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.
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.
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.
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.
Warmth and responsiveness: High
Authoritative parents have rules and they use consequences instead of punishments. They try to reinforce positive behavior and discipline instead of punishing their child. Their expectations and demands from the child are high and they support this demands with high warmth and empathy to help child through their experience. They take their time to understand and validate their child's feelings however they do not try to befriend their child.
Children of authoritative parents tend to grow up as assertive and outspoken individuals who can express their needs and opinions. They tend to have good problem solving abilities as authoritative parents encourage decision making and problem solving abilities.
Warmth and responsiveness: High
Permissive parents tend to be flexible and non-strict. They respond warmly however they demand very little from their children. They try to involve at a minimum unless there is a serious problem and do not enforce rules or consequences. Permissive parents may try to befriend their child and do not actively involve in disciplining their kids.
Children growing up with permissive parents may have academic problems as well as difficulty with authority figures and rules at school. They might develop unhealthy habits which might not be discouraged or actively prevented by their parent.
Warmth and responsiveness: Low
Uninvolved parents do not show much interest about their child and tend to enforce few rules. They do not provide guidance, attention or care for their child. Uninvolved parents may be suffering from mental health issues or substance abuse problems therefore may neglect or not pay attention to their child's basic psychical or emotional needs or not able to provide consistent care.
Children of uninvolved parents can suffer from self-esteem issues and struggle with academic problems at school.
We covered a lot information in these two posts.
After learning the cognitive developmental theories, attachment theory and different parenting styles now we know what kind of stages children and adults go through in terms of psychosocial development. We also know what attachment is and the importance of developing a secure attachment. Also, we learned different parenting types and their effects on children.
Maybe this amount of information has been overwhelming to you. It might have even triggered some shame or guilt and thinking what is the benefit of knowing all this information...
You are 100% right. I feel the same.
I felt unsettled and ashamed at times that while reading this information and attending the workshops...I was afraid to mess up my child. I thought how would I know all of this or integrate all of it in my life?!
The point of this post is not to blame any parent or force everyone to know everything. The point is to arm us with some information and lead with our heart so that we can make informed choices and decisions raising our kid.
My hope is we can use this information in practical ways to understand our child better and create a warm relationship with them.
For example, once we have an idea of what types of developmental stages are there, we will be hopefully more understanding and compassionate to approach our child.
We will be more emphatic to our 1 year old when they freak out after we leave the room, as we know they have yet to develop object permanence.
We won't mistake tantrums and melt downs of terrific 2 year old's for defiance or disrespect. We will see them as developmentally normal behavior of a 2 year old which lack emotional and impulse regulation.
We will know that children between 2-7 years old tend to be egocentric therefore we would not expect them to show empathy or carry out a normal conversation.
I didn't say we will like all the behaviors... I know it can be very very frustrating when your kid completely loses it or acts like they want to drive you crazy.
My point is, we will be able to understand where they are coming from. We will know what is normal and what is not.
Then we can hopefully think "oh actually this is what she/he is suppose to do" and be happy to have a developmentally perfect child (and going through a tough phase)
once you know this, then you can relax and create connection between your child rather than disciplining them...
4. Last and most importantly, we will know the importance of secure attachment and
importance of being a caring, responsive and available parent therefore we will be
more attuned to our child. As much as we can. By being a GOOD ENOUGH
With that being said, let's investigate this fundamental and amazing parenting concept called good enough parenting in the next post and how it can help us to integrate all these theories to our real life. Let's meet at Part 4 post.
March 1, 2021
*Image for parenting styles are taken from Verywell / Joshua Seong