Login
Join

Why 'Infant Mental Health'?
Why is our mental health during infancy important for our whole lives?

4 Infant attachment to the ‘primary caregiver’

Decades of international research have shown that a secure attachment to mothers, fathers, or the ‘primary caregiver’, impacts on development throughout life: mental, physical and emotional. 

Secure attachment grows out of this attuned relationship.

Secure attachment

Tearful boy in the arms of a parent or carer

‘Secure attachment’: the ability of the infant/child to obtain comfort from the caregiver when distressed.

Secure attachment has been shown to be significantly associated with a range of improved outcomes, including (Sroufe, 2005):

  • emotional, social, and behavioural adjustment
  • school achievement
  • peer-rated social status

Insecure attachment

‘Insecure attachment’: the inability to use the parent to obtain comfort when distressed 

  • Infant uses strategies of avoidance or ambivalence when the attachment system is activated due to distress 

‘Disorganised attachment’: 

  • Infant shows signs of approach/avoidance conflict as a result of their fear of the caregiver.

Insecure attachment is associated with a range of later problems, including externalising disorders. 

‘Getting to know your baby’ – selected AiMH video:

Your baby – Early Interactions – Understanding Emotion

Infant attachment is the process by which baby’s build up what are known as internal working models (or maps) of their early interactions with key caregivers. These maps enable the infant to develop a set of expectations about future relationships. For example, a securely attached baby will develop a sense of trust in relation to others. This video describes the importance of a caregiver getting to know their baby, and the impact on the infant’s developing attachment. 

AiMH has created an information sheet for members on ‘Definitions of Bonding and Attachment’:

Download “Definitions of bonding and attachment – Getting to know your baby 4” gtkyb-4-definitions-of-bonding-and-attachment.pdf – Downloaded 156 times – 329 KB

AiMH UK Best Practice Guide

Download “Improving attachment in babies: what works? – AiMH UK Best Practice Guide 2, Autumn 2016” aimh-best-practice-guidance-2-improving-attachment-in-babies-autumn-2016.pdf – Downloaded 210 times – 204 KB