Handbook of Parenting - Vol. 5

By Marc H. Bornstein | Go to book overview

2
Parenting and Attachment
E. Mark Cummings
Jennifer S. Cummings
University of Notre Dame

INTRODUCTION

Attachment is a particular conceptualization of the influence of parents on their children's development in the context of parent–child relationships. Attachment refers to an affective bond between parents and children. The notion is that children form affective bonds with parents that have continuity over time, and that parents form reciprocal relationships with their children. Moreover, relations between attachment and children's and adults' functioning have been repeatedly reported (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, and Wall, 1978; Bowlby, 1969; 1973; see reviews in Cassidy and Shaver, 1999; Colin, 1996). It follows that attachment is seminal to the study of parenting. Relatedly, a practical question of some importance for many parents has become: How can we grow a securely attached child?

The theory posits that close relationships between individuals, in particular between parents and their children, are about more than transient variations in interaction patterns over time (Masters and Wellman, 1974). That is, attachments have a substance and continuity that transcend the specifics of day-to-day interactions. Moreover, attachments are held to be formed in Western culture sex ceptunder the most unfortunate circumstances of early environment, like the extreme lack of parental care that characterizes conditions of “maternal deprivation” (Ainsworth, 1962; Bowlby, 1951; Rutter, 1995b). Thus, it is expected that the great majority of children living in normal circumstances of Western cultures form attachments to the parents. Accordingly, research on attachment as an investigation into parenting has been primarily concerned with qualitative aspects of interactions between parents and their children rather than with whether or not children form attachments. With regard to qualities of attachment, the security of attachment has been the particular focus of theory and research (Waters and Cummings, 2000).

Thus, attachment is a particular perspective on parenting: a relational perspective on affective ties between children and their parents and the implications of these relationships for a child's development. Moreover, attachments are posited to be pertinent to an individual's functioning across

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