Attachment difficulties can develop when the early bonding between parent and baby is interrupted in some way. Life circumstances can undermine the parent’s emotional wellbeing, making it difficult for the new parent to bond with their baby.
Issues such as bereavement, poor physical or mental health or trauma can contribute towards postnatal depression, a risk factor for attachment difficulties.
Having a baby can trigger painful memories of childhood experiences and parents who’ve had difficult relationships with their own parents might find it difficult to adjust to parenthood. This doesn’t always interfere with the bonding process, but it is a risk factor.
All the behaviours below can be seen in most children and young people. When there is an attachment issue, the behaviours will be noticeably more extreme and persist over a longer period of time.
Challenging behaviour might be caused by emotional distress associated with an insecure attachment relationship.
For advice on bonding with your new baby, please see our Bonding with your new baby page.
You can help build a healthy attachment throughout your baby’s childhood by:
All these approaches can be adapted for work with teenagers, for example playing cards or ball games.
If you’re caring for young people with more significant attachment issues, such as fostered or adopted children, use the techniques above and discuss any concerns with your social worker.
Below is a video showing how baby massage can help you to bond with your new baby.
If you’ve concerns, speak to your Health Visitor, child's school or social worker.
Books that you may also find helpful include: