By Erika Wettlaufer MSW, RSW and Erin De Felice BA, BSW Intern
“Attachment is the deep and lasting connection that your child forms with you and other people who provide regular care.” (Saskatchewan Prevention Institute, 2011) It is now believed that attachment between a mother and child begins in utero. According to the Association for Pre and Perinatal Psychology and Health, babies can hear from as early at 16 weeks gestation. (The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children, 2007)
A secure attachment is a primal need for all living creatures. The relationship between a caregiver and child is secure when the child trusts that their caregiver will keep them safe both physically and emotionally. The child who has a secure base is able to explore their world and develop with confidence. A secure attachment enables a child to learn about their emotions; how to express feelings as well as how to control them. In turn a securely attached child is able to learn about and create healthy relationships as well as develop a positive sense of self. (Saskatchewan Prevention Institute, 2011).
According to Dr. Daniel Siegel, there are four ways caregivers can create a secure attachment with their child. Being present with your child; playing with, talking to, singing to, reading with and listening to your child are examples of how parents can be present with their child. Attunement is when a caregiver is aware of what their child is feeling or experiencing. Resonating can be accomplished by being empathic to the child’s feelings and experiences. This can occur when parents put aside their own feelings in order to support their child’s own emotional needs. Finally, the caregiver needs to build trust. The child needs to believe that the caregiver will respond to their feelings and needs in a timely manner. (Rella, M. 2104).
When there is domestic violence in a family, attachment can be disrupted. Specifically when a mother is experiencing multiple stressors such as keeping herself and her child safe, financial stress, loss of relationships, unstable housing and depression; this can disrupt the development of secure attachment for a child. By reaching out for help for herself and her child, mothers can learn how to reduce these stressors, create a sense of safety and therefore a greater ability to be present for their child’s needs. These relationships can be repaired between a mother and child. This can be accomplished over time, through the use of consistent messages such as: unconditional love, saying “I love you”, having special time together, providing a safe and consistent home environment, and praising the child; acknowledging their feelings, comforting the child in stressful situations and talking with the child in a calm and kind way. (Saskatchewan Prevention Institute, 2011)
The attachment relationship between a caregiver and child is the cornerstone for defining relationships we have with other people and the world around us as children and subsequently as adults. By creating secure attachments between a caregiver and child now, we are teaching children how to be strong, confident, healthy and resilient to move forward in the future.
Saskatchewan Prevention Institute. (2011). Attachment: Information card. Retrieved from: http://www.skprevention.ca/shop/attachment-information-card/
Saskatchewan Prevention Institute. (2010). Helping young children cope with stress: Developing resiliency information card. Retrieved from:
Rella, M. (2014). The Attachment Roadmap: Assessing and treating parent-child relationships as the primary intervention for children’s troubled behavior. The Hincks-Dellcrest Centre, Toronto.