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 the brain and shapes emerging mental processes. It establishes in the infant's brain the neural pathways that will sculpt what are likely to be lifelong patterns of response to many things.

The attachment experience affects personality development and 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 the process of forming lasting bonds is powered in part by the hormone oxytocin.

The genius of the attachment system is that it provides the infant's first coping system, the one that is a foundation for all the others; 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. Attachment contains within it the platform for the child's ability to ultimately separate from the caregiver and to survive independently.

Recent posts on Attachment

10 Ways to Know That It's Time to Go

Sometimes it's hard know when it’s time to leave. These 10 tips will help you figure out the best way to make an exit.

Attachment Love and the Disempowerment of Women

Because attachment is linked to scripts of heterosexuality, monogamy and constrained female desire, it is far more likely than romantic love to lead to oppression of women.

The Radicalism of Romantic Love

Does romantic love as a cultural ideal serve to legitimize traditional oppressive relationship structures and mediate the degradation, disempowerment and oppression of women?

How Will a Baby Affect Your Relationship?

Some couples survive the transition to parenthood better than others. Here's what the research says about first-time parents.

Soaring Love or Plodding Relationship?

Soaring love transcends the limits of emotional habits and helps us become the most empowered and humane partners we can be.

Resolving the Trauma You Didn't Know You Had

We've all experienced some degree of trauma. How well we cope in our lives today greatly depends on how much we are willing to recognize and make sense of these experiences.

Sex Differences in Romantic Jealousy: Evolved or Illusory?

Sex differences in jealousy: Evolved or illusory?

When You Fall, How Do You Rise Again?

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on May 10, 2016 in Ambigamy
When our glass drains to half-full we try to refill it with something more reliable. When that fails it's best to get an adjustable-height glass.

Praise for Adoptive Moms and Stepmoms on Mother's Day

By Denise Cummins Ph.D. on May 07, 2016 in Good Thinking
What do adoptive moms and stepmoms have in common? They believe that a family is a group of people who love and care for each other. Shared genes are optional.

Social Anxiety: Mapping Its 7 Key Components

These key elements help us understand social anxiety.

Growing Pains: The Parental Kind

The fear of a child making mistakes is often more about the parent’s ego than the child’s growth.

To Hug or Not to Hug?

By Nicholas Dodman on May 03, 2016 in Dog Days
Do you want to know what's really going on in an animal's mind when you hug it appropriately?

Surviving Mother's Day: 5 Strategies to Get Through

By Peg Streep on May 03, 2016 in Tech Support
Yes, it's supposed to be a celebration. But for some women and men, it's one of the most difficult days in the year.

Love Potion No. 9

By David Ludden Ph.D. on May 01, 2016 in Talking Apes
Oxytocin is commonly known as the “love hormone,” but it can have opposite effects depending on the person and the situation.

Music and the Brain's Reward and Bonding Systems

By Rhonda Freeman Ph.D. on April 28, 2016 in NeuroSagacity
If we look at the neurobiology behind our emotional response to Prince, his music, and his death, it seems that there are two primary brain systems responsible.

Why It's So Hard to Get Rid of Your Clutter

The items you have trouble throwing out are likely to be linked directly to your self-worth.
Ken Ginsburg

The Upside of Adolescence

Teens are searching for clues on how they should behave to be "normal," and the worst thing we can do is poison their environment with low expectations.

Losing a Loved One to Porn (and What You Can Do About It)

By Sue Johnson on April 21, 2016 in Hold Me Tight
When is the line crossed from porn use to porn addiction? When is porn eroding your connection with your partner?

Is Love Simply a Puff of Oxytocin?

Bonding is an essential part of social, sexual and family life. How much is this due to one simple chemical in the brain?

Straight Talk About Relationships

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on April 17, 2016 in How To Do Life
An interview with Psychology Today's Editor-at-Large, Hara Marano.

Brain Health Versus Brain Illness: What Can We Do?

By Lori Russell-Chapin Ph.D. on April 16, 2016 in Brain Waves
What can we do for better brain health?

The 10 Most Frequent Mistakes Therapists Make

How to recognize therapy moments gone awry.

Why Have We Pathologized Mother-Infant Bonding?

By Amy Tuteur M.D. on April 15, 2016 in Push Back
Why are attachment parents so worried about attachment?

When Your Partner’s 'Caring' Feels More Like Controlling

Though behaviors routinely labeled “controlling” are hardly devoid of self-interest, they can’t be seen simply as acts of aggression against one’s partner either.

The Surprising Benefits of the "Bromance"

Studies show there's more to male friendships than beer chugging contests and fist bumps.

Beyond Traditional Grief Therapy

It wasn't until I lost my beloved husband of 27 years that I realized that traditional Western grief therapy leaves the bereaved at an even greater loss.

Paternity Shock: Is Who You Call Dad Your Genetic Father?

Perhaps one reason for these high estimations is that female adultery is supposedly common, occurring in an estimated 5–27% for people younger than 30 years old...

Attachment to Your Therapist

Are you strongly attached to your therapist? Here are some answers.

Pledge Yourself to a Vision, and Other Leadership Skills

By Kathy Cramer Ph.D. on April 06, 2016 in Lead Positive
How can you get through your darkest leadership moment with your sense of self and purpose intact?