Kansas ATTACh

Attachment related educational, advocacy, resource and support services.


Attachment And Bonding

Often, the terms “attachment” and “bonding” are used interchangeably, as though they had similar implications. However, they have quite distinctive meanings. Bonding actually refers to the parent’s tie to the infant and is thought to occur in the first hours or days of life. Attachment, in contrast, refers to the relationship between infants and primary caregivers, which develops gradually.

Attachment is defined as a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings” (Bowlby, 1969, p.194), which remains one of the most important building blocks for human development. It begins with connectedness in-utero (Verney & Kelly, 1981) between mother and child, helping the “child to develop a sense of self…and an identity” (Fahlberg, 1991, p.1).

Ainsworth (1989) pointed out the defining characteristic of an attachment bond is that it is marked by one person seeking a sense of security from the other.   If the seeker is successful, and a sense of security is attained, the attachment bond will be a secure one.   If the seeker does not achieve a sense of security in the relationship, then the bond is insecure.

Greenspan (1997), Schore (1994), and Siegel (1999) have written about how the early relationship between the primary caretaker and the infant influences the child’s developing cognitive ability, shapes the capacity to modulate affect and empathize with the feelings of others, and even determines the shape and functioning of the brain.

What is Attachment

Attachment and Bonding Chart

Challenges & Issues
Attachment Cycles

The experiences of a child during the  first three years of life are crucial to brain development. The positive, nurturing interactions s/he receives from a loving, responsive caretaker stimulates neural connections between the brain cells. This in turn forms the “wiring system” of the brain which affects emotions, behaviors and learning.  When an infant experiences trauma, chronic levels of “stress” hormones are released which results in a child being stuck in the fight, flight or freeze mode.  Neglect and trauma decreases stimulation of the brain and causes smaller corpus callosum, which results in poorly integrated cerebral hemispheres.  These brain deficits cause:

  Difficulty regulating emotions

     Lack of cause-effect thinking

  Inability to accurately recognize emotions in others.

  Inability of the child to articulate the child’s own emotions.

  An incoherent sense of self and autobiographical history.

  Lack of conscience.


Early Brain Development 

Child Trauma Academy

Impact of Abuse & Neglect on the Brain

Child Abuse & Neglect

Attachment Problems?

As more becomes know about attachment problems, questions arises:

 “How do I know if my child has attachment problems?” 

“Are these normal behaviors for an adoptive/foster child?”

“Is this a sign of an attachment problem/disorder or something else?”

Below is a list of links to provide parents with guidance concerning signs of a possible attachment problem/disorder.  If in doubt, parents should seek out a professional assessment.

Symptoms in Infants and Toddlers

Signs of a Secure Attachment

Subtle Signs of Attachment Problems                     

Identifying Insecure Attachment

 Journey of Attachment

©2003 Kansas ATTACh