Saturday, March 20, 2010

Attachment Theory and its impact on parenting

It fascinates me that the main aspect of attachment theory is the notion that attachment is a vital part of our development, a concept which isn’t ever in question. Where attachment, in the context of child protection, seems to fall down is the impact it has on parents who experienced poor upbringings and therefore poor attachment. That parents who were themselves subjected to poor parents, through no fault of their own, repeat the pattern of poor attachment themselves because they too have failed to develop meaningful relationships, and haven’t been taught to interact with others in a meaningful way. These parents are penalised by a system which is so child focussed that it doesn’t understand the complexities of peoples lives and doesn’t offer resolution of the parents own parenting issues.

We need to understand that attachment is a process which is learnt while very young but can be learnt at any age even in adulthood. This means that for those parents who have experienced poor attachment when they were growing up have an opportunity to develop some understanding of attachment in their own lives. For a parent to explore the impact of poor attachment as a child will give them a better understanding of the impact of attachment on their children’s lives. As they explore the meaning of this and the way it has affected  their life then they are more likely to put the impact of attachment into context.

To receive the message that they are poor parents because they fail to attach to their children is unhelpful and lumbers them with an inaccurate version of their experiences. To view parents as a product of the way they were parented is a more constructive way of viewing their parenting which opens up pathways to explore these experiences and to find resolution which has real meaning.

I wonder what outcomes would be developed if we spent more time and money understanding their experiences and helping them to seek resolution rather than presenting them with negative versions of who they are. A parent who is abused as a child, has low self image because of parents inability to validate them positively, and who were seen as an intrusion in their parents lives, needs to be assured that they can change how these experiences may continue to play out.

1 comment:

  1. In regards to attachment theory and its impact on parenting in the context of the messages the parents are receiving from the broader community, is truly unhelpful especially when the messages are negative and innaccurate versions of their experiences. It has been a traditional approach in counselling over the years to focus on problems within the therapuetic process rather than solutions. Adopting a strenghts-based perspective with parents and their children allows the focus to be on what the family is doing to maximize their skills and resurces that are inherent within themselves and available within the broader community. This strenghts focus allows the child "at risk" or who has been seen as being an intrusion in the lives of the parents to form new attachments depending on their resilience to adversity, and as such the focus can then be on their strengths rather than the problems inhereted or otherwise. Maybe if the focus is more about what parents are doing right and some positive imput into building those skills and resources we will see less inaccurate versions of their experiences.