Attachment-based parenting

Relationships and ties established for a family are very important. This is an important concept that we attach great importance to as mental health professionals and that is tried to be explained and supported by research. The first relationship and interaction that a person establishes with the mother; being together, feeling together and doing together is the first period relationship. The baby sees the world from here. He sees himself in his mother’s eyes and begins to develop faith in life. That’s why this first-term relationship is so important.

John Bowlby, the theorist of attachment theory, defines any behavior that an infant displays to establish and maintain the desired closeness to its primary caregiver figure/mother as attachment behavior and argues that attachment behaviors aim to protect the infant from dangers in evolutionary terms. When the mother is sensitive and responds to these signals of her baby, the baby perceives her mother as a safe harbor, so she learns to trust others and can turn to explore the environment. However, when this process is interrupted, that is, when the mother is unable to consistently respond to her baby’s signals, the baby cannot develop a secure bond with its mother. According to attachment theory, the inaccessibility of the attachment figure may be a determinant of anxiety or discomfort in both children and adults. Because the attachment system cannot fulfill its protective role and the child who cannot receive support does not feel safe. For this reason, children who cannot develop secure attachment perceive the world as a dangerous place full of unexpected threats. It interferes with meeting basic needs such as being safe, being understood, and calming down.

It is this early relationship between the infant and the parent that is the critical environment in which the infant’s innate tendency to relate provides the necessary platform for personality and self-development to occur.

What provides this? The answer to this is given by research in the field of neuroscience; MIRROR NEURONS

Interacting persons are drawn into each other’s emotional worlds; Thus, they are emotionally in tune with each other and affect each other. The mirror neuron system shapes both our inner life and many of our social life experiences, including our ability to empathize. When we see someone doing something with a certain intention, our motor nervous system is designed to mimic the same movement in the same way. It is as if we are rehearsing the same movement in our brain. Our mirror neurons provide us with a lot of gain in the world we come from, such as exploring and experiencing emotions through our caregiver. At the same time, it attracts our caregiver to ourselves and provides the necessary stimulation to take care of us.

Attachment types were determined by an experimental method, which was first used by Mary Ainsworth et al. In this method, the baby was taken with his mother to a comfortable laboratory room, then briefly separated from her mother and left alone with a stranger, then reunited with her mother. During the experiment, the infants’ attachment behaviors were classified into 4 different attachment types:

You can see the details of the experiment and the reactions of the children from this link.

1) Secure Attachment: The baby cries when his mother is not present (this is normal), calms down when the mother is near him. The baby cries know that the mother will calm him down when he comes.

2) Avoidant Attachment: The caregiver does not meet the emotional needs of the baby, but meets the physical needs. The baby learns not to cry to meet his needs. The child does not cry when the mother leaves the room and does not care when the mother comes. Since no one can hear the signals given by the child, the child no longer gives signals. The stress levels of these children are above. They do not have an emotional connection. Avoidant attachments do not remember their childhood.

3) Anxious Attachment: When the baby is forced, the mother is sometimes present, sometimes not. This is a very difficult situation for the baby. The baby cannot leave the mother because she does not know when the mother will show attention. Anxiously attached parents can’t even go to the bathroom. In these situations, you can give the child the option “I’m going to the toilet, come with me or stay”. Of course he will come with you. But everything will happen step by step. First of all, the first year’s confidence building work should be provided. The child should be given the message that I am always here. An anxious attachment may be a controlling parent.

4) Complex Attachment: Complex attachment occurs when the parent is frightening and traumatic. The figure of relief is also frightening. One of the biggest dangers for the child is inside and outside. The child may have freezing, frivolous glances, shaking. My attachment system says you’re scared go to your parent, my fight and flight system no don’t go.

This information shows us what it means to be connected, why it is important, and in which situations what type of attachment can occur. It is important and valuable. But it is not over here, because it is possible to change our attachment style and reconnect securely. The main purpose of this article is to explain that secure reattachment is possible and to support attachment-based parenting.

So, what should be done for secure reconnection?

First of all, the parent needs to work with their own past, because a parent who sees their own difficulties and receives support better sees what is happening in their relationship with their baby/child and intervenes. Where there are difficulties, there is also a place to learn. If I have difficulty in understanding and supporting emotions, if I feel like I’m going to suffocate or explode in crying fits, I should remember that there is something about myself here. In this sense, the relationships can support the person, and I think it would be beneficial to receive further support.

