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Children Who Lack Secure Attachment Face Future Hurdles

secure attachmentWhen children lack strong emotional bonds with their parents, they are more likely to fact education and behavioral problems, and unfortunately, a new study has revealed that 40 percent of children in the United States are lacking these bonds.[1]

The report, published by Sutton Trust, stated that researchers found that infants under the age of three who do not form strong bonds with their primary caregivers are more likely to be aggressive, defiant, and hyperactive as adults.1 Secure attachments are formed through early care, such as holding a child when he or she cries or reassuring him or her when they feel insecure.1

“When parents tune in to and respond to their children’s needs and are a dependable source of comfort, those children learn how to manage their own feeling and behaviors,” said researcher and doctoral student Sophie Moullin. “These secure attachments to their [primary caregivers] provide these children with a base from which they can thrive.”1

Researchers used data that was collected by the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, a nationally representative United States study of 14,000 children born in 2001.1 The researchers also reviewed more than 100 academic studies.1 Their analysis revealed that about 60 percent of children form strong attachments to their caregivers that are formed through simple loving actions.1 These actions support the child’s social and emotional development, which in turn strengthens their cognitive development.1 These children are more likely to be resilient to poverty, family instability, parental stress, and depression.1

However, the 40 percent who lack secure attachments often have poorer language skills and behavior by the time they enter school.1 However, the effects continue throughout their lives, and many do not receive a further education, employment, or training.1 Poor parental care and insecure attachment before age four is a strong predictor that the child will fail to complete school.1 Of the 40 percent who lack secure attachments, 25 percent avoid their parents when they are upset, and 15 percent resist their parents because they cause them distress.1

Insecure attachments often develop when the primary caregivers are not tuned in to their infant’s social signals, especially those of distress.1

“When helpless infants learn early that their cries will be responded to, they also learn that their needs will be met, and they are likely to form a secure attachment to their [caregivers],” said Dr. Susan Campbell, a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh who studies social and emotional development in young children and infants. “However, when caregivers are overwhelmed because of their own difficulties, infants are more likely to learn that the world is not a safe place—leading them to become needy, frustrated, withdrawn, or disorganized.”1

Researchers state that parents need more support to provide the proper parenting needed, including family leave, home visits, and income supports.1

“Targeted interventions can also be highly effective in helping parents develop the behaviors that foster secure attachment,” said Jane Waldfogel, PhD, and co-author of the report. “Supporting families who are at risk for poor parenting ideally starts early—at birth or even before.”1



[1] Nauert, R. (2014). Many U.S. Kids Lack Secure Attachment, Face Future Hurdles. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/03/28/many-u-s-kids-lack-secure-attachment-face-future-hurdles/67753.html

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