Attachment Theory

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    • 00:00

      [MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 00:10

      BARBARA GORMLEY: Hi.I'm Barbara Gormley, and I'm a licensed psychologistwith many years of experience helping families improvetheir relationships, especially parent-child relationships.I'm also a tenured professor of psychology at Governor's StateUniversity, and my specialty areais attachment relationships.So what's attachment, anyways?

    • 00:31

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: What does that mean?Attachment relationships are those relationshipsthat are close, important, and relatively irreplaceable.So if you think about a child growing upwith a parent who is spending a lot of time with them,and then the child loses that parent-- maybethe parent dies-- the child is definitelygoing to be affected by that loss,the loss of that attachment relationship.

    • 00:53

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: It's not something that can be replaced quickly.And the same is true for older adultswho have been in romantic relationshipsfor a very long time and rely on their partners.When those partners die, those are irreplaceable people.So those are attachment relationships.What I want to talk to you about todayis the importance of an infant-parent attachment style

    • 01:15

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: that develops between birth and three years old,and how that attachment style actually influences usthroughout our entire lifespan.So this is worth knowing about.It's kind of our core, and it affects every aspectof our development.Not just social and emotional development,but even academic achievement and work success later in life.

    • 01:36

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: So definitely worth knowing about.What I'm going to talk to you about todayis the difference between a secure attachmentand an insecure attachment style in infants,and then the positive and negative outcomesthat would be expected from those attachment stylesthrough childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.I'm also going to talk about whatcan be done to intervene when people are at risk because

    • 01:57

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: of their attachment styles.So let's start by talking about how attachment develops.What happens?When does it begin?People used to think that mothers and babies hadto bond in the first few days or few hours,and that's actually not true.

    • 02:17

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: If babies are taken physically care of in the first couplemonths of life, they're probably going to be OK.What they really need starts at three monthsold in terms of developing a secure attachmentstyle for optimal development.So by the time a baby's three months old,they're able to recognize a primary caregiver whospends a lot of time with them and to accept

    • 02:42

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: what that person is trying to offer them,and to understand it in terms of a relationship.So between three months old and nine months old,infants really respond primarily to just one person.If that person is consistently responsive to their needs,they will develop a secure attachment style.So what do I mean by consistently responsive?

    • 03:04

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: That's a big question.Well, consistently responsive means that when the baby cries,they're signaling the parent that they need something,and what they need is a parent whowill come and try to figure out what the baby needs,and then give it to them because they're babies.They can't do it by themselves.As children get a little older, theyneed different things from parents,

    • 03:25

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: but initially what they need is somebody who'swilling to respond in a way that helpsthe child get what they need.So between three months and nine months,children can only really understandthat coming from one person, but at nine months,something different happens.They begin to be receptive to two or three people whocan then contribute to the formation of their attachment

    • 03:47

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: style.So this might be a second parent,it might be a daycare provider, it might be another relative.But what we hope for is that all three peopleinvolved with providing the child with the mostcare between nine months and three years old,that all of them are consistently responsive to whatthe child needs.Now, this doesn't mean giving the child everything

    • 04:08

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: that they want at all.What it means is that if you have a two-year-old who'sacting badly, as two-year-olds tend to do,that those three people, who's ever around at the time,consistently respond in a way that helpsthat child grow and develop.So it could mean giving the child a timeout.But the idea is that the people who are raising the child

    • 04:29

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: are very sensitive to what the child needs in orderto continue to grow up and be developmentally on track.So this understanding of attachmenthelps us answer a couple of big questionswhen is it too late to adopt a baby

    • 04:50

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: and still have a big influence on themor should I leave my child at daycare or with a relativeAnd I'll start with adoption, because a lot of studieshave been done on babies who grow up in orphanages.And they don't actually have that one person,that primary caregiver that they canlearn to rely on early in life.And so they don't actually develop the ability to attach.So there is some reason to believe

    • 05:12

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: that if a baby is a newborn up until three months oldthere's no problem adopting them.But after that, it matters where they'vebeen when you're thinking about adopting a child.And once a child is two, or three, or even five years old,their attachment style is pretty well set.And you may not be able to just through love and care

    • 05:32

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: be able to change some of the patterns of their future life.So what about daycare versus AuntFrieda? [Day Care Versus Relative]Where should you leave your child?Well, what we know is that it doesn't reallymatter whether the person is licensed and charging youmoney, or if they're a relative.What matters is whether that provider is consistentlyresponsive to your child.

