The Mechanisms of Attachment

4 Steps Toward the Creation of the Parent-Child Bond


One of the biggest steps in a baby's development is his attachment to his parents. This relationship will color a lot of his relations to others and himself all to way into adulthood. Would you like to discover how it gets established?

Contrary to other species where the offspring becomes attached very rapidly (as in the phenomenon of imprinting, notably among birds), attachment in our babies is created little by little. It's through the stability, frequency and quality of interactions with mom and dad that his attachment to them and his attachment style he will have later on as a child and as an adult.


Attachment happens in 4 steps:

1 - The pre-attachment period (0 to 2 or 3 months)

The baby doesn't have any particular attachment at birth. He's born with primal behaviors which he puts to use to express his needs: facial expressions, crying, searching for a breast to feed on, etc., which are meant to attract the attention of his caregivers.





2 – The emergence of attachment (3 to 6 months)

At this point, the baby starts to understand that his needs are mostly met by 2 to 3 persons. These moments of caregiving are opportunities to bond with these people he can trust. He also starts to perceive an order of importance among his caregivers.






3 - Attachment (6 to 12 months)

The baby's caretakers are now true attachment figures for him. He now understands his relation to his main (mom and dad) and secondary (grand-parents, babysitter, etc.) attachment figures and the relationships between them: he can trust his grandmother thanks to his relashionship with his parents. He demonstrates his attachment with behaviors toward them like smiling, holding on to them or asking to be held by them.




4 - Resistance to seperation (12 months +)

The baby has a secure bond with those who care for him and trusts that he'll be taken care of when the need arises. He is used to his attachment figures and the idea of being seperated from them is a source of fear and distress. Starting when the baby strats to be more active, he will start exploring his environment by using these trusted persons as a point of reference.




After the age of 2, the toddler perceives the people he's bonded with as their own persons with their own emotions and motivations and starts to act according to what he feels is necessary to have his needs met: as a baby, he would have cried from pain but as a toddler, he cries to get his mother's attention. It's only past 3 or 4 years old that he'll be able to handle his seperation from his caregivers well.





The sense of security that comes with a healthy parent-child bond is absolutely essential to a baby's heathy emotional development: it will set his expectations and behaviors toward himself and others. At the beginning of his life, the baby's attachment style is extrapersonal and dependant on others, but over time, it becomes intrapersonal and his confidence in others turns inward into self-confidence. If he has been able to feel safe thanks to strong bonds, he will be more self-confident and in return more able to trust others. The exploration of his environment will be easier for him if the strenght of his emotional bonds is not a source of worry and he is confident that should the need arise, those who care for him will be there to help him. Because he'll feel less alone when facing problems, a child with good emotional bonds will suffer from less stress and be more able to self-regulate negative emotions like anger, fear or sadness. Fulfilling our children's need for our attention isn't spoiling them, but rather the gift of trusting us as their parents, then assurance in themselves to have the ressources to live their best fulfilling lives!



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