“Attachment is the relationship that develops between a baby and his main caregivers during the first two years of life. The quality of this attachment affects the baby’s social, emotional, and cognitive development.” – Parents as Teachers Foundational Curriculum, 2015
Attachment between a mother and child begins during pregnancy. Pregnant mothers can begin building attachment during pregnancy by talking and singing to the unborn child, imagining what the baby will look like, touching and rubbing her stomach and practicing healthy habits to promote the health of the baby. By the end of the second trimester, the unborn child is able to respond to the mother when hearing her voice and he even responds to the mother’s emotions. If a mother is feeling stressed or upset, the baby senses this by feeling her muscles tighten and heartbeat elevate and the baby’s body reacts in a similar way. Fathers can also begin building attachment with their child during pregnancy by talking and singing to the baby, rubbing the mother’s stomach, supporting the mother’s mental health and making efforts to decrease maternal stress.
Once a child is born, he is completely dependent on his primary caregivers for food, comfort, stimulation and protection. Research has not determined how exactly secure attachment affects brain development, but they know that developing trust in caregivers is essential to healthy psychological development. The earliest experiences in life, in fact, heavily influence how the pyscho-biological systems in an individual are coordinated over the course of one’s life.1
There are two types of attachment: secure and insecure.
Secure attachment develops when:
Insecure attachment develops when parents are not able to read and respond to a child’s cues, babies are not comforted by primary caregivers, and when babies’ needs are not met consistently or warmly by their caregivers.
In the early years, secure attachment can be indicated by:
Preschoolers and older children who have developed secure attachment tend to be more confident, curious, resilient and better able to regulate emotions. Securely attached children also tend to seek help when needed, show affection, seek interaction with adults and other children, demonstrate greater self-control, demonstrate empathy and independence. Research shows that children who are securely attached also generally perform better in school than insecurely attached peers, have greater cognitive function, are better able to form healthy relationships with others throughout childhood and into adulthood and are generally in better health than insecurely attached peers.2
So how can FACE parent educators guide parents in building secure attachment with their children? Be sure to read the Parent Educator Resources and Parent Handouts found in the Foundational and Foundational 2 curricula, paying close attention to the sections titled “Your Role as a Parent Educator” to support you during personal visits. Be sure you read the Parent Educator Resources and choose several key points around attachment to include on your Personal Visit Planning Guide. The key points that you select should be individualized based upon a particular family that you are planning to visit based on the family’s current level of knowledge and practice.
To further support the development of secure attachment between FACE parents and their children, it is imperative that you understand and support the five parenting behaviors:
These parenting behaviors should be observed, discussed, and promoted during each personal visit. Research has shown that each parenting behavior is crucial in developing secure attachment, beginning in pregnancy and continuing through early childhood. By identifying these behaviors through observing parent-child interactions, continuing to educate families on their significance and promoting increased use of the parenting behaviors, we are doing our part to ensure we are helping parents raise children who are confident and healthy.
1Parents as Teachers Foundational Curriculum, 2015. Parent Educator Resource: Attachment and Brain Development.