    • 05:53

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: So do they themselves have a secure attachment style?So they have that to offer to your child.So Aunt Frieda, Sally Day Care, whoever is most secure and able to providethe most consistent responsiveness to your child--that's the best choice.[Secure Versus Insecure Attachment Styles]

    • 06:13

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: So I want to talk a little bit about the differencesbetween secure attachment and some insecure attachment stylesthat develop in children, and how that works.And so I'm going to use a table to help organize this for us.So if you look at the table under SECURE,you will see that the mothers-- most of these studieswere done with birth mothers.

    • 06:34

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: That's why the primary caregiver is called a mother.Most of these mothers were consistently responsive.And so their babies were very cuddly and gazed at them.And as they grew up, they explored their environment.And when they got nervous, they came back to Momfor reassurance.And as teenagers, they developed a very balanced viewof the world.They had a lot of confidence in other people's ability

    • 06:55

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: to help them, and also in their own abilities to make their wayand evaluate relationships for strengths and weaknesses.And very likely as parents themselves when they grow up,they will pass on that secure attachment styleto their own children.So this secure attachment style is really the onethat we hope for.

    • 07:15

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: And it really is common.About 50% to 70% of children have secure attachment styles.And this is good.What this means is that when childrengo to preschool or kindergarten, theyhave positive peer interactions.They understand what the teacher expects from them.They're able to sit on their own and do work,if that's what's required.And they stay developmentally on track,

    • 07:36

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: and begin to have some success, both with peersand academically.And then that can continue throughout their life.I want to talk a little bit about insecure attachmentstyles next.And these styles are attachments.They are bonds.So they do help people organize how they respondto difficult situations.

    • 07:56

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: But they have risk factors associated with them.So they're still pretty good.They're just not quite as good as the secure attachment style.So I want to start with the avoidant attachment style.And if you notice on the table under AVOIDANT,the primary caregivers of avoidant babiesare unable to respond to the childwhen the child's signaling that they need something.

    • 08:18

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: Instead they withdraw.They reject the child.They become angry or cold.And so the babies don't cuddle up or look at them.They explore a little bit.But they don't turn to the parent for comfortwhen they're afraid.And as teenagers, they become prettydismissive of relationships in general, and blaming of others,and may even pass on this avoidant attachment

    • 08:39

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: style to their own children when they become parents.So I want to talk a little bit about the ambivalent attachmentstyle.And again, this is an insecure attachment style.So it is a bond.But it has some risk factors to it.And if you look at the table under AMBIVALENT,you will see that these parents are inconsistently responsive.So one time they might be able to respond to their child.

    • 08:60

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: Another time they may not.Or they might respond and be veryanxious about whether they're doing the right thing.And so what happens is that these babieslearn not to rely on the parent for comfort.And so they're very difficult to soothe.They're clingy.They're dependent.By the time they become teenagers,they're having a lot of difficulties in relationships.

    • 09:20

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: They might be people-pleasers.They might have a negative self-image.And as they grow into parents themselves,they're likely to pass on this ambivalent attachment styleto their own children.So I want to talk a little bit about whathappens after babies develop this insecure attachment style.What's the outcome?

    • 09:40

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: What do we expect to happen?Well, these are the children thatare more likely to have problems when they goto preschool or kindergarten.They're going to have more difficulty with peerinteractions, with knowing how to manage relationshipswith other children.They're going to have problems with teachers sometimes,so that they're not necessarily able to understand what

    • 10:01

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: the teacher expects or follow instructions as well as securechildren do.And they have difficulty sometimes sitting on their ownand doing their work independently.So what begins to happen is that developmentally theyare starting to lose ground in comparisonto the secure children.They're still in school.They're still surviving.

    • 10:21

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: But they're losing ground.And so this is not necessarily something that we want.What happens at adolescence with childrenwho are insecurely attached is that sometimes teachersand parents start to give up on them a little bit, because thishas been kind of a consistent pattern.And they turn to their peers for an opportunity

    • 10:43

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: to socially connect.They might find a negative peer groupto be the only place that they're not rejected.And so they might even engage in delinquent behaviors.But ultimately what happens is that they're not academicallyprepared to move on to college.And they're not prepared for work, either,mostly because of the difficultiesthey're having in their interpersonal relations.

