An Introduction to Developmental Attachment Theory and Patterns of Attachment



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An Introduction to Developmental Attachment Theory and Patterns of Attachment
The conference explores and explains the following:
Young children form strong bonds, or attachments, with their main caregivers, which if broken cause great anxiety and distress.

Attachment theory is a theory of protection, behaviour, emotional regulation and personality development in the context of close relationships. The quality and character of these close relationships is believed to have a profound bearing on children’s long term social and emotional competence, well-being and psychosocial development. In the case of children who suffer hostile (abuse) or helpless (neglect) caregiving, the theory throws light on the nature and origins of their mental health and behavioural problems. The theory also considers why certain patterns of attachment behaviour either persist or change over time and across relationships. In its earliest formulations, the theory and its applications concentrated on the quality of parent-child relationships, but it has now been developed and expanded to consider relationships and emotional behaviour across the lifespan.


Under different types of parenting regimes, children develop one of four basic patterns of attachment: (1) Secure attachment patterns: children experience their caregiver as available and themselves in a positive light. (2) Ambivalent patterns: children experience their caregiver as inconsistently responsive and themselves as dependent and poorly valued. (3) Avoidant patterns: children experience their caregivers as consistently rejecting and themselves as insecure and compulsively self-reliant. (4) Disorganised and controlling patterns (often associated with children who have suffered severe maltreatment and trauma): children experience their caregivers as either frightening or frightened, hostile or helpless, and themselves as helpless, angry and controlling. Each pattern is associated with a characteristic set of emotional and relationship behaviours. Each has implications for assessments, decision-making, support, treatment, interventions, foster carers, adopters, and contact arrangements.
Attachment behaviour is now recognised as occurring across the lifespan. The attachment system is strongly activated under stress and emotional challenge. Childhood, adult sexual relationships, adults in their role as parents, and adults as they deal with professionals, agencies, and the authorities are likely to see individuals manifest their characteristic attachment and behavioural responses. Attachment theory is used in to make assessments, particularly in child care and family work (including foster care and adoption), work with offenders, and work in the field of mental health. It guides and informs a wide range of interventions, many of which recognise the therapeutic and developmental importance of consistent, supportive, reflective, attuned relationships between partners, parents and children, and agency workers and service users.


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