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Brain Snacks: Attachment and the environment

In the last Brain Snack, we learned that young children have different attachment styles based on their interactions with their caregivers and within the family. With this knowledge, it is important to also understand how other external factors can affect a child in developing their attachment styles.


According to McConnell and Moss (2011), who conducted a study on attachment styles across the lifespan, caregiving behaviors, such as child rearing, employment, and mental health can greatly affect the child’s attachment formation. Infants heavily rely on how their caregiver responds to their attachment behaviors, whether it is through crying or through nonverbal cues. Because of this, it is important for the caregiver to be able to respond appropriately to these cues. If the caregiver fails to respond in such a manner, some infants may find other ways to attain the proximity that they need during that time.

Additionally, factors such as the mother’s depression can interrupt the reciprocal relationship of the mother and child, and can have an effect on the child’s attachment style if it is not addressed right away (Karakaş and Dağlı, 2019). In theory, it has been known (and even feared!) that working mothers would not be as present around their child during infancy compared to stay-at-home mothers. However, this may not be the case as maternal employment is nothing to worry about, as long as the quality of time spent with her child and her work satisfaction are both above average.

With this, we can say that it is important to not only look at the quantity of the effort that we give into raising our children, but in the quality of our relationship and time spent with the child while also taking care of ourselves as parents.


McConnell and Moss (2011) tells us that by the time our children reach the early childhood stage, the effects of maternal employment now start to wane. This is due to the fact that as infants grow into young children, they become less dependent on their primary caregivers. Although it is not to say that we should entirely let go of being sensitive and observant to the children’s cues. Even throughout early childhood, our goal as caregivers remains: to help our child feel more comfortable with interacting with their environment while feeling assured that their secure attachments will still be there.


We all know that when our children become adolescents, things start to get a little bit tricky. Hormonal, socialization, and even personality changes are evident by the time our children hit puberty. Negative life events are seen to be the strongest factor of change in attachment style in this stage as our children now become hyper-aware of everything that is happening around them. Family communication and interactions, and our children’s quest for finding their own identity also directly affect attachment styles during this stage since these are some of the pressing issues most adolescents are faced with. We can then apply this knowledge of adolescent attachment into our parenting style to make them more comfortable with talking with us to share their problems and to satisfy their curious minds. We let them feel safe and be their own self, with nothing to hide and nothing to fear.


  1. Culture and native languages: utilizing one’s cultural practices (for example, “mano po” in the Philippines) may satisfy a child’s need for proximity. It can also be a way to express themselves.

  2. Neighborhood: children are least likely to show a secure attachment when they enter a strange or unfamiliar environment

Overall, it is suggested that we become sensitive and aware of how we respond and interact with our children. With the various external factors in play, it is now up to caregivers to provide the best care and environment for our child. After all, it is at home where our children feel the safest and themselves.


California State University. (2004). Does Maternal Employment Have a Negative Effect on Child Development? Retrieved from

Karakaş, N. M., & Dağlı, F. Ş. (2019). The importance of attachment in infant and influencing factors. Turk pediatri arsivi, 54(2), 76–81.

McConnell, M & Moss, M. (2011). Attachment across the life span: Factors that contribute to stability and change. Australian Journal of Educational & Developmental Psychology ,11 (11), 60-77.

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