You ask for a babysitter to help take care of your children, because you have something urgent that you must deal with. And then you come home after you have finished your task. What do you think the caregiver will say about your child? It would be “he/she’s such a nice kid, he/she stopped crying after I tried to comfort him/her instantly.” Or do you think it would be “he/she couldn’t stop crying, and his/her emotions were really intense.” What about the reaction of the child when he/she sees you come back? He/she smiled and rushed forward to hug you, or was throwing tantrum at you, thinking, “Mom, you have gone for so long, don’t you want me?” Or he/she just played with his/her toys quietly, with nearly no reaction at all?
Those reactions can give you a glimpse of the child’s attachment style. Different attachment styles in children were summarized by scholar Mary Ainsworth with her the stranger situation test. And this attachment theory is a groundbreaking argument put forward by her teacher, John Bowlby, a British psychiatrist. He believed that this is a system that is inherent in humans, and the attachment can enable babies to survive safely. Bowlby discovered during World War II that many children became orphans because of the loss of their families. They have been properly taken care of, and they were provided with food, clothing, and safety, but they still died easily. He observed that this was due to the fact that these children did not establish a secure attachment. Having a secure attachment relationship can make a child feel at ease, because the child knows that there is a secure base (that is, a caregiver who can take care of him/her) and that secure base can protect himself/herself. The child knows he/she can be comforted as long as he/she returns to this secure base after he /she is frightened, or he/she feels uncomfortable. And because of this the child has better emotional regulation ability, and he/she is more confident in himself, and can bravely explore the unknown. Overall, the child will have better physical and mental health.
There are four types of attachment styles, namely, secure attachment, anxious-ambivalent attachment ,dismissive-avoidant attachment , and disorganized attachment.
People with secure attachment can feel comfortable with their relationships with others around them, can easily get close to others without too much worry, and have better adaptability when they are faced with all kind of things. Children with secure attachment grow up with their parents being keenly aware of and respond to their own needs. This is not to say that parents must be with the child 24/7 to check if he/she is hungry or cold, but they must be able to properly observe what kind of care the child needs. As long as the child can be in a safe and good-quality childcare center, coupled with the keen ability of the parents, it is easy to raise a child with secure attachment. Whether one of the parents is a full-time parent, or whether the child receives daycare care is not a factor that affects if the child will have a secure attachment. It is the sensitive care of the parents that determines if the child will be secure attachment style.
People with avoidant attachment are less interested in establishing close relationships. Because when they were babies, their parents may be negligent or simply not sure how to deal with his/her needs. The children may have tried to express their needs to their children many times, but they were ignored, and this made them develop the idea that “I am on my own and it’s better that I count on no one else but me.” The children will be bizarrely independent. This does not mean that they do not have negative feelings, they will try not to acknowledge their feelings.
People with anxious attachments desire to establish intimacy, but they feel scared when establishing relationships, worrying that there will be something that’s gonna jeopardize the relationship, and it is easy for them to get upset. Compared with the previous secure attachment and avoidant attachment, such people are prone to experience emotional ups and downs, and it is especially hard for them to adjust. If they encounter setbacks, it will take a particularly long time to recover. When they were young, they would choose to cry even more hard when they discovered that their parents hadn’t noticed their needs.
People with disorganized attachment have the characteristics of avoidant attachment style and anxiety attachment style, and they often feel worried, afraid, and fearful of building relationships with others. Because when they were young, they may feel that their parents give them love, but they are also who cause them pain at the same time. This usually happens to abused children.
Researchers believe that genes are not the main reason that determines the attachment style, it’s the interactive influence of innate and nurturing that will deeply affect the child ‘s attachment style. The attachment style will accompany a person throughout his/her life, affecting how he/she views himself, the world, and others. At the same time, there will be various sparks when getting along with people of different types of attachment styles. For example, your friends who have anxious attachment will tend to find others to complain and seek comfort when they are troubled. If you have friends with avoidant attachment, you will notice that when they encounter problems, they will like to have some space of their own.
If you are not a safe attachment style, or if you have observed that your child is not a secure attachment style, then there is no need to worry, let alone self-blame, because that does not mean that you can only be an insecure attachment style for the rest of your life. Because the attachment style can be changed through the process of self-awareness, psychological counseling, etc. We can understand ourselves better and try to pay attention to the moment when we make some behaviors and stop to think about what is happening now. You can also try to use the tips provided by child psychologists for getting along with your children to create a better parent-child relationship. Let us work together with your children, and learn to become secure attachment style.
依戀效應 為什麼我們總是在愛中受傷 在人際關係中受挫? 皮特·羅文海姆著，廖綉玉翻