All About Attachment

The emotional bond that typically forms between infant and caregiver is the means by which the helpless infant gets primary needs met. It then becomes the engine of subsequent social, emotional, and cognitive development. The early experience of the infant stimulates growth of neural pathways that will sculpt enduring patterns of response to many things.

The attachment experience affects personality development, particularly a sense of security, and research shows that it influences the ability to form stable relationships throughout life. Neuroscientists believe that attachment is such a primal need that there are networks of neurons in the brain dedicated to setting it in motion and a hormone to foster the process, oxytocin.

The genius of the attachment system is that it provides the infant's first coping system; it sets up in the infant's mind a mental representation of the caregiver, one that is wholly portable and can be summoned up as a comforting mental presence in difficult moments. Because it allows an infant to separate from the caregiver without distress and begin to explore the world around her, attachment contains within it the platform for the child's ability to survive independently.

Recent posts on Attachment

Love at First Sight: New Research on Who's Attracted to Whom

Whether or not you believe in love at first sight, there’s a case to be made for instant attraction. New research on speed-dating shows how personality affects romantic choices.

How Much Solidarity Do You Feel With Animals?

By Hal Herzog Ph.D. on March 23, 2017 in Animals and Us
A new scale helps researchers study why some people identify with animals and others despise them.

Pets of the Homeless: Attachment Figures and Social Support

By Zazie Todd Ph.D. on March 23, 2017 in Fellow Creatures
Why do homeless people have pets? It turns out that homeless youth with pets are less depressed and lonely than those without, but pets bring disadvantages too.

Want to Build a Dog From A Fox? Here's How To Do It.

Tucked away in Siberia, there are furry, four-legged creatures with wagging tails that are as friendly as any lapdog. But, despite appearances, these are not dogs—they are foxes.

Relationship Mistakes to Watch Out For Early On

While some people do change, most don't. Old habits die hard. If things are difficult now, the likelihood is that they are only going to get worse.

How to Raise a Securely Attached Child

By Alice Boyes Ph.D. on March 22, 2017 in In Practice
Simple, practical tips for developing emotional trust.

Get Outside in a Park With Your People

By Temma Ehrenfeld on March 21, 2017 in Open Gently
Get outside in greenery to have difficult conversations or to bond.

Are You In A Toxic Relationship?

If a pattern of toxic love describes your relationship, there is a way out of this spiral. Here are four signs that suggest your relationship very well may be toxic.

Responding to Your Partner's Attachment Style

By David Ludden Ph.D. on March 20, 2017 in Talking Apes
According to recent research, to get what you want out of a relationship, you first have to give your partner what they want.

Apologies Are for the Weak: How to Crush Your Enemy

New research indicates that real men don't apologize.

10 Ways to Help Your Daughter Get Over Her Boyfriend

A breakup is like drug withdrawal.

Predatory Polyamory?

My first blog on this topic told monogamous folks that they did not need to worry about poly people trying to steal their partners, but readers wrote in telling a different story.

How Relationships Work

By Grant H. Brenner M.D. on March 19, 2017 in ExperiMentations
Want a straightforward, research-backed, practical overview of how relationships work? Here it is.
Courtesy of Max Pixel

Are We Doomed to Repeat Our Relationship Patterns?

Do the attachment styles we develop in childhood inevitably shape our adult relationships? And if so, can they be changed?

More Proof That Skin-to-Skin Contact Benefits Babies' Brains

Growing evidence suggests that skin-to-skin contact plays a significant role in healthy childhood brain development for all newborns, but especially for babies born prematurely.

Why Young People Destroy the Very Things They Need Most

By Nick Luxmoore on March 15, 2017 in Young People Up Close
When young people spurn our best attempts to love and support them, why do they do this?

Why Does Self-Help Fail?

By Grant H. Brenner M.D. on March 15, 2017 in ExperiMentations
Is self-help failing you? If you don't know why, and you do want it to work, learn how to help yourself in ways which succeed.

Should I leave This Person?

By Fredric Neuman M.D. on March 12, 2017 in Fighting Fear
Frequently, a patient asks me if he/she should leave the person he/she is dating. Usually, that person's friends make that recommendation. I do not usually--for different reasons.

War of the Worlds: Common Enemies

By Joseph A. Shrand M.D. on March 12, 2017 in The I-M Approach
Orson Wells galvanized America with the alternate truth that we were being invaded by Martians. But do we still need a common enemy to feel united?

What If Your Child Chooses to Do Wrong?

Punishment drives the feelings underground and makes the bad behavior worse. Healing the feelings that are driving the behavior is what prevents a repeat of the misbehavior.

A Parent Aims to Decipher a Teen’s Transgender Declaration

By Tina Traster on March 07, 2017 in Against All Odds
I don’t care how cool LGBTQ is at the moment. At the end of the day, a transgender desire is not welcome news to a parent.

What’s Behind a Dating Profile?

By Martin Graff Ph.D. on March 07, 2017 in Love, Digitally
Profiles written by people in middle age are longer than the those by age groups younger or older. Females who use negative words score lower on trust and higher on caution.

Toward Integration: Mental Health Defined

We're all familiar with mental health issues or symptoms. But what does a mentally healthy brain look like? And how do we get there?

Commitment Phobia and Hookups

In today’s hookup culture, no one is a priority. People are options, like restaurants. If you don’t like the food, you don’t ever need to go back.

Breakup Strategies: The Brave and the Cowardly

By Samantha Joel on February 25, 2017 in Dating Decisions
Painful breakups can be made even worse by the way the breakup took place.

Why Do Dog Breeds with Genetic Disorders Suddenly Get Hot?

By Hal Herzog Ph.D. on February 24, 2017 in Animals and Us
Dog breeds like French bulldogs and Chihuahuas are skyrocketing in popularity despite their genetic problems. A new study examines why people are attracted to unhealthy pets.

Can Punctuality Ruin Love?

By Aaron Ben-Zeév Ph.D. on February 23, 2017 in In the Name of Love
There are good reasons for considering punctuality to be a virtue. Is it also a romantic virtue? There are reasons to think it is not.

Marriage as a Constraint

By Fredric Neuman M.D. on February 19, 2017 in Fighting Fear
Someone may explain a hesitancy to marry in terms of a particular partner. Often, however, there are are more general reasons.Some men and women see marriage as a constraint.

52 Ways to Show I Love You: No Stealing

By Roni Beth Tower Ph.D., ABPP on February 19, 2017 in Life, Refracted
Taking over a loved one's time, attention, property, space or decisions without explicit permission from him or her is stealing. Boundary violations can threaten a relationship.

All Problems Are Betrayals

By Nick Luxmoore on February 17, 2017 in Young People Up Close
For young people, all problems provoke primitive anxieties of betrayal: reminders of an original betrayal they can't consciously remember but can't help feeling strongly about.