As children we are like sponges. Literally, our brain grows to 80% of its adult size by the time we are two! At times the neurons are growing at a rate of 250,000 every minute! The neurological pathways that will have a huge influence over our subconscious and automatic behaviours are being formed. This is why the relationship at this time with our primary caregiver (usually the mother) is SO important.
Attachment theory looks at the bonds between people, specifically it looks at the bonds created in our first intimate relationship, with the person who we depend on for food, nourishment and love. The theory suggests that this relationship sets up the kind of bonding we have with other people in intimate relationships going forward as adults.
This makes complete sense to me as the first primary relationship builds a mental imprint in a child’s mind as to what an intimate relationship looks and feels like. As a child, we are taught repeatedly what to expect from the person who is supposed to be our protector, source of love, food and understanding.
Children and babies are wired for survival. So, they will naturally change their behaviour depending on the responses they receive from their mother. These behavioural adaptations, some useful and some not, continue into adulthood.
Theorists have named 4 attachment styles, all a response to the behaviour of the mother:
Ambivalent (anxious) attachment
We will examine each in turn over the next four posts.
*Attachment theory by John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth & Main & Solomon