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The attachment theory argues that a strong emotional and physical bond to one primary caregiver in our first years of life is critical to our development:
1. If our bonding is strong and we are securely attached, then we feel safe to explore the world. We know there is always that safe base, to which we can return to any time.
2. If our bond is weak, we feel insecurely attached. We are afraid to leave or explore a rather scary-looking world. Because we are not sure if we can return.
3. People who are securely attached are said to have greater trust, can connect to others and as a result are more successful in life.
4. Insecurely attached people tend to mistrust others, lack social skills and have problems forming relationships.
There is one type of secure attachment and there are 3 types of insecure attachments:
In responses to distress, the first 3 react organized, while the last acts disorganized.
If that happens frequently, it is called toxic stress. Toxic, because it impairs the development of a child’s brain, and weakens the immune system. In embryos or at a very young age, toxic stress can even switch the expressions of genes, which can affect our health many decades later.
By simulating a Strange Situation, we can assess an attachment style, already by the age of one. To do this, we let the child play with their mothers for a few minutes inside a room. Then the child is left alone. The key moment is the child’s reaction when her mother returns.
The long-term effects of our attachment in the early years are well documented. Using the theory, researchers at Minnesota University were able to predict already at age 3, if a child would drop out of high school with 77% accuracy.
In another study:
But there is another reason why the early years deserve special attention. They are the starting place for subsequent behaviors:
In other words: those who feel insecurely attached, might not quite understand themselves. To get to know who they are and what they feel, they might have to go way back in time.
Read More: Early Childhood Education