Attachement Theory, an important thing to understand
Attachment is the deep and enduring connection established between a child and a parent/caregiver in the first several years of life. It is a reciprocal relationship that children and parents/caregivers create together (Daubney, 2010). It is important to note that children do not merely attach to one person. They can have significant attachments to multiple individuals – parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, childcare staff, teachers, etc.
When an adult provides a nurturing and safe environment, involving a sense of safety and protection, the child develops a sense of who they are, how others will respond to them and that the world is generally a safe place. On the other hand, if a child's attachment figure is insensitive, unresponsive and inconsistent (Rolfe 2004) the child will be at significant developmental risk. At the extreme, a child that has experienced severe abuse and neglect or whom have had attachment relationships that have been severly disrupted by constant separations (i.e. multiple out-of home-care placements) may develop coping strategies which are often viewed by others as negative (Rolfe, 2004). Hence, the child is at risk of being further traumatised in situations where the adult does not have an understanding of the importance of attachment relationships.
Recent findings in neouscience have also helped us understand the importance of early attachment on brain development. Evidence in brain development research demonstrates the importance of attachment and stability (Commonwealth of Australia, 2009) for the healthy development of the brain's neural pathways. The lack of positive experiences in the early years can have long-term effects on a child's wellbeing including; physical, mental, learning, behaviour and social/emotional development (Winter, 2010). Furthermore, research indicates that disadvantage in the early years is linked to the circumstances of a child's family and the environment in which the child grows up. Therefore, strengthening families is important as a strategy to support positive development and well-being for children.
Investment in early childhood development has shown to have positive effects, especially for children experiencing disadvantage. Evidence from successful intervention progams indicate that early intervention works! Research also tells us the sooner we start, the lower the cost and the higher the effectiveness (Oberlaid, 2007). Supporting families to understand the importance of early relationships and how to build a nuturing relationship with young children is the focus of this topic.
There is a plethora of literature to be found on attachment theory and certainly it would take a great deal of time to cover it all. John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth have made significant contributions to our understanding of attachment.