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 people, life events, and things in general. 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—oxytocin—to foster the process. 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.