What is attachment?

The term attachment is used to refer to the emotional relationship between a baby and the person who has spent the most time caring for the baby, usually the mother. It brings pleasure to both and provides the baby with a comforting sense of security and safety.

From six months onwards (peaking at around 12months) the baby exhibits attachment behaviours. He shows a desire for closeness to the attachment figure in a variety of ways:

  • Following her with his eyes or moving himself to be close, especially in new situations
  • Separation anxiety when the attachment figure is not present
  • Crying if she leaves
  • Excitement on her return
  • Clinging behaviour on her return as if he fears she will leave again
  • Fear of strangers

There is evidence that, even though the attachment behaviours aren’t present yet, a newborn infant shows a preference for his mother.

Infants need to develop a close relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional development to occur normally.