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04.04.2022

ABC by Paley – TIE

Mary Ainsworth's work and contribution to the advancement of psychology changed the way we view infants and older children. Her research, focusing on what happens during the separation of babies and parents, developed John Bowlby's theory of ties, as well as initiated a slow process of returning to not separating children and parents, e.g. after delivery or during hospitalization.

John Bowlby described the system of attachment behavior, the task of which is to ensure the child’s safety and survival in the world. These included sucking, clinging to a caregiver, smiling, and following a parent. These key behaviors also include crying and screaming, which are intended to call the caregiver and communicate that some of the child’s needs are not being met. Bolwby observed these behaviors not only in humans but in mammals in general.

Crying or screaming a baby when he is left alone in a room or when the caregiver puts him in his crib is not a calculated behavior that aims to manipulate the environment and “force” things on him. It is just a purely developmental issue whereby humans had a chance to survive in difficult times in general, because only children who were carefully and carefully looked after were safe. And manipulation and extortion? From the point of neurobiology and brain development, they’re just impossible! These complex skills require knowledge, experience and well-developed prefrontal lobes that in an infant who cannot even sit up alone, it is impossible to do.

Returning to the researcher Mary Ainsworth, however, it is worth mentioning the alien situation procedure she created. Ainsworth, along with her students, researched mother-child attachment. Children from one to two years of age alternately stayed with their mother or a stranger. In this way, it was possible to observe how the children behave with the parent, with a stranger, and how they behave when the guardian returned. Based on these observations, conclusions were drawn about the existence of three main styles of attachment. About two-thirds of the children had a safe style, while the remaining children showed an insecure style (avoidance or fearful-ambivalent). In the following years, the disorganized style was added to this classification, which is the rarest, but at the cost of enormous suffering for children – it occurs in toddlers who are exposed to violence and sexual abuse.

Although the attachment style is shaped primarily in the relationship with the main caregiver, it turns out that it does not have to be the same with all loved ones. This means that a child can form a secure bond with mom or dad, but not with the other guardian – grandmother, grandfather or other frequently seen person. Moreover, the formation of attachment is influenced not only by the way the caregiver responds to and responds to the child’s needs. Equally important is the temperament of the child.

Children who cry a lot, stay awake at night, have difficulty eating, and need more care than others, may be more likely to exhibit insecure attachment styles. For their harmonious development and safe bond, such children need an alert, attentive and responsive parent to the child’s needs, which is a challenge for them, as they must be aware of their resources and limitations to provide the child with care tailored to their needs.

It is worth remembering – and this is information that brings some relief – that there are no perfect parents, and the key to a harmonious development of a child is not being perfect, but, as Donald Winnicott used to say, good enough. In a relationship with a good enough caregiver, the child grows into the belief that it is important, seen and safe, and that there is someone who cares for them. Thanks to this, they can explore the world around them with greater openness and curiosity and gain new skills. A child who has developed a secure style of attachment most often grows into an adult who can build lasting relationships, is not afraid of closeness, is able to deal with emotions and is characterized by faith in himself and his abilities.

When something goes wrong and the child does not receive the care he needs, because e.g. the parent is withdrawn, has no support in caring for the child, has difficulties with his own mental or physical health, does not know how to support and raising a child, as well as reproducing harmful patterns learned from his own family home, a child may develop an insecure style of attachment. It depends on the behavior of the parents whether he will be avoidant or anxious-ambivalent.

It would seem that when an infant is fed and changed, it should not cry. And when he cries, he may be “forced” to take him in his arms. Nothing could be more wrong. The need for emotional security and closeness with the caregiver is just as important as the physiological needs. Hugging, rocking, carrying on your hands, and later having fun together or time spent talking together are factors that help you develop healthily. Children with a unique attachment style do not usually pose any difficulties to those around them. They are quiet and withdrawn, avoid intimacy with other people and are very independent. Such features can be additionally reinforced by the environment and interpreted as mature behavior, while the child feels abandoned and his emotions and experiences unimportant.

When a parent reacts in an unpredictable way – sometimes avoids and rejects the child, other times is affectionate and caring – the child may develop an anxious-ambivalent style of attachment. The child is accompanied by fear and uncertainty. He is unsure how the parent will behave. This can lead to outbursts of anger in the child as well as insecurity. A child who remains under constant tension may react in a way that seems exaggerated to those around him. But there is suffering and the lack of an adult to teach the child how to regulate his emotions and provide support.

Although we enter adulthood with an already formed attachment style, it does not mean that we are condemned to it for the rest of our lives. At the beginning of work on the bond, it was indeed believed that once developed, the style did not change until the end of life. It was quite a pessimistic view on the subject and assumed that someone with an insecure attachment style would not be able to form a satisfying relationship. It turns out, however, that we have the ability to modify the way we attach to others.

Building relationships with people who have a secure attachment style can change the way other people bond. Another way is psychotherapy, where one of the healing factors is relationship. And although we did not have a chance for a secure attachment in childhood, and we did not receive from our parents what we needed the most at that moment, now we can consciously work on it and implement changes in life, which will translate not only into romantic relationships, but also and maybe most of all, those with their own children.