Part 3 - Parenting psychoeducation / Attachment Theory and Parenting Styles

Updated: Mar 17

Welcome again, the second part of parenting psychoeducation post. Thanks for reading part 1 and part 2 and still being here. Now, we will cover attachment theory and different attachment styles and at last, parenting styles.

What is attachment theory and different attachment styles?

Attachment is the close emotional bond formed between the child and the caregiver and it develops when the caregiver is responsive and warm to infant's needs.

Attachment theory deals with development of this bond between infant and caregiver as well as between romantic partners in long term relationships.

John Bowlby studied attachment theory for the first time and he believed that the attachment towards caregivers are formative and necessary for survival of children. Bowlby and other have successfully shown that it is not food that leads to forming the attachment between the caregiver and the infant, it is the nurturance, availability and responsiveness are the key components of the attachment.

In a nutshell attachment theory suggests infants will develop a sense of security and trust if their primary caregivers are available, responsive and dependable.

Another researcher who studies attachment was Mary Ainsworth who is famous for her "strange situation experiment" and it is very important to discuss her work to understand the importance of attachment and different attachment styles.

Ainsworth conducted a study with 12 to 18 months old children where they first explore a room with their parent, then a stranger comes in, talks to the parent and then parent leaves the room and later comes back. According to her observations, Ainsworth determined four attachment styles.

  • Secure attachment

  • Ambivalent attachment

  • Avoidant attachment

  • Disordered attachment

The graphic below from Verywellmind depicts possible scenarios beautifully.

As you can see from the illustration, in case of secure attachment the child has been very upset when the caregivers leave them in the room with a stranger and greets the parents with positive emotions. Securely attached children will look for their parents when they are scared and they have a clear preference to their parents to strangers.

Here is a great video from Dr. Jacob Ham that explains what a secure attachment is beautifully.

Usually children who are securely attached generally become visibly upset when their caregivers leave and are happy when their parents return. When frightened, these children will seek comfort from the parent or caregiver. Parents of securely attached children tend to play with their child more and attend to their needs in a responsive way.

There is overwhelming evidence summarized in this article indicating securely attached children become trusting adults with high-self esteem who ask for help and able to create long term intimate relationships.

Forming a secure attachment with parents and caregivers is ideal but in some cases it won't happen. Inconsistent response of a mother or caregiver to infant's needs in the first year of a child's life may contribute to lack of development of a secure attachment. Children with caregivers who tend to be responded inconsistently could become prone to more anxious behavior and crying whereas children with caregivers who reject or ignore their needs would prefer to avoid maternal/caregiver contact totally.

You can further read from here, here and here about attachment theory and details of all attachment styles.

Different parenting styles

Now that we know the attachment theory and importance of secure attachment, we need to look into parenting styles and how to create a sense of security, trust in our child while promoting independence and autonomy.

Four different parenting styles have been identified by researchers as follows;

  • Authoritarian

  • Authoritative

  • Permissive

  • Uninvolved

Authoritarian Parenting

Demands: High

Warmth and responsiveness: Low

Authoritarian parents are strict, promote following rules and require obedience instead of independence and autonomy from their children. Their expectations and demands from the child are high, however they do not display warmth, empathy or responsiveness to support child through their experiences. In the event of mistakes, authoritarian parents may respond with punishments which sadly doesn't teach the child neither to make good choices nor problem solving abilities.

Children of authoritarian parents tend to follow or at least seem to follow rules in order to avoid punishment and consequences. They may also become good at lying due to same reason.