Children with insecure histories may do well for a time but are more vulnerable to subsequent problems (Sroufe in Cassidy and Shaver, 2016). Resilience is a developmental process not a trait. Alan Sroude notes that had the his Minnesota study of risk and adaptation began in the preschool years, children who bounced back from difficulty would have been seen as inherently resilient. However, this conclusion would be wrong. Resilience is a label for recovery and knowledge of the child’s history explains the basis for this ability to recover. When history and current supports are considered, there is very little mystery around resilience, writes Sroufe. Those with secure histories are less likely to develop problems in the face of later stress. A secure attachment history provides the foundation for coping with adversity, probably due to a combination of being able to draw on internal resources and external social support. The capacity to rebound and take advantage of turning points can be predicted by attachment history.

Attachment theory predicts positive expectations about self, other and relationships; a basic sense of security; ability to give and take support; emotion regulation; and a well-functioning personality. It is not however the only thing that predicts social outcomes. There are other critical influences on development like other relationships inside and outside the family as well as the broader context around the child (schools, neighbourhoods and socioeconomic status all have important influences). To account for resilience, all of these factors must be considered. Even parenting involves much more than attachment. Some of the tasks include: Regulation of arousal and modulation of stimulation; secure base and safe haven; guidance, limits and structure; keeping parent-child boundaries; socialisation of emotional expression and containment; scaffolding for problem-solving; supporting mastery and achievement; supporting contact with the social world; and accepting the increasing independence of the child. The broader measure of parenting was found to be more powerful than the measure of attachment alone.

Peer experience is also an important influence on development (Sroufe in Cassidy and Shaver, 2016). Whether parenting or peer influence is more important misses the point as the most important developmental question is concerned with how they work together. Infant attachment security predicts peer competence at all ages. Attachment security provides a foundation of motivation for close relationships and exploratory and regulatory capacity. Peer experience then contributes to later social competence. Each phase of competence is built on the one that went before. Peer, parenting and attachment experiences predict better than any of these alone. Hostility in adult relationships is predicted both by insecure attachment in infancy and teacher assessments of peer competence in grades 1-3.


Cassidy, J., & Shaver, P. R. (2018). Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (3rd ed.). Guilford Publications.