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Society's barriers to healthy parent-child attachment

Submitted by Rita Brhel on 7 December 2021

Many children in our society are not securely attached to their primary caregiver. The reason for this, in my opinion, is that the modern capitalist world is simply not designed to support the needs of young children and their parents. We live in world where work, economy, adult needs and careers, short cuts, and convenience trumps the neurobiological needs of our future generation.

Parent-child attachment is a process that starts pre-birth and is not secured until approximately the age of 3 - yes, 3!

Rarely is a new mother supported to take the necessary time from work in order to help establish the consistent, repetitive experiences our children need to establish attachment security. Within the United Kingdom, mothers are usually expected to return to work within one year - if they're lucky - with many returning at six months and some much sooner, even within weeks of her child being born. 

This makes for a confusing and complicated dilemma for a child who will actively seek his/her mother for nurture and comfort. Although a young child can clearly survive without the mother being with him/her round the clock, it does come at a price and this price can be attachment security.

Equally important is that a mother is not only physically available to her child but that she must also be emotionally available. Many of our new moms and dads feel unsupported, lost, and may struggle with postnatal issues including the under-recognized postnatal post-traumatic stress from the birth experience itself.

Despite what we might like to think, we humans are not totally independent, self-focused, and "individual" creatures. We rely on each other and have needed to do so for our species' survival.


This is the final of a 3-part series by David Stimson, therapist and managing director/cofounder of Child & Adolescent Therapy Solutions in the United Kingdom. In Part 1, we considered the under-education of new parents about attachment. In Part 2, we learned why attachment is critically important for child outcomes.


Healthy children need nurturing