Happy mother and child

Attachment questions: suggested answers

As stated in the previous step, potentially problematic experiences are often successfully overcome by children and their families and secure attachments can develop. There are a number of factors however, which make the development of secure attachments more difficult and increase the risk to the infant.

Positive attachment relationships provide children with a secure base from which to explore their world. Insecurely attached children have to concentrate on safety and survival and are less able to explore freely. Children who continually experience risk and vulnerability are more likely to suffer from poor attachments and consequent difficulties. The suggested answers to the questions posed in the previous step are drawn from material developed jointly by The Scottish Government and CELCIS – Looked after children & young people: we can and must do better.

What does a baby or young child do that elicits a caregiving response from an adult?

  • In a baby: crying, clinging, sucking/feeding, smiling, babbling
  • In a toddler: calling, greeting, following, playing, exploring and returning

What is required from the care giver or environment to enable secure attachment?

  • A loving warm relationship with a caregiver who is predictable and attuned to the individual child
  • Stimulating interactions and environment
  • Physical contact and soothing
  • Attentiveness (looking, touching, playing, etc.)
  • Recognising and giving meaning to the baby’s communication and finding the right pitch, tone and moment to respond whether with words, sounds or movement
  • Verbal stimulation

What factors might impede the development of secure attachments?

  • Within the child: being premature, chronic illness, disability, irritability, difficult birth, difficult relationship with parent
  • Within the parent or family: mental health problems, physical health problems, disability, history of poor parenting, family structure, family dynamics, loss, separations, abuse, neglect, stress, difficult relationship with child
  • Within the environment: poverty and deprivation, social exclusion, persecution, disaster

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This article is from the free online course:

Caring for Vulnerable Children

University of Strathclyde