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Early Childhood Attachments

How They Shape our Adult Relationships

Samantha McLaughlin

Psychotherapist and Counsellor
Perth, Western Australia

This information sheet may be of interest to the following people:

Secure Attachment

The ideal conditions that enable a child to thrive require that they have the close proximity of at least one parent (or care giver) whom is both consistent and sensitive to the child's needs. When a child is raised in an environment that is warm, responsive and dependable, this creates a secure base from which the child can begin to explore their world. When the parent is consistently physically and emotionally available this enables the child to feel securely attached to the parent and the child begins to develop a sense of trust and has positive expectations of other people. It is through this experience of feeling securely attached to the parent that the child develops the capacity to form satisfying relationships with other people in their life.

Insecure Attachment

Many young children have early childhood experiences which are disruptive to the formation of a consistent and loving bond with a parent. For some children the disruption may be a physical one, for example:

Sometimes young children are regularly threatened with physical abandonment by a parent and even though physical separation may not actually occur, these regular threats can result in a child feeling insecurely attached to that parent.

For other children the early attachment disruption is a consequence of the parent being emotionally inconsistent or absent, for example:

Insecure Attachment in Adulthood

As adults we instinctively know that our earliest attachments still impact on our current adult relationships with our partners, friends, families and our children. An early experience of insecure attachment may manifest in many ways in our adult lives, for example as an adult you may:

As an adult it is possible to heal the legacy of our unmet early attachment needs. Sometimes it requires the support of a therapist who is respectful of the impact of our childhood attachments and is able to provide a secure base from which to explore them. Ultimately it is through healing our unmet childhood attachment needs that we increase our capacity to trust and love others and create more satisfying relationships in our adult lives.

Further Reading

Becoming Attached   Robert Karen 1994 Oxford University Press
A Secure BaseJohn Bowlby 1988 Routledge

If you would like further information
please contact Samantha McLaughlin
0431 763 567
Email:

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