The American SIDS Institute has a website with information about risk factors and the latest research.

The American SIDS Institute has a website with information about risk factors and the latest research.

The American SIDS Institute has a website with information about risk factors and the latest research.
The American SIDS Institute has a website with information about risk factors and the latest research.

Where babies sleep can be a cultural issue. Some cultures value sleeping alone and others don’t, even if they have the space and means to do so. Some cultures aren’t as interested in their children becoming independent individuals as they are in creating a spirit of interdependence and connectedness to others (Rogoff, 2003). In many families both in the United States and around the world, infants and tod- dlers sleep with the mother or both parents until the next baby comes, then move into the bed of siblings or grandparents. Some European Americans have made an attempt to change the way they were raised by instituting what is called the “fam- ily bed” (Thevenin, 1987). More recently, the trend of “co-sleeping” with the baby is finding support and even products to promote it. Sears and Sears (2013) encouraged bed sharing in their book The Attachment Parenting Book (2001), and more recently in their revised Baby Book 2013, though they also say families should decide if it’s right for them and their baby. Of course, it’s not safe for postpartum mothers who are exhausted or using sedatives to sleep with their babies. A pamphlet on the Inter- net provides cautions for keeping co-sleeping safe, many of which are the same for preventing SIDS in cribs. In addition, it warns against the co-sleeping adults going to sleep with the baby on a couch or cushions and advises against adults going to bed with alcohol, drugs, and certain medication in their systems. Healthy Child Care America has a website that outlines the Safe Sleep Campaign and includes down- loadable PDF guides for parents and child care providers.

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Separation is the other side of attachment; we all have experience with separation, and those experiences start earlier for some than for others

Watch this video, which describes SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), including risk factors and prevention. What are the preventative measures that were discussed in the video?

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Supporting Families Around Issues of Attachment and Trust 35

A number of articles and books have been written about getting babies to sleep by themselves because it isn’t as easy to accomplish as it might seem. Many babies comfort themselves while alone in the crib by developing an attachment to a par- ticular object. This process fits right in with being part of an object-oriented culture. Most parents and caregivers are delighted when a child attaches to a favorite blanket or a stuffed animal. Experts see this particular way of self-comforting as a sign that the child has coping skills.

Learning to put oneself to sleep and stay by oneself is a step toward indepen- dence and is a valued behavior in many families. It’s a healthy sign that infants are able to handle separation.

ethan Ethan’s mother took drugs when she was pregnant. No one was aware of this problem until the day Ethan was born. He arrived in the world full of the harmful substances his mother had ingested, and his first days of life were spent in withdrawal. He suffered and so did the hospital staff who tended him.

“Poor little guy!” said a nurse, as she tried to make him more comfortable. Getting the drugs out of his system didn’t end his problems. Ethan was a difficult

baby from the beginning. He cried incessantly—it seemed sometimes as if he would never stop. He’d scream and scream until he finally wore himself out; he’d sleep restlessly for a period and then start again. It was hard to be around Ethan.

His foster mother, a patient woman, understood how hard life was for Ethan. Although she had other babies to care for, she spent special time with him, trying to give him the message that he was cared about—that he was loved. It wasn’t easy. When an adoptive family came along that knew Ethan’s history and his problems, she was relieved because she felt he deserved a permanent home and parents—a family of his own who could give him a good deal of time and energy—the time and energy she had were stretched so thin!

Ethan’s new parents were special people. They didn’t go into the adoption expecting to rescue a child and have him be forever grateful to them. They knew something about the kinds of problems that Ethan had at the time and the kinds he was likely to have in the future. They were prepared to deal with these problems.

They started out right away to establish an attachment with Ethan. It wasn’t easy— he wasn’t an appealing baby. When his new parents picked him up, he stiffened and shook. He didn’t cuddle like lots of babies. He seldom seemed relaxed; in fact, his move- ments were jerky and uncontrolled. He twitched, jiggled, and shook as he lay in his crib.

Ethan didn’t like to be touched; often he screamed louder when he was touched than when he wasn’t. It was tempting to leave him alone, since picking him up seemed agonizing to him. But his parents knew that leaving him in his crib wasn’t the answer, so they did some observing and brainstorming to discover what ways they could pick him up that would cause him the least discomfort. They felt proud when they were able to discover some. It became more rewarding to pick him up.

Ethan didn’t look at anyone very often. Even when his parents tried to get his attention, he tended to look away. It’s hard to develop a relationship with someone who doesn’t make eye contact, but they managed. They just kept on trying until the day came that Ethan looked his mother right in the eye. What a moment that was for her—worth waiting for. That was the beginning of the development of a series of positive behaviors

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that made Ethan easy to love. On the big day when Ethan smiled for the first time, his father grinned back as if his face would split in two. “You’re going to be okay, Ethan,” he said, patting his son.

Since happily-ever-after stories only occur as fairy tales, I have to tell you that Ethan did continue to feel the influence of his early drug exposure into his pre- school years. But with the help of his parents and their love for him, he was able to cope with the cards that life had dealt him.

vAryIng ATTAcHmenT pATTernS The classic research has been done on attachment between mothers and babies. Although attachment patterns can vary significantly from that one pattern, the early research is still worth understanding.

