Children bond with caregivers/parents who are comfortable (warm and soft when they hold them) and who are familiar to them (by wasting time with them and genuinely taking interest in them).

However, not all parents bond with their children accordingly, and for many reasons; many parents are busy in an economy that requires them to work so hard that they do not have time to play with their children or hold them. They often come home tired.

Attachment to a child is very important though because it helps create a bond that lasts a lifetime. Parents who bond with their kids early, through touch and familiarity, tend to have an easier time when the children turn teenagers because the bond motivates the teenager to listen to their parents as opposed to those who only provided for their physical needs.

To learn about the various kinds of attachment, Mary Ainsworth, a psychologist, designed what is referred to as a strange situation. This experiment showed three basic forms of attachment. Today, many psychologists believe that our early attachment to our primary caregivers serves as a foundation for our adult relationships. Let us explore these attachments:

Secure Attachment

In the experiment, the parent or primary caregiver leaves the child, and immediately the child is distressed and is really happy to see the parent come back. The child seeks the comfort of the parents when he/she is sad. The parents are the secure base, as proposed by John Bowlby, for the child to explore the world.

This kind of attachment comes from parents who respond quickly, consistently, and positively to the children’s physical and psychological needs.

Adults who had such parents tend to be capable of mature, meaningful, trusting, empathetic, and loving relationships later in life.

Insecure Avoidant Attachment

To show this kind of attachment, the parent would leave and the child would not show any distress or sadness at being left alone, and neither would the child show any satisfaction when the parent returns. The child does not seek any comfort from the parent when he/she feels sad.

This kind of attachment shows that the parents have often been dismissive of the needs of the child such that the child avoids the parent just as the parent avoids his/her physical and emotional needs.

Adults who grow up with such parents or guardians avoid emotions and physical connections and they may appear dismissive, rigid, emotionless, intolerant, and critical of others.

Insecure Anxious Attachment.

When the parent leaves this particular child, the child cries and longs for the parent to come back. When the parent does return, the child continues to cry showing that the return of the parent is not comforting either.

This shows that the parents have been inconsistent in responding to the physical and emotional needs of the child such that the child is always anxious, unsure of how the parents will respond to his/her needs.

In the same way, when such children become adults, they exhibit anxiety in relationships where desire intimacy but they keep pushing people away. The idea of intimacy frightens them because they do not know how long it will last. They don’t think that the other person will love them for real and forever. They also don’t think that they are very lovable. Such people also tend to blame others and tend to be quite impulsive.

Mary Main, a student of Mary Ainsworth added a fourth attachment referred to as:

Insecure Fearful/Disorganized Attachment.

This is when the parent or primary caregiver is abusive and therefore never met the physical needs of the children. The behaviour of the parents was often frightening if not always.

Such children are unable to attach to their parents and they often appear nervous, fearful, and dazed when their parents or guardians are with them.

When such people become adults, they become abusive, chaotic, prone to anger outbursts, insensitive, and with low trust for their partners or friends while craving for security at the same time.

Professor Sahaya Selvam, a psychologist of religion, the author of “Pastoral Psychology for Africa. A guide for practice:” writes in the book:

“What is important for our discussion in pastoral psychology is that Lee Kirkpatrick and Philip Shaver (1990) and several other psychologists, extend this theory to one’s relationship with God and religion. God (or other deities/saints) may act as an attachment figure to a believer either as an extension of or as a substitute for, relationship with parent figures. Based on the attachment theory, there are two possible models that are posed to explain attachment between a believer and God: correspondence and compensation models. For the sake of simplicity, these models focus only on the secure and insecure (avoidant and ambivalent) attachment styles. According to the correspondence model, the relationship with God is a continuation of the individual’s secure attachment with a caregiver or the parent. The compensation model presupposes that their relationship with God would be an attempt to compensate for the avoidant caregiver. Therefore, in the compensatory situation, the individual is likely to exaggerate their relationship with God in some respects. 

 In several studies (for example, Granqvist, 1998), individuals who had experienced secure attachment with parents report an increase in the importance of their religious beliefs during adulthood, often corresponding to the level of religiosity of their parents. On the other hand, insecure respondents whose parents had expressed a low level of religiosity tended to isolate themselves from their parents and compensate their childhood experience by building a closer relationship with God; they expressed more theistic beliefs and reported a higher level of religious change during adulthood. And if the parents had expressed a high level of religiosity, the children with avoidant attachment sometimes reject religion altogether. What this indicates is that the religiosity of children depends not only on the level of religiosity of their parents but also on the attachment between the children and the parents.”

I hope this helps you to understand yourself better and in so doing, I hope you can be more aware of why you approach relationships, with God and with people, in certain ways. Moreover, it could help you to be more patient and realistic about the expectations you have from your partner. It could also help you be more patient with yourself.

And as a parent, I hope this helps you to know the important role you play in the life of your child.

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