Bonding and attachment serve as the basis for the establishment of sound parent-infant relationships. The processes of bonding and attachment occur from the prenatal period throughout childhood, and they provide the foundation for the physical, psychological, cognitive, and emotional development of a child. Despite the apparent similarity in these two processes, there is some qualitative distinction between them.
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The concept of bonding is usually applied to describe a mother’s initial reaction to her infant (Mogi, Nagasawa, & Kikusui, 2011). Bonding develops through the physical contacts with a child, breastfeeding, or communication. The early interactions help an infant to recognize its mother and develop the psychological attachment to her. Although the initial reaction to the child may predetermine the consequent development of attachment, bonding is not necessarily limited to the early prenatal or postpartum periods, and it can be developed during childhood.
The concept of attachment primarily refers to children because the quality and style of their attachment to caregivers influence the course of early development and has the long-term impacts on their socioemotional performance, psychological well-being, and cognitive aptitude across the lifespan. The parental attitude and level of involvement in early childhood development play an important role in the formation of the child’s attachment.
While the positive parental attitude and emotions are associated with the development of secure attachment, the emotional neglect or abuse may lead to the formation of the psychological insecurity in an infant.
The concept of psychological security plays a significant role in the healthy growth of a child. Secure attachment develops in case the parent-child relations are associated with the emotional value, and are based on mutual affection (Gunning, Waugh, Robertson, & Holmes, 2011). The emotional and psychological availability of the parents help to shape the child’s psychological security which is considered a premise for the sound development of personality and social identity.
It is observed that early interactions with parents have a lasting impact on the fashion of individuals’ engagement in close relationships during adolescence and adulthood (Gunning et al., 2011). Moreover, the active parent-child interactions may significantly facilitate the neonatal cognitive, neurological, and motor development. During infancy, the transformation of the child’s cognitive and motor functioning is stimulated through the contacts with the external environment, and the communication with the caregivers helps to realize the inherent cognitive and physiological potential of an individual to a full extent (Alves, 2014).
The neonatal period is the fundamental stage of the child’s development because the basic cognitive abilities start to form during the first two years of his life. At this stage, the elementary cognitive processes facilitate the further development of abstract thinking, estimation aptitude, and cognition skills (Alves, 2014). And the physical and emotional contacts with the parents help a child to learn faster while the lack of parental communication and environmental stimulation, on the contrary, may provoke developmental delays.
The researchers emphasize the significance of parent-child relationships for the individual healthy psychological development (Gunning et al., 2011). A family is perceived as a micro-social environment in which a child learns the skills of interaction and accumulates knowledge related to his personal, social, and cultural identity. And it is possible to say that the character of parent-child attachment largely influences the formation of individual identity and perceptions of others.
In the micro sociocultural context of a family, a child acquires the basic knowledge about the external social environment, learns the norms of social behavior, and adopts the cultural values which then influence the formation of his/her personal identity. The comprehension of own identity takes a significant part in the individual’s process of socialization, and the secure parent-child attachment may be regarded as the foundation for the individual psychological well-being and success in many areas of social performance in adolescence and adulthood.
Insecure attachment is formed under the influence of parental psychological distress and anxiety or avoidance of a child, and it negatively affects the developmental progress of a child (Gunning et al., 2011). The recent research studies indicate that the psychological and emotional neglect during early childhood is one of the major risk factors for the occurrence of impairments in the neurological mechanisms that may lead to the developmental delays and psychological problems (Fonzo et al., 2016).
The emotional maltreatment experienced in early childhood increases stress and interferes with the formation of psychological security. As a result, a child may have difficulties in the emotional control, intellectual growth, and social adaptation. There are three main aspects of human development that may undergo some changes: neurological, psychological, and cognitive. If insecure infant attachment is observed, the main difficulty of the neurological development that could occur is a neurodevelopmental disorder.
It could affect child’s emotions, memory, or even self-control and gain the forms of communication or language disorders, schizophrenia, or even autism in case parents fail to identify and treat it early. From the psychological point of view, the child with insecure attachment may experience various emotional and psychological disorders in the form of poor communication, frequent cases of anger and aggression (boys between four and six years), or, vice versa, dependence and the desire to keep silence even in cases of emergency (girls between five and seven years).
