Simply put, attachment is an emotional bond between two people (for example an adult and a child). Within an adult-child relationship, the child has both physical and emotional needs. In order to meet these needs, the adult must be able to tune in to the child. This is called attunement and if sufficiently achieved the adult and child feel a deep sense of connectedness. If however, an adult is not effectively attuned, the child is left feeling disconnected. If children have at least one adult who is consistently attuned and responsive to the child a secure attachment can form and the child develops:
A secure attachment is likely to develop when an adult is sensitive and attuned to the baby’s communications, and when the adult provides consistent and predictable care which meets the needs of the baby quickly and reliably.
[Bowlby, P.117, Attachment Theory: How to help young children acquire a secure attachment.]
Attachment theory is based on evidence that indicates that the emotional development and mental health of a child is dependent on adult-child relationships. Attachment behaviour is one of the most natural phenomenons and yet there are many factors that can get in the way of this bonding process between adult and child. Attachment theory informs the practice of engaging with a child (whether as a parent or as a professional) in order to prevent children from developing mental health problems and to ensure that children’s emotional and interpersonal development is optimal. Moreover, an understanding of attachment informs our fundamental understanding of ourselves and clients/the children we work with or care for. The attachment process of tuning into another, identifying their needs, is relevant whether you are engaging with a child, a client, partner, or a colleague.