Saturday, November 18, 2006

Properties of childhood attachment

According to Weiss (1991), the key properties of childhood attachment are:
1.) Proximity-seeking:
The child desires to be in close physical proximity to the attachment figure. I want to be near you.

2.) Secure base: The child derives comfort and security from the attachment figure. When I am near you, I feel safe and protected.

3.) Separation protest: The child protests being separated from the attachment figure. Please don't take me away!

4.) Elicitation by threat: When feeling threatened, the child will seek out the attachment figure as a source of security. I'm scared -- help!

5.) Specificity of attachment: That person provides security that others cannot. I want you to comfort me - not anyone else.

6.) Inaccessibilty to conscious control: Attachment feelings continue, despite recognition that an attachment figure has become unavailable. I know he will never love me - but I still want him to...

7.) Persistence: Attachments can persist in the absence of reinforcement. He never calls; he never writes -- but I still want his approval.

8.) Insensitive to experience: The child will often continue to link security with the attachment figure, even if he/she is neglectful or abusive.

What does this mean to the foster child?
Entering foster care often separates children from their primary source of comfort or security.

Even if their biological parent was/is neglectful or abusive, the child might still have an internal desire to seek comfort from that person.

This is assuming that a bond was formed between parent and child in the first place. Each individual case is different. Custodial decisions should take attachment issues into account -- but the overarching concern must be physical safety.

A personal note
Although my father gave me up when I was 12 years old, and allowed me to linger in foster care until I started college at age 16... for years, I continued to hope against hope for his approval.

I excelled in high school, hoping that if I were smart enough, I might be worthy of love. When I took part in Junior Miss, school plays, art competitions and competed for All-State Chorus, there was still a part of me longing to see his face out in the audience. I never did.

I now know why. When you give someone up, it's truly better for you if they fail. Because their failure proves you right in your choice to reject them. But if they succeed, as I did, that means that you deliberately gave up somebody valuable. It means that they are worthwhile to others, although worthless to you.

My father has never been strong enough to face that fact.

And now, at age 33, after all these years, I no longer long for his approval.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, great insight. I can relate to a lot of those feelings. Since coming into the foster system, I am very clingy, emotional, and affectionate. Even though I haven't seen my mother in almost three years and claim to hate her, I still secretly wish she'd look for me.

12:10 PM  

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