Attachment: What it is and what it isn’t


In the adoption world, “attachment,” “bonding,” and “relationship” tend to be used interchangeably which can really confuse and muddy the conversation around such matters.

John Bowlby, an early 20th century psychoanalyst, defined attachment behaviors as a biological, instinctual response to seek safety when threatened by a perceived danger. Attachment does not equal relationship or even bonding. Additionally, due to its primitive nature, we should refer to an individual’s attachment pattern rather than style. While attachment is reflexive, there are ways to be more reflective and mindful of our pattern and there are practices that can re-wire our neural connections which can impact our attachment pattern.

“The Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) is a procedure for assessing adults’ strategies for identifying, preventing, and protecting the self from perceived dangers, particularly dangers tied to intimate relationships.”

I am choosing not to enumerate the patterns adults exhibit because it usually leads to self-diagnoses which is pretty much impossible. However, these resources can provide you with professional insight about your attachment pattern which can help you navigate your relationship with your child(ren) from the hard place.

LBH Research & Consulting

Jim Harlow, LPC

Things to remember:

*One can shift his attachment pattern toward being more secure.

*Bonding is the result of secure attachment.

*Thinking about “attuning” to our children’s emotional needs consistently gives better perspective than striving for bonding.

*It is never a child’s job to demonstrate a secure attachment pattern.

*Your coping mechanism for dealing with a child who creates trauma in your home does not necessarily reflect your attachment pattern.

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