Attachment plays a central role in setting the path for developmental risks and providing opportunities for early intervention and prevention (Brisch, 2012). Intervention research has highlighted the role of relational interventions in promoting resilient functioning by supporting the development of more positive parent-child interactions.
Parents to be may benefit from taking part in primary prevention programmes before their child is born (Brisch, 2012). Taking part in seminars and other programme offerings that make use of video feedback can help sensitise parents to the needs of children. Clinical experience indicates that parents are open to examining their own childhood trauma during the pregnancy period. They begin to wonder about passing on their family’s patterns of childrearing and attachment to their own children. However, parents often come for help only after problems with their new-born have become chronic. A prevention programme like SAFE (which aims to help create secure attachments) is needed to catch these problems early. The SAFE programme works from pregnancy up to the end of the first year but has been adapted to different educational and caregiving settings.
Attachment theory proposes that attachment and exploration are interdependent (Brisch, 2012). Therefore, attachment is particularly relevant for education. Secure relationships with teachers can compensate for deficits in the primary attachment relationship, while also increasing curiosity and the desire to learn. Knowledge of attachment theory can help teachers understand their relationships with individual children and the class as a whole. The importance of each individual teacher becomes lessened as children go through school as they come to have many different teachers. Children who move to a new school or class may become emotionally disturbed because they cannot find the security needed for optimal learning. The present school system and society as a whole is organised to avoid attachment. Students who focus on performance and pay little attention to relationships is seen as the ideal. Avoidant children will be able to deal with a teacher who ‘sticks to the material’ but all others who look to the teacher for a secure attachment relationship (especially ambivalently attached children) will challenge the teacher demanding caregiving behaviour and emotional connection. They may do this indirectly by creating disturbance. Psychoeducational work must be tailored to a particular setting and modified as needed.
In addition to dyadic attachments, children, particularly adolescents, develop attachments to groups which can provide a sense of security, notably for teens as they go through the separation phase (Brisch, 2012). Attachment to the group is secure if it provides a safe emotional haven that can be used when individuals are anxious or fearful. It also gives members the confidence to explore the world or master frightening situations. Members of the group can return to it knowing that they will be accepted unconditionally. This reduces fear and anxiety. The group is insecure-avoidant if they want to do activities and explore together but emotional relationships produce anxiety. Members then avoid the group. Insecure-ambivalent groups have a lot of fluctuation between individual and group activity. Members leave the group but then feel insecure and seek it out again. They move between closeness and avoidance. Disorganised group attachment occurs when the group produces fear and anxiety while at the same time being less threatening than dyadic relationships. Such groups offer opportunities for projection with many of the features of borderline personality like sexual and aggressive acting out alternating with idealisation and a sense of protection from the group.
Brisch, K. H. (2014). Treating attachment disorders: From theory to therapy. Guilford Publications.