Baby Photograph

Attachments and the Role of the Caregiver

Photograph of Caregiver and Young ChildPositive caregiver-child interaction is crucial to healthy attachment.  Even though interaction is a mutual process, adults in an infant's life are primarily responsible for shaping the attachment relationship.

 

Children depend upon the adults in their life to provide a consistent, loving environment that promotes healthy attachment. The environment must be predictable and nurturing and must support exploration. 

 

In positive caregiver-child interactions, caregivers:

  • are emotionally and physically available
  • are sensitive and responsive to each individual child''s needs
  • respond promptly and appropriately
  • provide opportunities for exploration
  • gently guide children's behavior
  • provide a secure base of love and protection

 

Consistent and positive early interactions — such as holding, gazing, smiling, kissing, singing and laughing — cause specific neurochemical activities in the brain.  These neurochemical activities lead to organization and wiring of brain systems that are responsible for attachment.

 

The brain's earliest wiring for relationships occurs in the limbic system.  The amygdala receives and integrates the emotional information that comes in from interactions with caregivers.  The hippocampus stores those emotional experiences.  Emotional memories stay in the limbic system. Even when infants cannot actively remember or discuss an emotional memory, that memory has an ongoing effect on that infant's behavior and development.