What is the attachment bond and why is it so important?
The attachment bond is the emotional connection formed by wordless communication between an infant and you, their parent or primary caretaker. A landmark report, published in 2000 by The Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development, identified how crucial the attachment bond is to a child’s development. This form of communication affects the way your child develops mentally, physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially. In fact, the strength of this relationship is the main predictor of how well your child will do both in school and in life.
The attachment bond is not founded on the quality of your care or parental love, but on the nonverbal emotional communication you develop with your child. While attachment occurs naturally as you, the parent or caretaker, care for your baby’s needs, the quality of the attachment bond varies.
How secure attachment is created
Developing a secure attachment bond between you and your child, and giving your child the best start in life, does not require you to be a perfect parent. In fact, the 2000 study found that the critical aspect of the child–primary caretaker relationship is NOT based on quality of care, educational input, or even the bond of love that develops between parent and infant. Rather, it is based on the quality of the nonverbal communication that takes place between you and your child.
While it’s easiest to form a secure attachment bond when your child is still an infant—and reliant upon nonverbal means of communicating—you can begin to make your child feel understood and secure at any age. Children’s brains continue maturing well into adulthood (until their mid-20s). Moreover, because the brain continues to change throughout life, it’s never too late to start engaging in a nonverbal emotional exchange with your child. In fact, developing your nonverbal communication skills can help improve and deepen your relationships with other people of any age.
The attachment bond differs from the bond of love
As a parent or primary caretaker for your infant, you can follow all the traditional parenting guidelines, provide doting, around-the-clock care for your baby, and yet still not achieve a secure attachment bond. You can tend to your child’s every physical need, provide the most comfortable home, the highest quality nourishment, the best education, and all the material goods a child could wish for. You can hold, cuddle, and adore your child without creating the kind of attachment that fosters the best development for your child. How is this possible? Importantly, creating a secure attachment bond differs from creating a bond of love.
Children need something more than love and caregiving in order for their brains and nervous systems to develop in the best way possible. Children need to be able to engage in a nonverbal emotional exchange with their primary caretaker in a way that communicates their needs and makes them feel understood, secure, and balanced. Children who feel emotionally disconnected from their primary caregiver are likely to feel confused, misunderstood, and insecure, no matter how much they’re loved.