Almudena Fernández: "It is very important to take care of the attachment with our children".
Psychologist Almudena Fernández Ayensa talks about the effects of attachment on child development.
The way in which we interact with the environment and with others, as well as the way in which the outside world interacts with us, is a key factor in understanding how we develop during childhood.
In the early years of development, we are very sensitive to what happens to us, and also to the type of relationships we establish with others. An example of this is infant attachment, a psychological phenomenon that is a determining factor in the way we develop and become adults. and become adults. To talk about this topic, we have interviewed psychologist Almudena Fernández Ayensa.
Interview with Almudena Fernández Ayensa: attachment and its importance in child development
Almudena Fernández Ayensa is a health psychologist expert in the care of adults, children and adolescents, and works in her office in Alcobendas and also online. In this case she talks to us about one of the most important phenomena in the field of Developmental Psychology: the attachment developed during the first months of childhood.
How would you define attachment established during infancy?
Attachment is the type of relationship that the child establishes with primary caregivers; it is usually the mother.
This bond is very important, since it conditions the child's future personality, and what his or her future relationships will be like. The stage that most influences the future personality is from pregnancy to the age of three, which is when the child is more dependent and his brain is in formation, but at any age it is very important to take care of the attachment with our children to avoid future problems.
Why is the relationship created between the baby and its parents important for its development?
The three fundamental pillars of attachment are, in the first place, to give security to our children, to make them feel that we are behind them, protecting them, and that if they have any problem, if they ask us for help, we will respond. In this way the child learns to feel safe, which helps him to accept controlled risks and to ask for help.
Another important pillar is to help them to explore, not to overprotect them. The child learns by experimenting, we must let him try to do things by himself and only help him when he asks for it. This will increase their curiosity, reflective thinking, frustration tolerance and self-esteem. Nothing makes you feel prouder than having overcome a challenge.
Finally, understand and connect with him, both in terms of thinking and emotionally. We must create a climate of trust, so that the child feels safe to tell us the things that happen and worry them. We must also help them to understand and regulate their emotions, since children are not born with this ability, but it is something they learn from their parents. In this way they will be psychologically healthier in the future, they will learn to trust others and will be more open and tolerant in their relationships, having grown up without being judged and with empathetic parents.
How are trauma based on childhood experiences, on the one hand, and attachment arising from interaction with the family, on the other, related?
Recent research shows that they are closely related. In this sense, there are four types of attachment.
Secure attachment appears when the child grows up in an environment of affection and security without overprotection; normally these are people who do not have psychological problems in adulthood, unless they have suffered some traumatic experience, such as accidents, catastrophes, ectopias, and even then they have more resources and overcome them more easily than people who have not grown up in a close and secure environment.
Disorganized attachment occurs when the child has suffered some type of mistreatment, physical or psychological, abuse, abandonment or intrusion; there is a possibility of more than 80% that as an adult this child will develop some type of pathology.
Then there is anxious attachment, which occurs with very worried parents, who tend to overprotect their children; as adults they will tend to be anxious, the world will seem dangerous to them, they will be more immature than their peers, and they will tend to be more dependent.
Avoidant attachment is characterized by having parents who are cold and distant with their children: they pay little attention to them, especially emotionally, and focus mainly on results. They are not very empathic. Their children will tend to be overly demanding, will often have anxiety problems and will not know how to regulate their emotions and depression when they do not achieve their goals.
As a psychologist, have you seen many cases in which the attachment formed in childhood explains part of the problems affecting adult patients?
Yes, almost all of my patients have problems with the attachment they received in their childhood, this influences them a lot in the way they see the world, and in their current relationships, with their children and their partners.
Some people think that the attachment they received cannot be changed, and that the way they were treated by their parents has no solution. But this is not true, the attachment received can be repaired, no matter how badly our parents did it. In this way we will avoid giving a bad attachment to our children.
Is it usual that children who have not developed an adequate type of attachment can overcome by themselves, without professional psychological help, the problems that come their way because of this?
Without professional help, I don't think so. It is possible to repair the attachment, but it is a work that requires effort and constancy and work, whenever possible with the whole context of the child: parents, school, as well as with the child, of course.
If we do not work, the problems usually worsen with time, and it is a pity, since with children it is much easier to achieve good results, and we can avoid many future problems.
How can psychotherapy work to help people who have developed dysfunctional attachment patterns?
The technique I use is The Circle of Security. This technique helps parents to identify their children's needs and meet them, so that when we are more efficient in understanding our children, they behave better, they are more secure and happier and the relationship with them improves. We also teach parents to set limits and help children to regulate their emotions.
With adults, I start by identifying from their history the possible mistakes that parents have made with them, that is, if they have had absent, demanding, very critical, unemotional parents...
Then, with EMDR therapy, I repair the dysfunctional memories that have given rise to the current problems while at the same time resources that the person has not been able to learn in their childhood because they did not have adequate models, such as social skills or emotional regulation, are installed. In this way the patient can come to have an acquired secure attachment model, and in the future will face the problems with more resources and in a more secure way.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)