Attachment: Does love matter?
By Wellbeing in Mind Psychologist Dr Denise Hatzis
Many times over my years when working with families, I have been asked “Can I love my baby too much?”. Parents, especially first time parents, are often worried can they be too attached to their new born babies and when is it appropriate to start setting boundaries. From the extensive and ever growing literature being published, extending our knowledge of neurobiological human development over the lifespan and attachment theoretical perspectives, it is clear that infants and young children are heavily dependent on their primary caregivers/parents to guide their social experiences. So no we cannot love our babies too much.
Infants and young children experience their world through the eyes of their relationships with the important people around them. These interactions shape and scaffold their cognitive, social, behavioural and physical development. Before children are able to regulate their own behaviour, their parents help them to cope with distress (e.g. hunger, fatigue, pain, fright) by reading their cues, anticipating reactions, redirecting their attention, and responding promptly to their needs. Through this initial co-regulation of experiences, children learn strategies of how to regulate for themselves more and more, resulting in independence. Hence, sensitive and responsive caregiving is importantly linked with a toddler’s ability to develop self-regulatory skills, which is vital for future success at school and in all future endeavours.
Take home message: Love really does matter!