By Elsebeth Green
I grew up in a home in Denmark with parents who were good people, but who modeled a view of the world and relationships that left much to be desired. My mother was 15 when she got pregnant with my sister, and desperately wanted to be cherished and loved by my father, 11 years her senior. When he became stressed out in the relationship, he left the home. The deeply painful relationship dance that ensued between them (anxious/avoidant) influenced the way I danced in my own relationships.
A child depends on the attachment process with mother, father and eventually 2 or 3 other significant adults in their lives, for smooth transitions into healthy social and behavioral, as well as cognitive and emotional development. Healthy attachment facilitates conscience development as well as cause and effect reasoning, just to mention two. Recent studies have shown that basic emotion regulation skills are developed during the 18 month to 36 month period, and that the warm, predictable, safe dance of parent-child interaction is the key factor to achieving this skill successfully.
Without consistent, loving caregiving these early, critical tasks may not be accomplished well, leaving a child moderately to severely emotionally handicapped. Depending on the child’s response to trauma as well as the exact nature of the trauma, different patterns of behavior become evident over time. One such pattern is angry and avoidant, even punishing toward the parent. Another equally challenging pattern is one where a child cannot seem to sense the nurturing they receive, creating a cycle of clinginess.
Guerry and I, and our business partner and friend, Collette, became instantly passionate about the principles of secure and insecure attachment and how they affect a person’s life after attending a conference by Dan Seigel in 2002. At the time, I had the privilege of working for the Utah Foster Care Foundation training new and experienced foster and adoptive parents, and from that perspective, became convinced that there was a way to explain each and every relationship and its roots. That meant also, that there was a way to heal each insecure relationship, and while it is not a simple process, we have gratefully joined the ranks of many great names who are deeply rooted in Attachment Theory.