Worth Repeating: The Effects of Separation on Attachment

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[Source:  Special Education Advisor]


by Christen Russell, MS, BCBA

Attachments are the ties that bind (i.e.: the connection with people interacted with and comforted by). When separation occurs, children become distressed when a preferred caregiver (whom they are attached to) leaves. In toddlers, the children also try to deter the preferred caregiver from departing. Crying, reaching for, approaching and climbing on the departing caregivers are common behaviors for children during this stage to display (Berk, 2010).

There are three important factors that influence separation anxiety: child’s temperament, context of the departure and caregiver’s behavior. The child’s ability to regulate his or her emotions to the changing situation, who and where the child is left, and supportive caregivers facilitate an easy transition and decrease the amount of separation anxiety the child experiences (Berk, 2010).

Parenting style can promote or inhibit the development of healthy relationships between significant persons in the children’s lives. Healthy attachments encourage healthy adjustment as the child develops. Attachment and adjustment allow children to cultivate positive attributes needed to cope with and live a productive life (Berk, 2010).

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