RadKid.Org: Reactive Attachment Disorder

There's always a storm a'brewing.



Reactive Attachment Disorder: Secure Attachment

In order for a child to have a secure base from which to explore the world, deal with the stresses of life, and to form meaningful relationships, infants need to have a primary adult who cares for them, understanding and meeting their needs. Usually this caretaker is the mother, but it can be a father or another person, so long as that person sustains a central role in the first three years of the child's life, the time in which an infant's brain develops most rapidly.

This process is known as attachment, or bonding.

Each attachment is unique, as infants differ in what it takes to soothe and to give them pleasure. The mother who is in touch with her baby will be aware and follow the lead of the infant. This early, non-verbal communication between the mother and her baby is often referred to as a "dance," as caregiver and infant synchronize their communications through touching, smiling, and playing.

When everything is going as it should, an infant will cry, smile, laugh, and even move his body in certain ways to communicate his needs to his mother. Mom responds to the infant?s needs and the ?dance? between mother and infant is repeated over and over.

Secure attachments have the following attributes:

  • The caregiver aligns her own internal state with that of the infant, and communicates this alignment in nonverbal ways that the baby understands. Through this communication, a bond of trust is formed. For example:
    • The baby cries, the mother feels concern and acts in such a way as to communicate this concern to the baby.
    • The baby smiles and wants to play, and the mother smiles back, following the baby's lead in play.
  • Through these mutual interactions, the baby develops a sense of balance in his body and mind.
  • The comfortable interaction between the baby and his mother creates a sense of safety within the baby, inspiring him to want to interact with others, as well.

As people, we are social creatures. Our brains are designed to relate to other people, and it is this interaction that helps to shape the structure and the function of the brain. This early bonding experience directly influences the child's development of mental processes.

Secure attachment forms the basis upon which the infant will later form:

  • his relationships with other people.
  • his sense of security about exploring his world.
  • the way that he responds to stress.

Because our brains are flexible, this early bonding experience doesn't have to be perfect. No caregiver, not even the best mother in the world, will correctly interpret a baby's needs every time. If an infant's communication with his primary caregiver is secure at least a third of the time or more, a secure relationship will generally develop.

As the child grows, there will be disagreements between the mother and child. The primary caregiver, who sets limits, should take steps to initiate repair as soon as the child indicates a desire to reconnect. This strengthens the child's feeling of security in the relationship.

If bonding between mother and child does not occur often enough, then the safe and secure attachments do not occur as they should. Instead, insecure attachments are formed. All insecure attachments stem from repeated early experiences of failed communication between the mother and child. Too often, mothers of insecure children are themselves the product of insecure experiences, thus passing insecure attachment from one generation to another.

Last Modified on: Saturday, August 08, 2009



If your browser does not support our flash navigation, click the orange site map image on the top of the page.



RadKid.Org Blog | RadKid.Org Directory | RadKid.Org AT Wiki

We subscribe to the HONcode principles of the HON Foundation. Click to verify. 


Health Links select site Rated with SafeSurf Labeled with ICRA