumatic events with a compassionate and skilled clinician.