Secure attachment is a healthy way of being within relationships. People with secure attachment are happy, confident, and well-adjusted. Parents can foster this attachment style in their own children from an early age by providing a nurturing environment and being awre of how their emotional reactions and responses affects their child.
What are Attachment Styles?
The theory of attachment styles began in the mid 1900s, when British psychologist John Bowlby observed the distress experienced by infants when separated from their parents. Bowlby hypothesised that babies develop a strong bond, or attachment, to their caregivers to enhance their chances of survival over the course of evolutionary history.
The research was continued to create four styles of attachment, based on the different ways children develop depending on their early experiences of care. There are four attachment styles: secure attachment, anxious preoccupied attachment , dismissive avoidant attachment, and disorganised attachment.
Defining Secure Attachment
Of the four attachment styles, secure attachment is the healthiest one. John Bowlby defined secure attachment at the ‘normative’ style of attachment, or the optimal connection made by a child with their caregivers. Securely attached people are well-adjusted and capable of forming healthy and beneficial relationships. A secure attachment style is ideal for the development of children’s minds, as the brain is organised on a foundation of safety and trust.
What Does Secure Attachment Style Look Like?
In childhood, secure attachment presents as normal levels of dependence on a parent or caregiver. As babies, a securely attached baby will be distressed when separated from a parent and will be happy when reunited. As the baby grows into a toddler and young child, they are assured their parent will always return and provide love and care when needed.
When children are securely attached, they develop the confidence to explore on their own, knowing that they will be welcomed when they return. They will be willing to try new things independently and will be less fearful of the world. They have a healthy range of emotions and react appropriately to different situations. Additionally, they have the resilience to manage problems and react well to stress. The emotional and physical availability of their parents and caregivers prevents them from developing any needy tendencies, which can result in low self-esteem and relationship difficulties later on.
As adults, people with a secure attachment style will be confident, sure of themselves, and able to trust other people. The foundation of love and care offered by their parents from a young age leads them to be capable of forming close bonds with other people. They usually are comfortable with intimacy, and they can communicate well. Securely attached people typically do not fear rejection, criticism, or abandonment. They will normally be able to develop and maintain healthy and successful relationships.
How Can Parents Foster Secure Attachment?
All parents hope that their child grows to become a confident, independent and happy individual. Often, new parents can stress and worry about how to provide the right environment to foster this healthy mindset and growth. However, creating a secure attachment style in your child is not as difficult as it may seem.
In early life, babies pick up on the emotional cues of the people around them. These nonverbal cues are the first interactions you will have will your child and will form the basis for your relationship. Even newborns want to feel comforted and secure. Before baby can communicate in any other way, they will cry, laugh, frown, and smile. Picking up on these gestures, mimicking facial expressions, and always responding with affection and warmth will allow baby to feel loved and reassured from the earliest age.
As children get older, it is important to gradually give them more space and independence. This can be tricky for some parents, but it is very important for a child’s growth and development. Children should be given the freedom to go out and explore on their own, in a safe and age-appropriate way. They key is to give them this space to explore, and always provide a comforting safe haven for them to return to. So, they may want to play in the back of the garden unsupervised, but if they trip and scrape their knee, they want to know that you are there for a cuddle when they return.
When a child is raised in this way, they develop a strong sense of trust in their caregivers, and subsequently are able to place trust in other people. They feel accepted by their parents and able to express emotion without fear or confusion. Listening to your child without judgement will help them to feel confident in their own emotional responses, which results in them being more stable over time. Children need to know that they are loved and valued, and that their parents take delight in who they are. This fosters a sense of self-worth that will continue into adulthood.
You can learn more about creating secure attachments between children and their parents in a Circle of Security parenting course. Click here for information on our upcoming programs.