The 4 Attachment Styles In Children (Explained)

The 4 Attachment Styles In Children (Explained)

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Want to understand how each of the 4 attachment styles affects how students behave in the classroom? How a child†s early years influences their ability to form relationships with adults (and even whether they feel relaxed and confident in the classroom)

In this episode, we†ll: walk you through what each the attachment styles actually means; look at the difference between an attachment difficulty and attachment disorder; and finally join the dots between attachment theory and every day classroom practice.

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Show notes / transcription

Simon Currigan  0:14  

Welcome to Episode Three of the school behaviour secrets podcast. I'm here with my co host, Mr. Shackleton. Hi,

Emma Shackleton  1:00  

Emma. Hi there,

Simon Currigan  1:01  

we've got a very exciting competition to tell you about where you can win over 100 pounds worth of behaviour goodies. I'll let you know more about that later in the programme. So do keep listening. This podcast we share actionable tips, tricks and strategies to support with behaviour in school. So that could be about the behaviour of individual students or of whole classes. Or it might be something about how behaviour functions at the whole school level about policy or strategy. The theme of today's podcast is going to be attachment.

Emma Shackleton  1:32  

So if you're a teacher or a teaching assistant, a learning mentor or a counsellor or school leader, or actually if you're a parent with an interest in attachment, there's going to be something here for you right to

Simon Currigan  1:44  

let start wading into this murky pour we call behaviour. Let's start with the obvious question. What is an attachment style?

Emma Shackleton  1:53  

Okay, so attachment styles are given to us by our parents. And they're usually formed during the early years. So when a baby is born, it's completely helpless and relies on other people for survival and the way that the primary caregiver, usually the mother, but not exclusively, but normally the mom, the way that the primary caregiver responds to meeting the baby's basic needs, determines their attachment style. So if as a baby, our parents comfort and lovers when we're distressed, interact with us regularly and predictably, then we learn that we are loved and cared for and we learn to feel secure, and that makes us feel safe enough to go out and explore the world. Because when something causes us to feel worried or anxious or distressed, we can trust that an adult will be there to back us up. Some practitioners say that your attachment style reflects an attachment injury, which can be repaired, and we'll be interviewing Catherine young in a couple of weeks to hear more about this, most likely, you'll have an attachment style, which is similar to your parents. And as we grow, those early interactions become our template for how we develop relationships later in life. Each attachment style needs its own approach and management. So once you've worked out the attachment style, you can then choose the right support strategies.

Simon Currigan  3:16  

So there was a study in 2009. And that was based on adults, but it found that only 59% of people have the secure attachment style and only roughly 18 kids in the average class would have the capacity to form secure attachments based on what happened early in their lives. 23% so that seven kids in the class of 30 would have the insecure avoidant style. And about 20% of kids who would have the insecure ambivalent attachment styles at 1% of the population is thought to have the disordered attachment or disorganised controlling style of attachment. So if you hear kids having a diagnosis of attachment disorder, that's around 1% of the population. Why is this important? It's because attachment issues can often present like autism or ADHD or other conditions. But the strategies you need to use to support kids in the classroom are different, and using the wrong strategy can be counterproductive. So we need to make sure we're matching the right strategy for the right condition. So Emma, you're going to kick off on you, we're going to look at the first attachment style, which is secure.

Emma Shackleton  4:25  

Yeah, that's right. So I'm going to start off with what's called a secure attachment. And this is assuming that the bonding process between the mother and baby is successful. That baby will then develop the simplest attachment style which we describe as securely attached. So these kids kind of got the golden ticket, they learnt that adults are there to look after them. They can be relied upon. There'll be nurtured by them. So their needs will be met. And they can rely on other people. They learn that adults can hold them in mind which means even when they are Isn't with them, they are still thinking about the welfare of that child and still acting in that child's best interest, and they are going to return to them. And they've probably also learned to successfully regulate their emotions with their adults,

Simon Currigan  5:14  

whilst 59% of adults belong to that group, I'm willing to bet that 100% of adults believe they belong to that group. So don't forget, that's only just over half your class. Let's imagine this in adult dating terms. Just to caricature it a little bit, you go out on a blind date, and you hand someone an attachment survey, because that's the first thing you do when you're on a blind date, and it comes back as secure. You have now learned that that person can form reciprocal relationships is emotionally centred, and can understand other people's needs.

