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Is Attachment Parenting the same as attachment therapy?

Attachment Parenting is not the same as the controversial and abusive practice of attachment therapy.

Developmentally appropriate attachment parenting practices are based on mainstream psychological attachment theory which was first conceived by John Bowlby (1951, 1982) and Mary Ainsworth (1982; Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978). The cornerstone of developmentally appropriate attachment parenting is parental emotional sensitivity to children. Emotional sensitivity refers to a parent's anticipating and being sensitive to a child's needs and then attempting to meet those perceived needs. Attachment parenting includes warm, affectionate responses to a child's bids for attention. This style of parenting is neither controlling nor coercive, unlike so-called attachment therapy that includes

"holding therapy" (Welch, 1988) and coercive, restraining or aversive procedures such as deep tissue massage, aversive tickling, punishments related to food and water intake, enforced eye contact, requiring children to submit totally to adult control over all their needs, barring children's access to normal social relationships outside the primary parent or caretaker, encouraging children to regress to infant status, reparenting, and attachment parenting [italics added] or techniques designed to provoke cathartic emotional discharge. (p. 83)"


Other parenting behaviors that make up the attachment style of parenting include infant-focused prenatal activities; breastfeeding, when possible, to encourage closeness and healthy development; maintaining close physical proximity through frequent touch, carrying, and physical contact and stimulation with the infant; establishing nighttime routines that support an infant's need for closeness; and avoiding long caregiver–child separations. As children age, attachment parenting continues to include age-appropriate proximity maintenance behaviors, age-appropriate levels of touch, a democratic style of communication and problem solving, and parents' use of inductive reasoning techniques to help children learn positive behaviors. Most of all, regardless of a child's age, attachment parenting refers to a parent's ability to empathize with how a child is feeling and to how a parent views those feelings as important and worthy of parental response.

Hopefully, the distinction between controversial, abusive parenting and therapeutic practices versus developmentally appropriate attachment parenting is now clearer. Practitioners and therapists aiming to promote secure parent–child attachment relationships now understand that attachment parenting is unrelated to anything abusive or controversial.