A new analysis concludes that 40 percent of children are not getting that needed secure attachment, which family therapist Susan Stiffelman says comes through parents being attuned to their baby.
“That means relating and responding and interacting with them in such a way that says ‘I’m with you,’” she explains. “’We’re connected. Your needs matter. They can be understood and acted upon.’ And it sort of sets a template for a child going through life.”
The report says those children from birth to age three who do not form strong bonds with their mother or father are more likely to suffer from aggression, defiance and hyperactivity as they get older.
Stiffelman says that lack of a loving bond can also impact other areas for children, including health and educational achievement.
“Children are very distracted by emotional events that are in their home life or between them and their parents,” she stresses. “So, a child who is sent off to school by a parent who criticizes and berates them and there’s no sense of warmth, these kids don’t do well in school because they’re distracted all day long.”
While some may think that the need for a loving bond is most important for girls, the report finds that the behavior of boys is actually more affected by early parenting.
“Even though we think of boys as much tougher and more durable and hearty and thicker-skinned, boys it’s thought have a greater vulnerability to injuries of attachment,” Stiffelman points out. “And so we do see that in more acting out behavior when a little boy is not feeling securely attached and connected.”
The Baby Bonds review from the Sutton Trust also says that those children without strong attachment to their parents are also at higher risk for depression, family instability and poverty.