How does attachment develop?

Babies are born ‘programmed’ to seek out and communicate with those around them. The biological capacity to bond and form attachments is present at birth, driven by the baby’s basic instinct to survive, since the human infant is defenceless and depends on a care giving adult for survival.

Bonding is the process of forming an attachment. (Perry, 2001) and begins at birth (if not before).  For example, Beauchemin (2010) found that newborns’ brains were activated more by their mother’s voice than a stranger’s.

Pre-attachment behaviour occurs in the first six months of life as infants smile, babble and cry to attract the attention of caregivers. Between two to six months, the infant begins to discriminate between familiar and unfamiliar adults and becomes more responsive to the caregiver. Clear-cut attachment is established between the ages of six months and two years. Now the infant displays a range of attachment behaviours designed to maintain closeness. Between the ages of 2 and 3 a securely attached infant will start to explore further away from the mother and for longer periods. It is around this age that the child may be ready to spend some limited time in group daycare or at pre-school, but the age at which a child feels secure enough to manage this separation well varies considerably between children.