Introduction to Attachment Theory

  • Attachment theory was devised by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby. Within attachment theory, infant behaviour associated with attachment is primarily the seeking of (Close) proximity to an attachment figure in stressful situations; the caregiver.
  • Attachment theory suggests that Infants become attached to adults who are sensitive and responsive in social interactions with them, and who remain as consistent caregivers for some months during the period from about six months to two years of age. Attachment theory indicates that during the latter part of this period, children begin to use attachment figures (familiar people) as a secure base to explore from and return to.


  • From an attachment theory perspective, attachment means an affectional bond or tie between an individual and an attachment figure (usually a female or male caregiver). Such bonds are based on the child’s need for safety, security and protection, paramount in infancy and childhood.


  • The theory proposes that children attach to carers instinctively, for survival. Meins et al., 2002 research developed the important concept of mind-mindedness to describe the ability of a parent to understand and respond not only to the infant’s feelings but also to their thinking.


  • Thus, attachment theory suggests Infants form attachments to consistent caregivers, who are sensitive and responsive in social relationships with them.


  • The promotion of secure attachments contributes to a good Ofsted gradings, for Independent fostering providers, under the Ofsted Social care common inspection framework (SCIFF) framework, if the care and help assist children and young people ‘to develop a positive self-view and to increase their ability to form and sustain attachments and build emotional resilience and a sense of their own identity’ and the care and help ‘also helps them to overcome any previous experiences of neglect and trauma’.


  • Therefore, the quality of the social relationship, between the child and caregiver is more influential than the amount of time spent they spend together. The theory indicates that the biological mother is the usual principal attachment figure, but the role can be taken by anyone who consistently promotes nurturing over a significant period. Such nurturing involves behaviours that involves engaging in social interaction with the infant and appropriately responding readily to behavioural signals shown by the child.



  • See below for some useful attachment theory information hyperlinks:

Diploma in Residential Child Care – A5_FLYER_DIGITAL. secure pdf secure base