Friday, April 8, 2011

The Attachment Connection: Introduction

Today I read an article on the internet by David Coleman (see below)

After reading this article it got me thinking, when it comes to the world of parenting and child development, people throw around the word "attachment" without really understanding what it means and how it happens. 

What this article highlighted for me was a few common misconceptions about attachment as well as bonding, which are two terms that are often used synonymously in error.  After reading the article I remembered a great book I read called The Attachment Connection - Parenting a Secure & Confident Child Using the Science of Attachment Theory by Ruth P. Newton Ph.D and I decided to blog notes on each chapter. 

Before I start my notes on the introduction I wanted to list a few common misconceptions off the bat from David Coleman's site which I paraphrase here:

1. Attachment and Bonding are NOT synonyms. 

Bonding is more properly about our relationship with our baby or infant, from the adult point of view.
Attachment refers to the baby’s relationship with us from its perspective.

2. Bonding is quick/ Attachment is slow

Bonding is usually a very quick process and its the "tie" between the parent and the child.  

Attachment on the other hand is a process that takes more time and occurs over the first few years of a baby’s life. Attachment is built up on the basis of a parent’s responses to their baby’s needs for care, comfort and security.

3.  Attachment is NOT automatic! 

A baby is not born with a secure attachment to his caregivers. (I'm sure you've heard of the most extreme cases of lack of attachment occurring in orphanages that result in a disorder known as "reactive attachment disorder". The most important way to instill security of attachment is to be reliable and respond to your babies needs.

So since attachment is not automatically there at birth, how do we foster it?  How can help our babies develop a secure attachment to us?  Why is it important to have a secure attachment?  What happens when a secure attachment isn't in place?  I hope to be able to answer all these questions and more as well go chapter by chapter through Dr. Ruth P. Newton's book.  Let's get started with the introduction!

(In addition to my own ideas and interpretation, the following notes include (excerpts, direct quotes and paraphrased paragraphs) that have been taken directly from the Introduction of Dr. Ruth P. Newton's book "The Attachment Connection".)

Have you heard of Attachment Theory?   

Perhaps you may have heard of it! Attachment theory has become more well known in the public's consciousness in recent years, but what you may not know is just how much the quality of your child's attachment to you is linked to his brain development and emotional regulation!
In the past, the field of child development focused more on the growth of cognitive and motor skills because the were easy to observe and measure and focused less on social- emotional development which is complex and mostly nonverbal.  We all have seen books about the typical milestones, such as when a child should be able to roll over, sit up independently, walk, etc. These are the type of cognitive and motor skills that are easy to observe and measure!

Currently, the field is much more focused on social-emotional development! This all changed when Jon Bowlby wrote a trilogy on attachment suggesting that a child's attachment to his parents was a biological system that served to protect the child (Bowlby 1969/1982, 1973, 1980) and that this biological system could significantly be altered based on the quality of the parent's response to the child's need to attach (Ainsworth et al. 1978). 

Now, not only can the quality of a child's attachment to his caregiver be determined, but many studies have shown what it means to a child's ongoing development. 

A book published by Allan Schore, entitled Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self cited over 2,000 references and integrated psychological, psychoanalytical, and developmental theories with current infant and brain research.  What he concluded is that the attachment process was intrinsic to brain development and in particular to the right side of the brain.

What does this mean? 

It is means a few things:
  • Parents serve a much greater purpose than just feeding and changing duties!  Parents actually contribute to their child's brain development!
  • The quality of your child's attachment to you corresponds to how emotionally regulated your child's internal physiology will be, which, in turn corresponds to the health of your child's brain development.  Attachment isn't something that just happens, it is a process!
  • The social - emotional development of a child has much to do with sensitive and attuned caregiver-child interactions as these interactions not only create feelings of security for the child but also regulate his autonomic nervous system so that important regulatory centers of the brain develop and mature

What aides the attachment process?


In this book Dr. Newton will teaches parents how to provide enough attunement to your child's needs for him to trust that he can rely on your for help when needed, that you can understand and protect him and that you can help him regulate his emotions until he is able to regulate is own. 
You will learn how your attunement to your child's interior world of feeling has everything to do with his emotional regulation, which in turn allows him to freely learn and explore. 

In Chapter One we will learn why Attachment Matters!

Why I am blogging!

Hello All!  Today I was thinking....I have read a lot of books in my 12 + years in the field of Autism, and by a lot, I mean A LOT! All kinds of books, books on Developmental Psychology, Emotional attachments, Apprenticeship, Dynamic Thinking, Problem Solving, Problem behaviors, Memory and Cognition, and one and on! All of these books have collectively added to my knowledge base and have all helped me in my professional career!  However, there was an additional BONUS that I never realized until I had my own son! The bonus was that the information I was learning was not only be applicable to my professional career but also to my personal life!  And if it's applicable to my personal life then maybe it could be applicable to yours too!

I realize that a lot of my friends also have children and may also benefit from the books I have read!  However just saying to them, "hey, read this book" would be like saying "hey, while your ultra busy taking care of your children, house and your career, here's something else to do" and yeah...that wouldn't fly! So I figured why not start blogging about each book I have read and that way my friends and anyone else who was interested could get the "Cliff Notes" without having to actually read the book themselves (unless you want to, then by all means...have at it!).

The first book I want to blog about is called: The Attachment connection - Parenting a Secure & Confident Child Using the Science of Attachment Theory By Ruth P. Newton, Ph.D.  I read this is a book in order to try and understand the early connection between a parent and a child and how/when it is formed.  My original purpose in reading this book was to not only understand where the breakdown could be happening for children on the spectrum but also how we could work on repairing this breakdown. Personally, my purpose for reading this book turned into preparing myself with the knowledge on just how to develop a secure attachment with my own son! All in all, this book informed me what Attachment Theory is and cleared up some misconceptions I had!  Perhaps you are interested in this topic as well....if so see you in "The Introduction" :)