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Isn't it pretty?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Attachment

I've spent the past week and all of today researching and writing a paper on attachment and the lasting effects it has on a child. (If I start writing this post with citations, it's because I'm still in APA mode.) As with most situations that affect humans, there is no direct cause and effect relationship to be seen in every single case. However, there is significant research to indicate that the health of the primary caregiver in the first year of an infant's life makes a large impact on a child, possibly for the rest of their life. I read research that suggested that children who experience insecure attachment in the first six months are handicapped emotionally when entering school and beyond. That the mother-infant relationship (and I'm not trying to politically incorrect here, the research I read focused almost solely on the mother-infant relationship, very few male caregivers mentioned at all) has significant impact on that infant's ability to handle conflict, to be autonomous, to feel secure in new environments. What disturbed me even more were the descriptions of children who got mixed messages from their mothers and developed disorganized attachment. Many of these children failed to bond to their mothers and had great difficulty bonding or having the ability to appropriately interact with peers and others who came into their lives. Now, the research I read didn't discard innate personality characteristics that are evident in children since birth. There do seem to be some tendencies that children have ingrained in them, and these often can impact both the way the caregiver responds to them, and how they end up interacting with others later in life. Though the whole things makes me wonder about the chicken-egg argument, and while I know you can't discard the fact that some parents do have more difficulty than others with the ability to be secure and nurturing caregivers, I think some children are more difficult than others to properly nurture as well. It's scary to think about what an impact you have on your children, especially during such a short time period of life. In watching friends with their infants in the first year, I have seen such different parenting styles, with vastly different outcomes. But when I think about the lack of sleep and the stress of adjusting to being a new parent, and trying to juggle that with the ability to properly nurture an attachment relationship with an infant, it seems a bit overwhelming. Again, my research did indicate that there is hope for those children who have insecure relationships during the first year - it's not an all or nothing deal, and relationships are not unrepairable, but it does make it much harder. I've never given that early relationship with a baby so much thought. I always considered a working mother to be normal, and couldn't really conceive of staying home with my children. I still don't know if I'm cut out to stay at home with my kids, but it does make me realize how important those first few months are, and how the more time and nurturing you do give your infant, the better it probably is for them. And it also makes me want to work on being the most emotionally healthy I can possibly be before having children, so that I don't pass my own issues on to them, so that I can give them the best start possible. Life is hard enough as it is without being handicapped from the beginning. I'm glad I did this research now, so I can work on nurturing my nurturing abilities.

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