Emma Shackleton  5:42  

The second type of attachment that we're going to talk about is insecure avoidant attachment. So what's happened here, then is in that early formative time, when the mother and the baby were bonding, the parents were emotionally unresponsive, the baby learns that adults are not always there to care for them. In this scenario, the parents may have maybe ignored their child's emotional needs, or rejected them when they were hurt or scared or cried for help. Sometimes, with this attachment, parents encourage the child to be independent before they're ready, things like expecting a very young child to feed themselves or dress themselves before they're actually ready to do that. Most kids go to adults for support in times of stress. But these kids learned that there's actually no point in doing that, because that support isn't going to be there for them. As a result of this attachment, they learn that the only person I can rely on is me. So what these children tend to do is focus very much on their own needs, and they ignore the needs of others, they've worked out that they can't rely on other people, it's down to them to survive. So they have to do everything for themselves. And they can only rely on themselves. So to give it a classroom context and example in class might be if they get stuck with their work, they recognise that they need help, but they don't want to have to ask for help. So what tends to happen is they get more stressed until they either explode, or they refuse to do the work. So even though adults in class are available and willing to help, the child feels very vulnerable in having to ask for help, because their early experience has taught them that adults don't always help them. So rather than put themselves in that vulnerable position, they don't ask for the help that they need. They struggle with the work which increases the anxiety that can lead them to either explosive behaviour or flat out refusals to do the work, these children tend to suffer from high levels of anxiety. And they also have a really strong fear of failure. They don't want to get it wrong, because at the end of the day, if they can't do it, and there's nobody else to help them, that's disastrous for their survival.

Simon Currigan  8:00  

In adult terms, these are people that tend to sort of engage in controlling relationships, because they want the other person's affection, but they're not quite able to predict how they're going to react. So they try and try and engage in controlling behaviours, which kind of ironically brings about the rejection that they're trying to avoid. So if you go out for your blind date on this, drag this metaphor out, you go out on your blind date, and you tally up the scores, and this person comes back as insecure avoidant on your attachment survey, then it's probably best to swipe left like, like I even know what that means. 

Up to this point, I just want to take a moment to tell you about a competition where you could get your hands on over 130 pounds worth of school behaviour goodies. We've got a stack of books by authors like Paul Dix, Tom Bennett, Stuart Shanker, Lee cansat, and Carol Dweck up for grabs. pull us three months subscription to our exclusive inner circle online programme packed with hours and hours of video training about all aspects of managing behaviour in school. To win these prizes. All you have to do is leave an honest review and rating for our show. on Apple podcasts, grab a screenshot on your phone, and email it to me at Simon at beacon school support code on UK entries are limited to one per person, and no purchase is necessary. It's completely free to enter. But I must have received your email before February the 28th 2021. Remember, we can only accept two screenshots from Apple podcasts will draw the winner at random at the start of march of 2021. You can find more details at beacon score support slash podcast competition dot php. So whatever you got to lose rate review us and send me your screenshot today and you'll be in with a chance of winning that fantastic prize pot and now It's back to the podcast. 

Okay, then let's move on to the next attachment style, which is insecure ambivalent.

Emma Shackleton  10:06  

Yeah, so an easier label for this might be anxious attachment. So for these babies, their parenting wasn't consistent. Sometimes when they needed something like feeding or changing or comforting. Sometimes an adult came and did those things and did them consistently and well. But other times they didn't. So sometimes the parent might have been very harsh, and sometimes kind. So it's really hit and miss. And the baby never knows quite what they're going to get. Because of this, this leads to anxiety and trepidation about relationships. So these children are very distrustful of adults, because they don't know which way the winds blowing this way. And remember, this is the template for all of our future relationships. So if your primary caregiver has treated you in this way, you make the assumption that that is how all adults operate. So they never learn to predict how adults will respond to their needs. Often for these children, they have a very negative view of themselves, they feel like they're not worthwhile or worthy, and a really strong fear of rejection, these children tend to engage in persistent attention seeking behaviour. So they work out ways in the classroom to get noticed, the trouble is lots of attention seeking behaviour actually works. So children learn that negative things that they do, rocking their chair, butting into conversations, throwing a pencil across the classroom tends to draw a reaction. And these children don't distinguish between negative attention and positive attention. So they'd actually rather be getting told off, they're not getting noticed at all. So what they'll do is work out ways to get notice to get spotted to get attention, even if that attention is being told off.

Simon Currigan  11:56  

Sometimes those early experiences as well can lead to difficulties with a child understanding cause and effect. So they find it difficult to learn from systems of rewards and consequences. That's something to bear in mind as well. In adult terms, this would be someone who finds relationships really difficult, they want your attention, they're not quite sure how to get it, they're anxious about you rejecting them, they engage in controlling behaviours to kind of prevent that rejection. And ultimately, those controlling behaviours result in the rejection of they're desperately trying to avoid. So you get this constant tug back and forth between the two adults. The last two styles, we've talked about a different from having an attachment disorder, which is a diagnosable condition, which is what Emma's going to talk about now.

Emma Shackleton  12:42  

No attachment disorder, remember applies to around 1% of the population. So it's a very small number of children. And this type of attachment, sadly, is caused by early trauma, abuse or neglect. Or if the child's primary caregiver disappears. So example and the death of a parent or if the child is abandoned, here, the parents behaviour was so unpredictable in that formative window that the child never learned to feel safe. In fact, they might even view their parents as a source of fear rather than comfort. If you feel like you can't trust other people, then you feel strongly that you're responsible entirely for your own safety. That's a really stressful situation for anybody to be in, let alone a baby or a young child. And what this does is it takes them into a constant fight or flight response. So thinking back to Episode Two, if you haven't listened to that yet, do go back at the end of this episode, but Stuart Shanker talks about the stress response, and how that impedes your ability to regulate your emotions.

