Alright, perhaps it’s obvious. Most parents want to provide consistent and loving care to their children. However, this article is meant to give you some of the psychological and emotional background on why it’s necessary for children to consistently feel loved and provided for.
In the last 40 years, there has been significant attention given to the early years of an individual’s life, noting that the type of attachment that an infant has with his or her primary caregiver will have a significant effect on later life.
In the 1960’s, psychiatrist John Bowlby developed the attachment theory based on his study of the difficulties that homeless and orphaned children experience. The theory’s main premise is that an infant must develop a strong bond with at least one primary caregiver in order to appropriately develop socially and emotionally. In order for this bond to become secure between infant and caregiver, the following must happen:
- The caregiver must be responsive and sensitive in the way that he or she responds to the infant.
- The child must be able to consistently rely on the caregiver for soothing in times of stress.
- The caregiver must remain a constant in the child’s life from the 6 months to approximately 2 years of age.
Essentially, his research led to the understanding that infants will attach to parents who are consistent in their care giving throughout many months during early childhood. As children develop they will begin to use the attachment with their caregiver as a secure base from which they will move away to explore their environment and then later return. The way that caregivers respond to their children during this process can lead to distinct patterns of attachment, which in turn, lead to an internal model for that child, which he or she will unconsciously use in later relationships.
It is well recognized now that attachment is a core issue that determines whether a child will thrive. The first five years of life determines the success of that child in school, work, and in relationships. Those children who have had secure attachments are well equipped to go out into the world and are able to succeed. Those with poor attachments to their caregivers, due to trauma, neglect, or abandonment, will likely be anxious, fearful, and withdrawn.
An organization titled, Attachment Parenting International, which has a local LA chapter, promotes parenting practices that create strong, healthy emotional bonds between children and their parents. API is familiar with attachment theory and recognizes that children need to take the bonds they have with their parents into their adult lives. They need to share those bonds with their children.
The local Los Angeles API chapter meets on a regular basis and reviews API’s eight principles of parenting, among discussing other topics. Principle #6 is to provide consistent and loving care. Of course, doing so facilitates building a strong parent-child bond, necessary for the success of a child later in life.
When children feel like they can trust their environment, when they feel safe enough to explore the parameters of that environment, it lends to self-confidence, empowerment, and inner strength. And these are psychological skills necessary to become a well-adjusted, psychologically healthy adult.