Bowlby and Ainsworth’s Research John Bowlby was the first to apply to humans the idea that attachment behaviors evolved because they promote survival. He took a psychoanalytic view that attach- ment of infant to caregiver affects an infant’s sense of security and ability to trust.

Mary Ainsworth was a student of Bowlby’s, and her research is used widely in assessing attachment of infants and toddlers. She set out to study how securely at- tached babies are to their mothers (Ainsworth & Bell, 1977; Ainsworth et al., 1978).

She used something she called “the Strange Situation,” in which a baby is observed in an experimental room with toys designed to entice. The situation involves the mother and a stranger in a series of comings and goings. How the baby reacts to the separation, the stranger, and the reunion is used to judge the type of attachment.

From her research, Ainsworth came up with different types of attachment. If the baby is what Ainsworth called securely attached, he or she uses the mother as a base to move out from and explore the interesting toys in the room. You can see this happening in any setting where there are toys and a baby with enough mobility to get to them. Babies move away from their

mothers, checking back periodically to see where they are and crawling back to get a snuggle, hug, or bit of comfort when needed. If the mother leaves, securely attached babies usually show some distress, but not always. They show they are delighted to see her when she returns.

Not so with insecurely attached infants. They may show what’s called avoidant attachment, resistant attachment, or disorganized/disoriented attachment. Avoidant attachment shows when babies act the same around the stranger as they do around the mother. They seem not to care when the mother leaves the room. When reunited, they are slow to greet the mother and either ignore or avoid her.

Babies who show resistant attachment stay close to the mother before she leaves and do little exploration in a strange place. They get upset when she leaves, but when she comes back they show anger and sometimes behave in a push-pull fashion—for example, alternating between clinging and pushing her away. Some- times even picking them up fails to comfort them.

Disorganized/disoriented attachment was the product of more recent research (Howe, 2011; Main & Solomon, 1990; Solomon & George, 1999). This type of inse- cure attachment shows up as a pattern of confused, contradictory behaviors when

Watch this video, which highlights the research of the Strange Situation. It is set in a laboratory. Have you observed similar behavior outside of a lab setting? /watch?v=QTsewNrHUHU

Check Your Understanding 2.3

Click here to check your understanding of the obstacles to attachment.

Supporting Families Around Issues of Attachment and Trust 37

reunited with the mother. Sometimes infants look frozen, dazed, and disori- ented. Some rock or engage in other repetitive behaviors. Some cry after the mother has managed to get them settled down.

Ainsworth’s research provides interesting information, but be careful about judging attachments in families you work with. You’re not a researcher, and you can’t understand everything about a family based on what you see when they leave their children. One criticism of Ainsworth’s way of judging attachment is the unnatural setting. Do babies and mothers behave the same in a laboratory as they do at home or somewhere else?

Another criticism of the Strange Situation as a way of assessing attachment is that it is based on a particular model of mother-child attachment. There are a lot of variations on that model. What if the baby has been in child care and is used to mul- tiple caregivers? Is he really showing insecure attachment if he avoids the mother when she returns, or is he accustomed to having an interesting environment and being separated from his mother? Or what if the baby comes from a large family in which the mother isn’t the only caregiver? What if the mother isn’t the person the baby is most attached to? What if the baby has two mothers? Or two fathers?

Questions About Classic Attachment Research Ainsworth and other researchers focused on attachment as it relates to the insular or nuclear family. Today we know better. We can see with our own eyes that, even in the nuclear or insular family, caregiving may be shared between mother and father or between one parent and another relative or child care provider. Under these cir- cumstances, attachment is not just between mother and baby, although often the mother remains the primary attachment.

As mentioned earlier, much of the focus on attachment has been related to the insular or nuclear family with mother, father, and child. This, of course, isn’t the only kind of family. Another type of family is the single-parent family. Sometimes the parent(s) and baby are not a unit by themselves but are part of a larger extended family. Stack (1991) describes kinship networks as clusters of people who are related through children, marriage, and friendship and who come together to provide do- mestic functions. This domestic network may spread over several households, and changes in individual household composition do not significantly affect cooperative arrangements. The single-parent family that finds itself in this type of network may be thought of as “embedded” rather than alone.

A woman once told me a story about how she had changed her perspective on her family. This person was a single parent with two children who lived with her par- ents in their house. She thought of her situation as two families living in one house until she decided to have a family portrait taken. She included all five family mem- bers, deciding for herself that this was one family rather than two. This story of her family portrait started me thinking about my own family situation as I grew up. My mother, my sister, and I lived most of my childhood in the house of my grandparents. We never had a family portrait taken. We didn’t see ourselves as a unit; rather, we were two families—an intact one (my grandparents) and a “broken” one (my mother and her two children). Nowadays, of course, we would call ourselves a single-parent family rather than a broken one, but many would still see us as deprived without a father in the household, rather than enriched because of grandparents and the un- cles who lived there for periods during my growing up. I now prefer to think of myself as growing up embedded in my extended family.

Watch this video on attachment that shows children struggling with the “reunion.” What are some possible causes for a child to behave this way?

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