Karen Potter
Psychotherapy & Mentoring
Lismore, NSW
attachment theory

What is Attachment Theory?

In the area of psychology discussions, you may have come across the term ‘Attachment Theory’. This theory is used widely in the psychological treatment of infants, children, and parents.

In short, attachment theory is focused on the idea that the most important aspect of a young child’s development is the relationship with his/her primary caregiver. In most cases, attachment theory is applied to the infant-mother relationship. This relationship is the foundation upon which all development occurs. So, essentially, it is crucial for this relationship to be a healthy, loving bond, in order for the child to have healthy social and emotional development.


The Importance of Early Emotional Bonds

One of the first attachment theorists was John Bowlby.  He believed that attachment begins at birth and has a major impact throughout the child’s life and is the basis of adult relationships.  Bowlby was interested in the separation anxiety that occurs when infants and young children are separated from their primary attachment figure. This anxiety demonstrated the innate need in the child for the parents’ presence, the pain that resulted from being apart from them, and the various ways a child may show or hide this pain.

As researchers explored this concept further, they found that the emotional attachment a child has with his/her primary caregiver was as critical as their need for food. Therefore, when a child is nurtured with warmth, love, and emotional support, and availability, it enables him/her to feel secure.  And this gives them the best chance of developing healthy social and emotional skills and values and learning.


How Does Attachment Theory Apply in Psychology Treatment?

Attachment Theory is important to consider in therapeutic work with all clients, including adolescents and adults; however, it is central when treating perinatal, infant, child, and parent clients. As a psychologist, Karen Potter will consider the relationship that the client had/has with their parents, especially their primary care-giver, and from there, can identify connections to any issues they are currently facing. If the client is a parent, Karen focuses on enhancing the mother-child or father-child relationship in order to harvest a healthy satisfying bond and allow for optimal social-emotional development and learning in their child.


Types of Attachment

There are four types of attachment in attachment theory, which are: Secure, Ambivalent, Avoidant, and Disorganised. Having a detailed understanding of these various types of attachment enables psychologists to understand infants/toddlers relationship with their primary caregiver and their issues in more depth.  This, in turn, allows them to offer the most appropriate strategies.


What You Can Do to Harvest a Secure Attachment

It is essential for parents to understand the importance of the attachment between their children and themselves. When a young child is physically and emotionally nurtured by their parent it creates a secure base and safe haven for him/her to learn, explore, and grow. The main thing you can do as a parent to harvest a secure attachment with your child is to be available both physically and emotionally. It is important to know that parents do not have to be physically and emotionally available all the time, just enough of the time so that the infant/child comes to trust the availability.  Additionally, parents do not have to be physically close to the child at all times, just close enough so the child knows they are nearby and can communicate and return to them when needed.


There are many other things you can do as a parent to harvest a secure attachment between yourself and your child. To find out more about please contact Karen Potter on 0438 389 829 or visit https://karenpotter.com.au/.

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