Attachment in Infancy and its Lifelong Effects

“Attachment is the capacity to form and maintain healthy emotional relationships. An attachment bond has unique properties. The capacity to create these special relationships begins in early childhood”. (Perry, 2001)

The beginning stages of forming any relationship in life, begins with early childhood attachment. It is what we base our lives as infants straight through old-old adults. We are born into an unfamiliar world and we slowly begin to realize that without forming a sound or coo, we would never be picked up to be fed nor have our soiled diapers changed. We see to our parent(s)/caregiver(s) whether it be a mother, father, grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc. to provide us nourishment and support. A relationship begins to form as the internal working model. During infancy we seek out an unspoken attachment which is having someone discover out basic needs at which time, an attachment forms. If the child cries, an action expected to be taken for the child to cease crying. “Our infancy strengthens our human bonds. Soon after birth we exhibit various social responses-love, fear, anger.” (Myers, 2002 p. 453) Early childhood sets the stage for social, emotional and all other aspects of the child’s development.

An infant becomes familiar with the sound, smell and feel of his/her parent/caregiver. An example of this type of attachment is if an infant is in a hospital and is unable to sleep, a nurse would request the parent (usually the mother) of the infant to leave them a used shirt so that they may place it next to the infant. The explanation is that the infant has already grown attached to the parent and the smell of the parent is soothing to the infant; hence, the infant proceeds to fall asleep despite the parent actually being physically present. As the infant proceeds to get older, he/she let out a wail or cries hysterically when separated from a parent. “By keeping infants close to their caregivers, social attachment serves as a powerful survival impulse.” (Myers, 2002 p. 453) If a child is pulled away from their caregiver, the child may become emotionally detached and eventually turn rebellious.

Passionate love is presumed to only be experienced by lovers; however, a child loves just as deeply as an adult. “Year-old infants display a passionate attachment to their parents/caregiver.” (Myers, 2002 p. 454) The children welcome love, hugs and kisses, words of endearment such as “sweetie” or “baby”. As the caregiver continues to display their affection towards the infant and/or child, the child draws towards that emotion and begins to attach emotionally and physically towards their caregiver. When pulled away from their caregiver, the infant or child feels distressed until the reunion when they take pleasure in being able to be embraced by their caregiver.

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