Wednesday, 9 May 2012

attachment... not just putting files on emails (pt. 1)

This week is attachment week at the AEP. I have been researching attachment for the past few months and I'm glad because the AEP didn't have time to get into everything that might have been covered.
What is attachment you ask? Well according to Psychology Today attachment is this important:
"The emotional bond that typically forms between infant and caregiver, usually a parent, not only stimulates brain growth but affects personality development and lifelong ability to form stable relationships"
Usually when a baby cries, a caregiver meets the baby's need and the baby attaches to the caregiver. This is the natural attachment cycle. The problem is that many children in the foster care system have either never been able to attach to a trusting caregiver or have attached to many different caregivers who have come in and out of the child's life. No attachment or disrupted attachments can have huge negative effects on a developing brain. When a child does not have any secure attachments and has trouble making them it is often diagnosed as Attachment Disorder or Reactive Attachment Disorder.

What are the potential causes of Attachment disorder?

Separation from the primary caregiver
Changes in the primary caregiver
Frequent moves and/or placements
Traumatic experiences
Maternal depression 
Maternal addiction - drugs or alcohol
Undiagnosed, painful illness such as colic, ear infections, etc.
Lack of attunement between mother and child

What does Attachment Disorder look like? 

•Intense control battles, very bossy and argumentative; defiance and anger
•Resists affection on parental terms
•Lack of eye contact, especially with parents or will look into your eyes when lying
•Manipulative - superficially charming and engaging
•Indiscriminately affectionate with strangers
•Lack of conscience - shows no remorse
•Destructive to property, self and/or others
•Lack of impulse control
•Learning lags/delays
•Speech and language problems
•Incessant chatter and/or questions
•Inappropriately demanding and/or clingy
•Food issues - hordes, gorges, refuses to eat, eats strange things,  hides food
•Very concerned about tiny hurts but brushes off big hurts

Some of these might sound like normal child behaviours but a child who is unattached doesn't know to go to their parents for help. They don't know how to feel safe and might always be waiting for something bad to happen. They don't understand that you are their "forever family" and might try "mommy shopping" (hugging and cuddling strangers, knowing they have to be charming in order to be protected).  In public, an unattached child might seem cute and affectionate but inside (and at home) they are fighting against attaching to anyone in order to avoid future hurt.

So there you have it. Some tough stuff to mull over. It's not all bad news though. With a lot of patience and very purposeful parenting, many children are able to form very secure attachments to their adoptive parents. More on that next time.