Simon Currigan  13:49  

There's some interesting research on this actually about how stress affects life expectancy. It was done by the Finnish institute of health and welfare. And what they did was they calculated the effects of risk factors, and things like smoking and drinking and how they affected the life expectancy of men and women. Now, they found that smoking knocks about 6.6 years of your life expectancy as you'd expect diabetes about 6.5 years of your life expectancy, but stress by itself reduced your life expectancy by 2.8 years. Now, if you're in a constant state of fight or flight, because you're constantly thinking and have to protect yourself from attack and control the environment that's really going to take its toll on your health. There was another really interesting study that linked loneliness to low at life expectancy when we talk about loneliness because loneliness also is associated with high stress. And that was estimated unbelievably okay to shorten a person's lifespan by 15 years, and also there was an association between loneliness and cancer mortality risks. So when we've got these stress hormones in our body, they're associated with all sorts of conditions like high blood pressure, we get decreased resistance to infection, increased resistant cardiovascular disease, and cancer. So the impact of stress on our health is massive.

Emma Shackleton  15:09  

And if you know about childhood aces, having a disordered attachment style is a clear childhood. So these all linking together, there are things that happen in early childhood, but then impact on the way that our lives pan out for the rest of our lives. So children with this disorder, detachment will often show very controlling and manipulative behaviour, they like things to be on their own terms, because of that very chaotic start that they've had, they're looking to control everything, they want to control the situation, they want to control the people around them, because that helps to give a little bit of safety and security and predictability. That's what they're desperate for.

Simon Currigan  15:52  

One thing to bear in mind, if you're teaching a child with attachment disorder, for the first time, you might look at their record and talk to the past teachers, and they'll describe how challenging their behaviour was. But for you, they're charming, they're helpful. And you're looking at this child, and you're trying to compute, you know, how does the child in front of me, he was so helpful, and so kind, how can this be the same child who was causing real difficulties for other teachers and children with attachment disorder will sometimes go through a period where they're almost working you out that working you out emotionally, and behaviorally before they start taking before they start taking control of the environment, and attempting to control the classroom. So that's something to be aware of, because they can be very, very charming in the short term, before things start to slide, they can also be really self sabotaging. their need for control is so strong that if you use something like a reward chart, they want to control the outcome of that reward chart. So let's imagine you set up a reward chart. And they're building up to you know, some reward on a Friday afternoon, if they've been good for the whole week, they get through to Wednesday, they get through to Thursday, things are going well. They're getting lots of good praise for their good behaviour. On Friday morning, they might then deliberately engage in negative behaviour to sabotage that reward chart, we can think what's going on here. Remember, they would draw the be in control of the failure them feel manipulated by the adult. And of course, that high stress that we were talking about earlier living in that high stress state is going to hold back their learning is going to impact on their ability to learn new information and remember it so to bring this back to my final dating metaphor, this person is going to be emotionally unavailable and manipulative unless they're getting some serious therapy, delete the app from your phone.

Emma Shackleton  17:41  

So the four main attachment styles that we've spoken about then secure, insecure, avoidant, insecure ambivalent or anxious attachment, and disordered attachment. As we've said, each of these will need a different teaching style, then it can be difficult to unpick Simon's already mentioned that attachment can present in a very similar way to other conditions such as ADHD and autism. If you want to know more, and you're trying to work out one or some of the children in your class, we've got a really helpful tool called our SDN handbook. And what that does is help you to unpick the difference between those conditions. So it's not about making a diagnosis because as educators, we're not qualified to do that. But it's about linking behaviours that you see with possible causes, so that you can start to try some of those strategies and support the child in the right way. It's free to download. So if you go to our website, click on the free resources section near the top and you'll see the SDN Handbook, and the link will also be displayed in the show notes to next episode, we're going to speak to Sarah hagl, from peacemakers, about how to get a programme of restorative practice up and running in your school. And that interview is full of practical hints and strategies, so don't miss it.

Simon Currigan  19:01  

Our website is beacon school support Also, don't forget to enter our competition, we've got just shy of 100 pounds worth of books about behaviour in schools to give away including running the room by Tom Bennett, assertive discipline by Lee County and take control of a noisy class by Rob plevin. We're also going to throw in a three month subscription to our own inner circle online programme that's got over 20 videos and resources about successful behaviour management in schools. That by itself is worth almost 40 pounds if you want to win. All you've got to do is give this podcast an honest rating and review on Apple podcasts and email a screenshot to Simon at beacon school And we'll pick one lucky winner at the start of March. One entry per person, no purchase necessary. Get your entries in before February 28 2021. And remember we can only accept screenshots from Apple podcasts and we can't accept screenshots from family members, so sorry, mom. Finally, if you've liked what you've heard today and you don't want to miss another episode, open your podcast app now and press the subscribe button. What that will do is automatically down the next episode, so it's waiting for you each and every week. Thank you for listening to score behaviour secrets. Have a great week, and we look forward to talking to you again in the next episode.

Emma Shackleton  20:25  

See you next time.

(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)