The effects of insecure attachment of children on their cognitive development may vary considerably. On the one hand, this kind of development may stop, and a child may suffer from the inabilities to think logically or make independent and thoughtful decisions but stay dependent on the opinions of grownups. The child may fail to comprehend what reactions should be demonstrated and use the same answer (behavior) to different questions (situations). The results are the inabilities to befriend with peers, explain personal needs, and comprehend what is going around and why different people have different emotions and explanations.
The insecure childhood attachment is interrelated with the formation of ambivalent perceptions of multiple social phenomena. The researchers regard ambivalent attachment as the “perception of social threat and social reward” and the presence of both positive and negative feelings regarding the particular social issue simultaneously (Macdonald, Locke, Spielmann, & Joel, 2012). Ambivalent attachment results in significant psychological discomfort and is associated with the failure to build intimate romantic relationships in adulthood.
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It is possible to say that ambivalent perceptions can also create significant barriers to the achievement of academic or professional success, and the related psychological discomfort may provoke persistent distress or severe oppressive mood and psychological disorders.
There are a few symptoms indicating the development of attachment problems in children. First of all, it is observed that a child associated with the insecure attachment will experience difficulties in the establishment of social connections and controlling own emotions (Groh, Roisman, van Ijzendoorn, Bakermans-Kranenburg, & Fearon, 2012). At the later developmental stages, the child may become afraid of social interactions, express anger, and feel lonely or unsafe. The child who experiences attachment problems will likely not take an interest in playing and exploring the environment, will reject parental attempts to calm him/her down, will manifest positive emotions less, and it will be harder to console his/her crying (Groh et al., 2012).
The main prerequisites for the formation of insecure attachment include the adverse experiences in early parent-child relationships, social isolation, or neglect. Therefore, the major intervention practices should address the problems in the parenting style. A higher level of parents’ involvement in the process of early development facilitates the accumulation of child’s social and emotional competence (Gunning et al., 2011). Emotional availability and parental support play a significant role in the child’s social adjustment. Thus, the timely intervention of parenting style may help to avoid the occurrence of the behavioral problems in the future.
The parents need to know how to address the developmental needs of a child and address them more effectively. Along with the educational practices targeted at covering the gaps in the parent’s knowledge regarding issues of early childhood development, the intervention activities should include the active interactions and games with the child, the transformation of communication style, and the creation of emotional value in the parent-child relationships. Reduction of neglect and provision of greater attention to the fulfillment of the child’s physical and psychological needs can help to reduce the insecure attachment symptoms, and the development of positive communication may increase the emotional bonding between mother and child.
Alves, P. F. (2014). Vygotsky and Piaget: Scientific concepts. Psychology in Russia, 7(3), 24-34. Web.
Fonzo, G. A., Ramsawh, H. J., Flagan, T. M., Simmons, A. N., Sullivan, S. G., Allard, C. B.,… Stein, M. B. (2016). Early life stress and the anxious brain: Evidence for a neural mechanism linking childhood emotional maltreatment to anxiety in adulthood. Psychological Medicine, 46(5), 1037-1054.
Groh, A. M., Roisman, G. I., van Ijzendoorn, M. H., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., & Fearon, R. P. (2012). The significance of insecure and disorganized attachment for children’s internalizing symptoms: A meta-analytic study. Child Development, 83(2), 591-610. Web.
Gunning, M. D., Waugh, H., Robertson, F., & Holmes, B. (2011). Emotional intelligence, attachment and bonding and communication. Community Practitioner, 84(3), 27-31.
Macdonald, G., Locke, K. D., Spielmann, S. S., & Joel, S. (2012). Insecure attachment predicts ambivalent social threat and reward perceptions in romantic relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30(5), 647-661. Web.
Mogi, K., Nagasawa, M., & Kikusui, T. (2011). Developmental consequences and biological significance of mother–infant bonding. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 35(5), 1232-1241. Web.