Attachment Theory

It has been known for many decades now just how important attachment is for the building of a healthy stress regulation system. Children who have secure attachments will be more emotionally resilient, be more able to make positive relationships, more able to develop empathy and more able to recover from life’s challenges and difficulties.

Positive attachments are inextricably linked to healthy brain development. It is through the repeated experiences of a baby’s stress being calmed by a loving, consistent and reliable adult that ensures the development of strong neuronal pathways from the limbic system up into the frontal lobes thus creating good fronto-limbic functioning. This leads to children who can experience a strong feeling, manage it and return to emotional equilibrium quickly.

Research has shown that children who experience regular empathic listening from their parents are better able to learn, to use life well, to concentrate, to enjoy relationships and to be kind to others.

Thrive draws on the neuroscience research, attachment and its child development model to train workers to understand children’s emotional needs through observation of their behaviour. At all points in the approach, workers are supported to make conscious use of their relationship with children to attune to them, validate their affect state, provide emotional containment and regulate their stress levels. By repeating this experience for the young people in their care, workers will be ensuring that healthy stress regulation pathways are being built in children’s brains. This, in turn will result in children learning how to self regulate.

One thought on “Attachment Theory

  1. Agreed but it is very much disputed as to how much emphasis should be placed on it as even children with most extreme neglect can recover to varying extents. It is one and only one, albeit important and significant, factor. The issue with focusing too much on it is that other potentially critical factors and stages of attachment / emotional development get overlooked or underplayed e.g. impact of puberty ( which now is understood to extend into 20’s and is a huge period of neural growth or lack of growth). It is difficult to get funding for example into the impact of continual stress on children through things like continuous assessment in education (which raises cortisol). This is despite the fact as the Thrive speaker said there is an epidemic of anxiety issues in a wide range of students across UK. An interesting study came out over the summer looking at correlations between teachers stress levels and learners stress and consequent behaviour / learning. No one doubts the significance of early childhood (even to the extent it is known that stress behaviours are influenced by the mothers environmental stress experiences,like workplace stress, in the 3rd trimester) it is just that there are also significant mediating factors. It is very true to say that the behaviours Thrive will pick up on are strongly correlated with attachment issues but they could also have different causes. At the end of the day the students get quality intervention so in a way it doesn’t matter but we should be cautious about making assumptions about parenting.


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