Attachment in Institutionalized Children

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Attachment in institutionalized children

Introduction

Each person is born with the ability to interact with the world around and to build relationships and bonds. Years of research proved that in a child’s life, the first 18 months are critical for the development and if that is compromised significant consequences might take place which later on will affect the individual’s future. Children are born without a sense of self, they establish this through interactions with others and with their culture, children thrive in warm, positive relationships characterised by contingent responses as well as conversation which is another prime context for development of children’s language, thinking as well as their emotions (Evangelou et al., 2009) Bowlby (1969) suggested that individuals suffering from any type of psychiatric disorder always show an impairment of the capacity for affectional bonding and that frequently it is a disturbance of bonding in childhood which has caused the later psychiatric disorder. Because institutional rearing often involves social and even material deprivation, disturbances of growth, cognitive development, and language as well as greater levels of problem behaviours have been noted for more than 50 years among children raised in institutions (MacLean, 2003; Zeanah, Smyke, &Settles, 2006).

Patterns of attachment
Ainsworth (1978) came up with some descriptions of a child’s phases which she described as “pre-attachment”, “attachment – in – the – making” and “clear – cut attachment”. “Attachment patterns (classifications) are established from global ratings made in each episode. These describe the infant’s proximity – seeking, contact – maintaining, avoidance of the mother, resistance to comforting, search behaviour during separation, and distance interaction (looking and vocalizing) with the mother” (Goldberg, 2002, p.22). Children in and outside institutions, come across different situations. The way they response and their behaviour towards what is happening around them can be classified as patterns of attachment.

There are three main types of attachment as termed by Ainsworth “secure”, “avoidant” and “resistant or ambivalent”: Secure attachment, where the child uses the mother or the caregiver as a support for exploration; Avoidant, when the child explores the world around without too much support from the mother, doesn’t really show distress when the mother departs and when she returns she is ignored and sometimes they tend to be more friendly to strangers than the mother; Resistant or “ambivalent, the child is preoccupied with the mother’s presence, gets angry at her departure, rejects any contact with her when returned having a passive emotional quality. As many of the infants couldn’t fit in any of these categories of attachment, Main and Solomon (1990) discovered another category which was described as disorganised, disoriented insecure attachment. This type of attachment is characterized by strong behaviour followed by avoidance, inability to resist to eye contact followed by distress, anger, slow movements, confusion and eventually isolation from the outside world.

Children being raised in institutions have demonstrated cognitive delays, serious impairments in social behaviour (Smyke, Dumitrescu, &Zeanah, 2002; Zeanah, Smyke, & Carlson, 2005), and abnormalities of cortisol regulation compatible with high levels of stress (Carlson & Earls, 1997). Research has proved that child maltreatment increases the risk for impaired social functioning and cortisol regulation and that maltreated children show less pro social and more disruptive/aggressive and withdrawn behaviour. They are more likely to experience difficulties in social functioning related to cortisol regulation (Lenneke et al., 1990). The quality of the primary attachment has an important bearing on the separation experience and it is the pattern set by which has been greatly found to influence subsequent...
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