New Parent and Attachment Anxiety

Attachment: Realities and misconceptions

The AP philosophy borrows its name from attachment research begun in the 1950s by British psychiatrist John Bowlby, M.D. But decades of attachment studies don't back up all of attachment parenting's claims. "You could violate all the specific practices in attachment parenting and the child could be securely attached as long as you are emotionally responsive on a consistent basis," according to L. Alan Sroufe, Ph.D., professor of child development at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and one of the world's leading attachment scholars. "Our research shows that there's no prescription for good parenting."

Kyle Pruett, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry and nursing at the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, CT, agrees. He points out that while baby-wearing may work for some, more than 15% of babies don't like to be touched or held frequently. "They're saying, 'Stop confining me in this sling,' so what's more useful is if parents get their information from their child," he says.

One of the most stunning developments in recent attachment research is the growing number of studies showing that the key to raising a secure child lies not in what a parent does but in how thoroughly the parent has come to terms with his own childhood attachment issues. "The way a parent makes sense of his early life is the best predictor of his child's attachment status," according to Daniel Siegel, M.D., associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the Center for Culture, Brain, and Development at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of Parenting From the Inside Out. By analyzing the answers parents give to a set of probing questions about their childhood, researchers can predict with 85% accuracy what kind of attachment they'll have with their child. The more emotionally honest parents are in explaining their initial relationships, the more securely attached their children are.

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