Is attachment parenting the same as secure attachment?

Attachment parenting is a parenting philosophy that has gained a lot of attention.


What is attachment parenting?

Attachment parenting is about creating maximal parental empathy and responsiveness with your child and includes co-sleeping, long-term breastfeeding, and babywearing.

“The goal of attachment parenting is to raise children who can form healthy, emotional connections with other people throughout their life. Attachment parents believe this must begin by forming a respectful, compassionate connection between parent and child.” - Jennifer White

Although attachment parenting is becoming increasingly popular, it can be extremely triggering for a lot of parents. It is often used as a benchmark in modern parenting and can leave parents who would like to have more routine and parent in a more traditional way feel like they are letting their child down.

Implementing the attachment parenting tools for some can feel extremely physically and emotionally drained and can have a huge impact on other relationships and make intimacy with a partner even more difficult. Attachment parenting is also traditionally about building a relationship with the mother and can leave the father feeling quite isolated.

Attachment parenting is often confused as the only way to create a secure attachment. There are lots of ways to create a healthy attachment with your child and the attachment parenting style does not guarantee this.

What is attachment?

Attachment is a special emotional relationship that involves an exchange of comfort, care, and pleasure. The roots of research on attachment began with Freud's theories about love. John Bowlby devoted extensive research to the concept of attachment, describing it as a "lasting psychological connectedness between human beings."

Mary Ainsworth then further expanded upon Bowlby's work in her now-famous "Strange Situation" study. Ainsworth's research concluded there are three major styles of attachment: secure attachment, ambivalent-insecure attachment, and avoidant-insecure attachment and she believed these different attachment styles were indicators of relationships in later life. Disorganised-insecure attachment style was added later on.

The reality is very few people have a completely secure attachment, and attachment parenting just like any other style of parenting can't ensure this, as there are so many other factors that influence this that do not include physical closeness. New research actually indicates that the best predictor of healthy adult attachment is having good quality relationships with your parents as well as your parents ‘having a healthy relationship with each other'. (This does not mean they have to be together but being amicable and good role models).

Having a healthy relationship with yourself is also extremely beneficial, as is seeing a caregiver making themselves a priority and looking after their own health both physically and mentally.

What’s important to understand is that choosing not to breastfeed or sleep train does not mean your child will grow up with an insecure attachment. There is no evidence to show attachment parenting will create children who will grow up without any attachment issues and we need to do what is right for our family.

Evidence shows what children need is for their primary caregiver to be consistent and reliable. Bowlby's research suggested that when children are raised with confidence that their primary caregiver will be there for them consistently, they learn to believe this will be true of all relationships going forward and will continue.

Confusing close proximity with secure attachment leaves so many parents feeling anxious, inadequate and worn down unnecessarily. Having breaks from parenting can be hugely beneficial for children and parents. No one can show up consistently 24/7 and this is something you are struggling with or would like to learn more about attachment please get in touch.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Brighton, BN42
Written by Natasha Nyeke, MBACP, Couples, Fertility, Maternal mental health,Attachment
Brighton, BN42

Natasha Nyeke is a Person Centred Counsellor who specialises in working with parents supporting a wide variety of issues including, fertility and miscarriage, anxiety and postnatal depression, attachment issues, re-emergence of childhood issues

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