In recent years, attachment has become a key concept for all those professionals who work with families. The numerous investigations that are being carried out offer very valuable information about the importance of family ties. As recently demonstrated, secure attachment relationships within the family context are closely related to a better psychological and social development of individuals.
What we understand by attachment
And then: What exactly is attachment? For Bowlby (1969), father of the theory "Attachment is a deep and lasting emotional union that connects two people throughout space and time”.
More specifically, the attachment as a biological function aimed at linking the child with his mother or father (or adult reference) with the objective of guaranteeing the survival of the organism. In this context, the child has a repertoire of behaviors (such as crying, "talking", touching ...) that serve to capture the attention of the adult and that this way you can begin to form this attachment relationship.
For their part, the mother and the father also have innate abilities and abilities that make it easier for them to recognize these needs in the child, attend to their calls and respond sensitively to them. Mothers (and fathers to a lesser extent) are able to intuit if their child's crying is because of hunger, sleep or because he needs a diaper changed. As time passes, this intuition is perfected, and more and more specific "diagnoses" are made about the child's situation. Through the attention and care of the parents, the baby and the adult begin to connect, to develop a relationship and a bond. Is bodily and emotional connection is key to forming a secure attachment relationship.
The importance of attachment
The idea about the fundamental purpose of attachment has evolved over time. Although the first authors considered that the function of attachment was the physical survival of the organism and that the child was able to move forward thanks to the help of his adult reference, the authors currently underline the importance of the link between the adult and the child for the proper development of the child's psyche and advanced mental abilities. Empathy, Emotional regulation or conflict resolution strategies are skills that are acquired in the regulatory interaction with the reference adult, which "teaches" the child through his own example. In this case, we talk about the idea of "psychological survival" by the child.
Miriam and Howard Steele, leading researchers of attachment theory, developed a study, which they called the London Project, in which they investigated the mental representations of attachment in parents and how they were transmitted to their children. One of the important aspects in this research was its longitudinal design, which allowed them to work continuously with a group of children over time. Thanks to this, they were able to understand how cognitive skills associated with secure attachment styles evolved, such as metacognition (reflecting on our own feelings and thoughts) and emotional regulation, and how safe and insecure attachment styles of parents were transmitted to their children.
The results of his research suggested that it is within the context of a secure relationship where the ideal conditions exist for the child to lay the foundations and begin to develop the mechanisms that will allow him to understand and master his thoughts and emotions. For them a relationship is necessary where the mother is sensitive and understanding towards the needs of her children, and where these needs, as well as the feelings that are associated with them, be treated in an open and organic way, giving free communication between the mother and her child.
In a context of these characteristics children are able to, on the one hand, safely build the basis of their personality and their psychology, and on the other, have the perception that parents are a safe place to turn to when things are not going well and they feel scared or distressed.
It is very important that we understand as parents the importance we have and the central role we play in the emotional health of our children. We are responsible for the foundations of your personality are strong and resilient and we are the benchmark from which children will learn skills as complex as empathy or emotional regulation. We have to assume our responsibility and act in a way that allows them to become coherent adults with a psychological health of iron.