August 26, 2015

The Importance of Attachment: Part I

152258425-family-gettyimagesAttachment is the term used to describe the emotional relationship between two people.  The earliest and most significant attachment develops between an infant and his or her primary caregivers.  This attachment is based on how consistently, accurately and soothingly the adult reads and responds to the cues of the baby

Most infants form a secure attachment with their parents based on consistent and  responsive care.  The quality of the infant attachment relationship has lifelong implications for how a child develops into an adult.  The human abilities to manage anxiety, show empathy, regulate anger, trust others and feel hope for the future all have their roots in this first attachment relationship.

If a parent is unable to provide emotionally consistent care or is emotionally rejecting, the infant’s attachment relationship becomes insecure.   If the care-giving is emotionally chaotic, the attachment becomes disorganized.  Disorganized attachment has profound negative impacts on future development.  Disorganized attachment history often has its roots in parental trauma.  One life event that researchers link to parental trauma is their own childhood experience of a divorce with the elements of high conflict and/or abandonment by a parent.

I often tell parents with whom I work that divorce is a life crisis that does not need to become a trauma for a child.  A respectful, healthy divorce process that is child-centered or child-inclusive can help a securely attached child continue to feel safe.  With effective co-parenting, these children can maintain secure attachments with both parents and continue to thrive after a divorce.  This becomes the root source of children’s resilience.

My next blog will focus on what we know about Adult Attachment and its implications for future generations.  In the meantime, please learn more about the Collaborative child-centered and child-inclusive divorce process on the website for the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota.

Deborah ClemmensenABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deborah Clemmensen
Licensed Psychologist

Deborah Clemmensen, M.Eq., Licensed Psychologist was a child and family clinician for many years before her discovery of Collaborative Team Practice in 2000 motivated the transformation of her professional role from therapist to Neutral Child Specialist. This work---hearing the voices of every family member during a divorce or break up, keeping children at the center and out of the middle, and assisting parents in the creation of developmentally responsive parenting plans---is both a passion and a privilege. Find out more about Deborah's work at www.deborahclemmensen.com

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