Enhancing Early Attachments: Theory, Research, Intervention, and Policy

Enhancing Early Attachments: Theory, Research, Intervention, and Policy

Enhancing Early Attachments: Theory, Research, Intervention, and Policy

Enhancing Early Attachments: Theory, Research, Intervention, and Policy

Synopsis

Synthesizing the latest theory, research, and practices related to supporting early attachments, this volume provides a unique window into the major treatment and prevention approaches available today. Chapters address the theoretical and empirical bases of attachment interventions; explore the effects of attachment-related trauma and how they can be ameliorated; and describe a range of exemplary programs operating at the individual, family, and community levels. Throughout, expert authors consider cross-cutting issues such as the core components of effective services and appropriate outcome measures for attachment interventions. Also discussed are policy implications, including how programs to enhance early child-caregiver relationships fit into broader health, social service, and early education systems.

Excerpt

“There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies,” proclaimed Winston Churchill in a 1943 radio broadcast (James, 1974, p. 8507). More than 60 years later and an ocean away, “putting milk into babies,” both literally and figuratively, is an increasingly prominent goal of U.S. mental health practitioners, communitybased service providers, and policymakers (e.g., National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2000). The current extraordinary focus on early child development is in large part a response to an explosion of recent research illustrating the importance of children’s earliest years for their later development (see National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2000, for a review). This research highlights the importance of children’s early development and particularly the importance of children’s relationships with their first caregivers. Supportive early child–caregiver relationships pave the way for children’s subsequent development, especially in terms of their social skills and mental health. At the opposite end of the spectrum, early childhood abuse results in acute physical injuries and exacts far-reaching costs in victims’ mental illness and the continued perpetration of violence. Moreover, the earlier in children’s lives that maltreatment occurs, the more likely it is to recur, and the greater the physical, psychological, and social costs. The traumatic effects of children’s exposure to interpersonal violence are also an increasing concern.

Enhancing early child–caregiver relationships and preventing family violence have become key goals of mental health practitioners working with young children and their families, and of community-based programs designed to support early child and family development, such as the Healthy Families program for families at risk of child maltreatment. Enhancing early relationships has also become a more pressing goal for national policymakers. For example, the 1994 federal Advisory Com-

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