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Child Abuse And Its Effects On The Child’s Ability To Form Attachments

3325 words - 14 pages

Child Abuse and Its Effects on the Child’s Ability to Form Attachments
The moment that a child is conceived begins a lifelong journey of attachment. Studies have shown that embryos begin bonding in the womb when they feel movement, hear voices, and through the stimulation of smell and taste. This attachment with a caregiver grows even stronger when the child is born and as they move into childhood develops further into other relationships. The intensity associated with the importance of this development is best described by Perry (2001), “The most important property of humankind is the capacity to form and maintain relationships. These relationships are absolutely necessary for any of us to ...view middle of the document...

Once the baby is born, he/she will need to become attached to a trustworthy caregiver. If the needs of the baby are not met, the child can develop reactive attachment disorder, along with other developmental, psychological and behavioral problems. This can also carry-over into adulthood as dissociative identity disorder along with the inability to reach or achieve developmental milestones or life goals, a severe lack of confidence in their life or unknown feelings of where they belong in the world, and the inability to develop true intimacy with others. First described by British psychoanalyst John Bowlby, attachment is a connection that enables us to feel secure, trust others, develop friendship and find intimacy. The extent to which these connections lead to a healthy development depends upon the quality of stimulation, support and nurturance in the environments where the child learns and grows. Perry explains (2001), “The attachment bond has several key elements: (1) an attachment bond is an enduring emotional relationship with a specific person; (2) the relationship brings safety, comfort, soothing and pleasure; (3) loss or threat of loss of the person evokes intense distress” (p. 2). This is also known as the maternal-child relationship that will develop the “framework” for all relationships a child encounters for the rest of his/her life. The specific clues or indicators that occur in children who have been abused or neglected with attachment disorders vary, however experienced clinicians tend to look for developmental delays, problems with eating behaviors, strange soothing behaviors, a range of emotional problems (e.g. depression, anxiety), inappropriate modeling of social behaviors, and aggression/cruelty toward others or themselves.
Many children who have experienced abuse and/or neglect struggle with forming healthy attachments throughout their lives. These exposures to violent or threatening experiences can cause the most primitive areas of the brain to become over-developed. Perry brings together a theory involving maltreatment of children and its effects on the brain through extensive research in variable clinical settings (2009), “Development is a complex and dynamic process involving billions of interactions across multiple micro (e.g., this synapse) and macro domains (e.g., maternal-child interactions)…Maltreatment disrupts this hardy process; trauma, neglect, and related experiences of maltreatment such as prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol and impaired early bonding all influence the developing brain” (p. 241). This primitive area of the brain controls our body’s responses to stressful situations. In order to handle stress and then return to a normal or calm state, a child relies on and trusts in a caregiver for reassurance and a feeling of comfort or safety. If the environment is constantly threatening or the caregiver does not meet these needs for the child, the primitive areas of the brain take over. The significance...

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