Attachment. What exactly is attachment? An attachment is merely a ‘tie’ to someone. Attachment is the line between two points, where the points are people and the line is a relationship. It isn’t quite synonymous with love and affection even though they can go together. In fact healthy attachment is considered to be an important foundation for all relationships.
Attachment Theory itself is primarily an evolutionary theory of behavior. Think about it like this: infants need to be attached to a caregiver for survival. Without the instinct to seek close proximity to a caregiver, or attachment figure, to protect them from a threat , odds of survival would be greatly diminished. Infants become attached to adults or caregiver figures who are sensitive and responsive in their interactions, and who also remain consistent as caregivers for a period of time significant enough to create an attachment. Consistency is such a basic core component in relationships that many people don’t give it much consideration. Without consistency, it’s difficult to develop the necessary instinctive trust that is necessary to form healthy attachments. Parental responses are what lead to developmental patterns of attachment which in turn lead to that internalized core concept which guide a person’s feelings, thoughts, and expectations in future relationships. Attachment is the deep connection established between a child and caregiver that profoundly affects a child's development and ability to express emotions and develop relationships.
Relationships are important. Especially in infancy and early childhood. They shape your foundations. They shape the foundations for your very relationship abilities.
The precise definition of “attachment disorder” is still being discussed. Generally speaking though, it’s agreed that such disorders only arise following early adverse care giving experiences. Where some disorders (like BPD) have a neurological/biological component along with an environmental once, attachment disorders seem to be primarily a disorder of environment. However, when coupled with the predisposition towards emotional volatility/instability it can quickly escalate. I mention this because while the idea of attachment disorders sound like the same thing as Borderline Personality Disorder they’re not the same thing. They can certainly influence one another, but one is not necessary for the other. You can have attachment disorders and not be Borderline. You can be Borderline without the negative causation that creates an attachment disorder. However you can also be predisposed to the neurological components that create a Borderline Personality Disorder and have those traits exacerbated, compounded, by the detrimental circumstances that poor care giving creates in attachment disorders.
Attachment disorders are a childhood diagnosis that can affect a person into adulthood. They can be a precursor to what may eventually become Borderline Personality Disorder, but this is NOT ALWAYS THE CASE. I say this because I see all too often that people automatically assume that one leads to the other, or that one is simply the children’s version of BPD. Frankly I think this is because people don’t want to take responsibility for their part in their children’s developmental issues. But that’s my own biased and unprofessional opinion. As informed as it may be.
So why do some children develop attachment disorders while others don’t?
“The answer has to do with the attachment process, which relies on the interaction of both parent and child.
Attachment disorders are the result of negative experiences in this early relationship. If young children feel repeatedly abandoned, isolated, powerless, or uncared for—for whatever reason—they will learn that they can’t depend on others and the world is a dangerous and frightening place.”
As children their attachment style (or pattern) is under developed, improperly developed, or just not developed at all. Attachment style develops as a result of early childcare experience. These styles include: Secure, Anxious-Ambivalent, Anxious-Avoidant, All Organized, and Disorganized. Attachment styles begin in infancy and childhood and develop into adult attachment styles. An attachment style is not necessarily a disorder though because while they may be problematic, they might not require clinical treatment to heal, just extra care.
In any event, we’ll get to those tomorrow… Stay tuned!