What Is The Impact of Early Attachment?

For long-time reader’s of this blog, the importance of good parenting in early childhood for later success in life is probably a given. You may recall the wisdom from Owen Connolly’s book, “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” shared on this blog on the importance of meeting children’s intimacy needs. If you missed that short series, you can start reading it here. The idea of childhood intimacy needs is interconnected with that of early attachment. In today’s Therapists Thoughts article, therapist Teyhou Smyth kicks off a mini-series on attachment with a look at the impact of early attachment, and inadequate attachment. As always, please let us know your thoughts on our social media profiles.

early attachment baby and dad

The Impact of Early Attachment

The way our parents and caregivers respond to our needs in early childhood impacts the course of our lives. While that may seem like an exaggeration, it is grounded in science.

The basic needs of a human being for love, attention and care are intrinsic. The study of attachment has been long standing.

As we try to gain an understanding of the attachment processes of the brain, a greater understanding has emerged.

Attachment theory offers a helpful view into what we have come to understand about the science of this important field of research.

What is the Impact of Inadequate Attachment

When people are not given the attachment and care they deserve in early childhood, there are often many powerful indicators.

Individuals will respond according to their own internal and external life factors, but generally, there are some common themes.

Speech and language delays:

Expressive and receptive language development can be impacted by inadequate attachment from caregivers.

The important neural pathways that are developed through touch, eye contact and response to one’s early needs are impacted by neglect.

Our first form of communication is with our early caregiver through crying; if we learn that our needs will not be met consistently at that formative time in life, our brains don’t receive timely signals regarding speech and language development.

Emotional dysregulation:

Healthy attachment in early childhood teaches people what it feels like to be soothed.

We learn the difference between feeling upset and feeling calm when our caregivers pick us up, offer us love, food and comfort when we need it.

Being soothed by a consistent caregiver is an important developmental milestone. Eventually, it translates into learning the difference between these states of emotion and how to self-sooth.

When these basic needs are not met in early childhood, it becomes more difficult to learn how to respond to negative emotions.

This can result in behavioral issues in childhood. Emotional dysregulation can manifest in problems with managing anger, challenges with frustration tolerance and limited ability to cope with distress.

Disconnection from others:

Unmet needs in early childhood can translate into ongoing challenges with trust and disconnection from people.

In infancy, our caregivers teach us what to expect from other humans. If those early needs aren’t met in a consistent and compassionate way, the message is one of distrust.

By default, neglect teaches that needs don’t mean anything. This early learning informs later relationships, making it difficult to expect anyone to care for you or meet your needs.

Early attachment is an important factor in healthy development.

For those unfortunate enough to have been born into inconsistent or unhealthy attachment situations, it can impact a number of factors related to quality of life. The good news is, we aren’t stuck with only what we learn in infancy.

Regardless of age, we can explore our own attachment styles and begin to understand the forces that influence our lives.

Talking with a mental health professional can be a helpful way to explore the impact of attachment across one’s lifespan and learn new pathways for connecting to oneself and others.

[This blog post originally appeared on Teyhou’s website www.livingwithfinesse.com]

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