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The Importance of Attachment in Early Childhood

The attachment bond is the emotional connection formed by wordless communication between an infant and their parent or primary caretaker. A landmark report, published in 2000 by The Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development, identified how crucial the attachment bond is to a child’s development. This form of communication affects the way a child develops mentally, physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially. In fact, the strength of this relationship is the main predictor of how well your child will do both in school and in life.

We are born to connect. As human beings we are relational. Biological, emotional and psychological connection to others is essential to healthy development in children.

We learn how to connect during our infancy and early childhood. These patterns and experiences become embodied in us and become the way we understand how the world and people work.Furthermore the attachment we receive in early childhood becomes a pattern we implement in adulthood.

A child develops a secure attachment to their parents and early years teachers when he is surrounded by a safe and secure environment. The teachers ability to respond to the child sensitively when the child needs them is crucial to the child forming a secure attachment to them.

Small children form attachments to the teachers who are affectionate to them.The child will do better in his development with one or two strong attachment relationships rather than several weaker ones.

The first three years of life shape a human’s mental, emotional and physical health for life. The third birthday is a milestone, because brain development is about 90 per cent complete, speech is established and separation from the main caregiver becomes easier. New horizons open up: friendships can be formed, preschool education becomes relevant, and independence is a new skill to try out.

It has been proven that loving care enables all this to happen. It stimulates the links between brain cells (particularly in the emotional center of the brain) which allows the brain to grow. There are many ways synaptic links are ignited, but in the first few years it is loving communication and attunement between child and caregivers that is key. The relationships that under-threes have with their caregivers are the key predictor of development – social, emotional and physical.

The attachment bond is not founded on the quality of care or love, but on the nonverbal emotional communication with a child. While attachment occurs naturally as the parent or teacher care for the child’s needs, the quality of the attachment bond varies.

Children need something more than love and caregiving in order for their brains and nervous systems to develop in the best way possible. Children need to be able to engage in a nonverbal emotional exchange with their teacher in a way that communicates their needs and makes them feel understood, secure, and balanced. Children who feel emotionally disconnected from their teacher are likely to feel confused and insecure.

It is essential in a preschool environment to build trust.  This promotes positive behaviors and builds a connection between the child and teacher, which are key parts to creating a healthy relationship with children.

 

Babies need loving connection to thrive. René Spitz, a psychiatrist, studied infants and children in orphanages and prisons before Western medicine understood the importance of attachment or connection.

Through his research in the 1930s, Spitz discovered infants and children could die if they were not connected with or touched: they could receive adequate nutrition and health care, but fail to thrive from lack of loving contact.

Spitz filmed babies and toddlers who were deprived of healthy attachment and the images were used to promote changes in how institutions cared for infants and children. Today such images may seem profoundly disturbing and haunting.

In psychology, the theory of attachment can be applied to adult relationships including friendships and emotional affairs. Attachment theory was initially studied in the 1960s and 1970s primarily in the context of children, parents and caregivers. However it was extended to adult relationships in the late 1980s.

 

 

 

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