    • 11:04

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: [Interventions for Child Attachment Styles]So what can we do when we recognizethat children are off track based on their attachmentstyle?Well, there are interventions that go in very early.And I'm very fond of these interventions.They're infant mental health or maternal support interventions.And there are people who can actually

    • 11:26

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: go into somebody's home when they have a babyand can help them if they're really struggling.And these interventions are really for the parent.And what we need to understand about parentsthat are generating these insecure attachmentstyles in their children is that they probablyreceived the same kind of care from their own parents.So they don't know how to be consistently responsive,

    • 11:47

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: because they didn't receive that themselves.And so what the therapist does is go into the homeand try to figure out what the parent needs,and then give them that, be responsive to them,so that the parent can begin to internalize that, and thenhave more of that to provide to their child.So it's great if you can catch it early.That's wonderful.

    • 12:08

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: [How Attachment Styles Impact Adults]I want to say a little bit more about howattachment styles continue to have an impact on us as adults.And this line of research on adult romantic attachmentsis separate from the child attachment research,because it's hard to follow somethingall the way through someone's life

    • 12:30

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: without a bunch of other things interfering.But the adult attachment researchershave found very similar patterns in adults.Secure adults do a good job of managing their emotions.They've figured it out.They know what to do.They also do a good job when they'reput under severe stress.So the death of a loved one is a good exampleof a time when someone's attachmentstyle might be activated.

    • 12:50

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: And secure adults actually have a flexible approachto managing such severe situations.They could be self-sufficient and take care of themselves,if that's what's necessary.If there's not a lot of support available.Or they could reach out for supportand would be receptive to support and letother people help them if that's available.They can go back and forth between the two.

    • 13:12

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: They can rely on one or the other,if that's all that's available.So secure adults are really resilientthroughout their adult lives.Insecure adults, on the other hand, have some risk factors.So I want to start with avoidant adults.Avoidant adults are not emotional.They're pretty shut down.

    • 13:32

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: They're pretty defensive.They might show anger from time to time.But under the circumstances that I describedbefore-- the death of a loved one-- they become very rigid,and will only rely on their own self-sufficiency to cope.So they want to do everything themselves.They don't want to reach out for help.And this is a less resilient response,

    • 13:54

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: because sometimes you can't do everything by yourself.The anxious adults, which is like the anxious ambivalentchildren, the anxious adults also have a rigid pattern.Their emotions are kind of out of control.They escalate.They don't know how to contain them.And under distress, like a death,they reach out for a lot of support,

    • 14:15

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: but they don't internalize any of it.And they can't be self-sufficient at all.So again, their kind of rigid response patternmakes them less resilient than secure adults.[Interventions for Adult Attachment Issues]So what can we do if adults are insecure?Is there anything that can be done at this point?

    • 14:35

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: Well, it is difficult to make a change at that point,but not impossible.And fortunately we know that psychotherapydoes help, especially long-term psychotherapy.Adults can earn security, meaningthat they can move in the direction of securityand make different choices.The other thing that researchers havefound that's really interesting isthat a positive marriage can change a person's attachment

    • 14:56

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: style in adulthood.So if an insecure person marries a secure person,and that secure person is the one who'staken the lead in the relationship,the insecure person can move toward security.So what I've talked to you about todayis the difference between secure and insecure attachment stylesacross the lifespan, and the positive and negative outcomes

    • 15:16

      BARBARA GORMLEY [continued]: we can expect, not only in infants, but in children,adolescents, and adults.And it also talked about some of the interventions thatcan help when people are at risk because of their attachmentstyle.

Attachment Theory

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Abstract

Professor Barbara Gormley discusses attachment theory and how attachment styles can impact adulthood. Attachment styles can be secure or insecure, which can have positive or negative outcomes throughout a person's life. Gormley highlights interventions to help with attachment styles and how to achieve secure attachment.

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Attachment Theory

Professor Barbara Gormley discusses attachment theory and how attachment styles can impact adulthood. Attachment styles can be secure or insecure, which can have positive or negative outcomes throughout a person's life. Gormley highlights interventions to help with attachment styles and how to achieve secure attachment.

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