Posted by: eacadoption | 01/17/2011

Attachment to Caregivers

Consistency in care giving is also a vital part of children’s learning to trust their environment and their ability to attach. Children do not necessarily need a parent to attach to, though that is the ideal. Any caregiver who provides consistent care and gratification of the child’s needs can be an attachment to her. As children learn to predict their environment and gratification of their needs, even if those needs are not daily routines and know that a familiar caregiver will give them breakfast.

Children who are moved around from one institution to another cannot trust on any given day that a caregiver who is familiar to them will get them dressed or give them their breakfast. They learn to an even great degree not to trust or love and are unable to attach to anyone, causing them to be very resistant to attachment later if they are adopted.

Children who experience this interruption in the bonding cycle, who are unable to attach and who are moved around in their early life are repeatedly traumatized. For those children who are adopted, they come into a family that they do not know, who suddenly want to meet their every need, who hug them and rock them and feed them very predictably and love them unconditionally. These children have never experienced this and it scares them and they are very mistrustful of this kind of environment.

If they dare to love their own parents, or trust that their needs will be met, they are afraid their parents will leave them or send them somewhere else as this is all they have experienced in their lives. These children are angry with their parents, and test them regularly to see if they will leave them. Their behaviors may include:

  • Gratification of own needs (food hoarding, head banging)
  • Protecting himself (lying, being unpleasant to keep people at distance)
  • Expressing anger (destructiveness, cruelty to animals)
  • Keeping the fear away (not letting parents close, rejecting them before they reject him)

Parents adopting children who have experienced abuse, neglect or institutionalize have a long road ahead of them in order to love and be loved by their child. With help, love and much patience, this can be accomplished. Children who experience some degree of predictability and stability in their lives often have not learned as much distrust of their environment. If institutions can provide children with stability and predictability and the same caregivers to form and attachment with, the children will have a much greater chance of attaching to their adoptive parents and being healthy well adjusted boys and girls.

Authored by Kristen Buchannan, MSSA, LISW

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