4.2 Social Interaction in Early Childhood: What are the stages of parent to child attachment?

4.2 Outline the stages of parent to child attachment

1) Parent to Child Attachment

This is the bond that a parent forms towards the baby. The bond makes a parent develop a soft spot for the child.  Bowlby argued that this attachment occurs in two stages.


Phase 1    Initial Bonding

This is formed a few hours after the baby is born. The bond depends on what happens within the first hours after birth. The bond develops especially if the parents get an opportunity to have early contact wit h the baby. Indeed, the first hours have been found to be crucial for development of attachment between the mother and the baby. This period is critical for development of the attachment.


Normally, as the infant experiences the world out of the mother’s womb for the first time her or his alertness is very remarkable. The baby’s eyes are open and the infant is able to make eye contact in the first few hours. After some hours babies close their eyes in sleep and are unable to open them again for sometime. This could be attributed to the fact that as an infant gets into the real world very tired. The new experience puts her or him on the alert. Mothers who are able to stay their babies for long get more attached to them than those who do not. Initial bonding is believed to prevent later parenting problems because the parent love for the child is deeply rooted.


Phase II  Meshing of Attachment Behaviour

Once a mother gives birth, she is on maternity leave from formal or any other type of employment. This gives mothers ample opportunities to interact with their babies in the early months. From the early weeks, the two develop a co-relation attachment or patterns of attachment behaviour.


The baby communicates his needs to the mother or caregiver through crying or smiling. In reciprocation, the caregiver soothes or caresses the baby. Activities that follow a certain signal are usually very important. Such activities may involve, picking the baby and carefully studying the signals in order to appropriately meet his needs. During this period caregivers normally switch to baby play while interacting with them. Baby play involves, changing the voice tone, smiling, blinking, opening eyes wide and such like activities.

Not all adults that interact with the baby become attached to them. There are occasions when one performs the routine requirements but not develop attachment with the baby.

For attachment to develop there must be some feelings of affection. Mutual reciprocation in interaction promotes development on affection.


According to Hellen Bee (1997), the parent and child are involved in a kind of a “dance”

In this dance, each of the participants learns to respond to the other’s actions. To be able to perform well, the two need to engage in frequent rehearsals. As they perform, the smoother the dance, the stronger the attachment becomes.


From Bee’s view, it is very hard for a person who has not been involved in such rehearsals to have mutual interaction with the baby. In case of discontinuity which could be caused by any form of separation, whoever steps in to take care of the child is not able to function within the set traditions. Such children as well as the substitute caregiver are thus likely to experience some discomfort in their interaction.


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