A Family Affair

Parents, Children and Society

Attachment Security: Born or Made?

John Bowlby's theory of attachment has now influenced generations of psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, therapist, teachers and, of course, parents. Read More

interesting findings, i

interesting findings, i really wonder to what extent are out gens affecting us

Attachment Security

I think this is a hugely important finding and answers a paradox that many of us clinicians see in our practices: Why is it that some people come from families where they experience sometimes severe neglect or abuse and turn out relatively intact as adults, and in many cases, are able to forgive their parents while others are raised in comparatively more "normal" homes and develop a moderate to severe amount of psychopathology. It shows how much intervention some children require from their parents in helping them learn how to regulate their affects and, later, their thought processes, while others develop these capacities relatively independently of parental intervention. Fascinating to finally learn the genetic basis for this.

Nice article. I think its

Nice article. I think its made. And can be consider case to case basis.

I can't see how one can

I can't see how one can differentiate between "born" and "made". Its like the old "nature vs nurture" debate. Surely all "born beings" are a process of everything.

We are all "attached" to our

We are all "attached" to our "processes" (in that we create an "I" that experiences "process") until we let go of attachment by achieving "adulthood" with the realization that "we" don't "process". We are Process.

Resilience, not invulnerability

I may be splitting hairs unnecessarily, but I'm not convinced that a child's favorable outcome despite adverse developmental experience proves that he or she was "born secure." Rather, I think Fonagy et al.'s statement in their book Affect Regulation, Mentalization and the Development of Self more accurately describes the process of developing secure attachment (and all other human capacities): nature is not a "determinist" but a "potentialist." Therefore, it is the interaction of nature (i.e. genetics) and the environment (e.g. relationships with early caregivers) that forms a person's unique pattern of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

When a child grows into a secure, emotionally stable, and socially functional adult despite a history of abuse, neglect, or other forms of negative experience, it is not that he or she was born invulnerable to stress, whether within the attachment relationship or elsewhere. Rather, his nature provided him with a high level of resilience that fortunately was not overcome by his particular experiences. At some point, given a sufficiently stressful environment, his or her natural resilience would reach a limit and break down. In other words, all of us are born with a genetically determined threshold for stressful experience, which can range from highly vulnerable to highly adaptive. When are experience of stress does not exceed this threshold, we develop normally. When it does, chronic distress and psychopathology result.

Let me know if I misread your statements, and I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on these ideas.

So-called "normal" homes

One of the difficulties in talking about outcomes from "normal" homes is that there may be hidden factors in these homes. Psychiatrist Bruce Perry describes a teenager who showed up in his practice with very difficult behaviours. The family seemed OK, although the mother had a lower IQ than normal. However, close examination of the family revealed that the child, as an infant, had been severely neglected - left alone for hours and and hours in his crib, while the mother went out with her older child, because she could not deal with having a difficult baby.

The presence of very poor parenting in the infancy stage may not be known, unless the parent confesses, or some other individual witnesses it. (In my case, I was starved for the first 2 months of my life - probably because my mother likely suffered from unacknowledged severe post-partum depression and frankly, did not want another baby so late in life. I would never have known had my mother not blurted it out when I myself was having a baby. Luckily, by that stage, I had been through a great deal of therapy - but this rather horrifying bit of information added a vital piece to the puzzle.)

attachment and temperament

This article describes what I have always labeled as differences in temperament. Surely the environment (nurture) will influence development but the biological "given-ness" of temperament is the raw material which the environment influences. Nature seems to me to be somewhat "deterministic" with respect to genotype (possible) but "potentialist" within the confines of phenotype (actual).

The potential strength of attachment may indeed someday be determined to be rooted in some genetic inheritance. The degree to which that potential strength is actualized is environmentally determined. A genetically predisposed sociopath may be "softened" by authoritative parents while the same tendencies might be exacerbated by authoritarian parents.

Attachment; A combination of internal and external factors:

It's also been found that the tendency towards attachment varies, not only due to environmental factors (home, family upbringing, etc. ), but also to innate biological factors as well. For example, certain communication disorders, such as autism or Asperger's syndrome (a milder form of autism), are biologically-based, innate disorders whose causes are unknown. One theory, however (which has gained more and more support among average laypeople and people in the medical profession alike), is that a person afflicted with ASD or Aspergers Syndrome, for instance, is hardwired together like that even before birth; that the biological pre-dispositions toward such disorders develop in utero, during fetal development. It could be from an insufficient amount of the hormone oxytocin, which facilitate the various communication and bonding faciilitates, or the lack of the serotonin uptake gene. Who knows?

Attachment security; determined by internal and external factors:

Attachment security is honed not only by parental affections, but by innnate, biological factors as well. For instance, if a person is born lacking sufficient amounts of oxytocin, which facilitates the various bonding, attachment and communication processes, that, too, could very well have an affect on somebody's ability to form strong, secure or close attachments, despite receiving parental affection in the home during his or her early years.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Jay Belsky is Director of the Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues and Professor of Psychology at Birkbeck University of London. more...

Subscribe to A Family Affair

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.