Secondly, the new relationship that the mother (caregiver) establishes with the infant/child is itself the essence, source and way of restructuring the attachment process. Here, it is important that the parent (caregiver) makes eye contact with the child, touching (contact) appropriately and in an appropriate amount, a competent tone of voice that understands, accepts, reassures and comforts, and being a playful parent. These are sort of magical relationship modifiers to be used for reconnection.

Contact has a very important place in human life. The relaxation brought about by contact is a variable of great importance in the development of affective responses.

The effect of touch on body image;

Studies have shown that an individual who has body contact almost all over his body feels more attractive, closer to people, has a more accurate perception of the shape and lines of his own body, and has a more positive appreciation of himself, compared to those who only get bodily contact from a few places on his body. reveals.

Harry Harlow’s experiment on monkeys also reveals how important contact is. Using wire and wood, Harlow produced surrogate mothers, who were not very ape-like, but were representative and inanimate. He covered some of these cylindrical models with cloth, leaving others as bare wire. She designed monkey-like faces on the rollers she used, and each pup’s “fake mother face” looked slightly different. Each offspring was assigned to a specific “wire mother”. The cubs soon began to bond with their own fake mother. They could distinguish their faces and chose their own over other ‘mothers’.

What Harlow really wanted to see was whether the pups were more attached to mothers who were bare wire or mothers covered with cloth. In this experiment, Harlow created 2 conditions: In one condition, the mother made of bare wire had a bottle in her “hand”. Inside the bottle were the foods that the puppies loved. The diaper mother did not have a bottle. In the other condition, diaper mothers had a bottle while wire mothers did not have a bottle.

According to the results of this experiment, the offspring preferred the cloth mother to the string mother in both conditions. It was already expected that the cloth mother would be preferred when she had a bottle in her hand; However, the fact that babies preferred cloth mothers even when the wire mother had a bottle in her hand, but the diaper mother did not, slapped the psychologists of the time in the face: Babies attached to their mothers not for the food they provided, but for their soft and warm bodies.

How to ensure the appropriate amount of need-oriented contact?

Massage: Massage is the most important and appropriate amount of need-oriented contact that can be made to stimulate the baby and/or child’s whole body. You can make it a post-bath or pre-sleep routine.

Sandwich making game: It is an attachment-based play activity where the child is placed between two pillows, lightly pressured and playful parenting is activated. You can enjoy it by putting imaginary lettuce, tomato and cheese inside. By saying this sandwich I’m going to finish now, you can show that you stay in the relationship and care about it.

Hair combing:It is one of the most ideal ways of contact for an insecurely attached child who does not like hugs and closer contact.

Run and hug game to parents under the blanket: It is one of the attachment-based games that provides a secure connection with both parents. A blanket is taken and the child sits on a parent’s lap, the blanket lifted slightly. And it is made to crawl to the other parent. The parent makes a nice welcome by hugging and kissing the child. This cycle can continue several times or even until you get bored.

Kissing the feet of babies:After kissing, you can put the socks on immediately, saying that the kisses will not escape.

Popcorn fingers:You can make a name for yourself by saying that your toes or fingers are a corn, making a popping sound and saying that there are popcorn fingers here, I will eat them immediately:

Blow and cycle: the parent sits on the floor, the child stands in front of him, the child is told to blow, the child blows, the parent falls over, when the child solves the event, great fun begins. It is an attachment-based game that supports the challenge and strengthens the relationship at the same time.

hug at every opportunity ; with permission from the other party


The attitude of the family should always be playful, accepting, curious and empathetic. These are roles that strengthen the relationship and promote secure reattachment. For this, you must first work with our own emotions and remember that you have the choice to act differently!

Regulating-relaxing the Baby/Child; It is another important factor for the healthy development and re-attachment of the baby/child.

If the mother had held her baby loose when she cried or had difficulty, if he had not shaken her and said nothing verbally, the baby would not have felt the mother’s presence and would not have been able to calm down. When this happens so chronically, the baby not only learns to self-soothe or deal with intense emotions, he also learns that no one can help him when he’s in distress!






References; 1. Booth P., Jernberg A. (2014). Theraplay Book 1Helping Parents and Children Build Better Relationships Through Attachment-Based Play

2. Solter A. (2017). the art of playing games

3. HF Harlow, et al. (1971). Social Recovery By Isolation-Reared Monkeys. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pp: 1534-1538. |evrimağacı.org(From why we are so attached to our mothers)

4. The attachment theory content of Begüm Ayşegül Aydınoğlu / DBE/Attachment Theory was used.

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