Four in 10 infants lack strong parental attachments

When parents feel too overwhelmed to soothe crying babies four and under, the children don't bond securely with them. Poor bonding causes lifelong problems.

In a study of 14,000 US children, 40 percent lack strong emotional bonds -- what psychologists call 'secure attachment' -- with their parents that are crucial to success later in life, according to a new report. The researchers found that these children are more likely to face educational and behavioral problems.

Researchers found that infants under the age of three who do not form strong bonds with their mothers or fathers are more likely to be aggressive, defiant and hyperactive as adults. These bonds, or secure attachments, are formed through early parental care, such as picking up a child when he or she cries or holding and reassuring a child.

"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," ... "These secure attachments to their mothers and fathers provide these children with a base from which they can thrive."

... about 60 percent of children develop strong attachments to their parents, which are formed through simple actions, such as holding a baby lovingly and responding to the baby's needs. Such actions support children's social and emotional development, which, in turn, strengthens their cognitive development, the researchers write. These children are more likely to be resilient to poverty, family instability, parental stress and depression. Additionally, if boys growing up in poverty have strong parental attachments, they are two and a half times less likely to display behavior problems at school. The approximately 40 percent who lack secure attachments, on the other hand, are more likely to have poorer language and behavior before entering school. This effect continues throughout the children's lives, and such children are more likely to leave school without further education, employment or training, the researchers write.

... 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infants are more likely to learn that the world is not a safe place -- leading them to become needy, frustrated, withdrawn or disorganized." The researchers argue that many parents -- including middle-class parents -- need more support to provide proper parenting,... [emphasis mine]

Tags: secure attachment, soothe a crying child

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Replies to This Discussion

This was a sad report to read.  40% seems so very high.  I never understood the "cry it out" method to parenting.

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