Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only T&Cs apply

Find out more

What are containment and holding environments?

Many of the children (and families) we work with have faced difficult circumstances and experienced significant disruptions
Tiny baby being soothed by its mother
© University of Strathclyde

Many of the children (and families) we work with have faced difficult circumstances and experienced significant disruptions to their early processes of containment.

As a result, their development of thinking, particularly the thinking that enables them to manage and make sense of things, may have been limited.

For some, the impact can be profound. You can probably identify kids you’ve worked with who cannot recognise their own emotions, let alone identify themselves as having them rather than being them.

Containment and holding environments

In the article ‘Constrained, Contained or Falling to Pieces?’, Dr Laura Steckley explores the concepts of containment and holding environments.

This article appeared in the November 2010 edition of the online journal CYC-Online and the full edition of the journal can also be accessed. This journal is aimed at those working in the field of child and youth care (CYC).

In the article Laura reflects upon what the concept of containment has to offer when we think about working with and caring for vulnerable children and young people.

She sets out some of the early thinking of Wilfred Bion and how he identified the containment offered by parents and caregivers as being fundamental to growth and development. The strong parallels with the theory of attachment are highlighted also.

Laura writes this article through the lens of residential child care, a setting where some vulnerable children and young people may find themselves placed for a period of time. However, the links to all children and young people and their need for emotional and physical containment can be easily made.

© University of Strathclyde
This article is from the free online

Caring for Vulnerable Children

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now