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TUSLA- Child and Family Agency
Public Health Agency Northern Ireland
Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Patron of Scottish Attachment in Action
Scottish Attachment in Action
Why Attachment Matters
Why Attachment Matters in Education
Mental Health Promotion Specialist
Integrative Child and Family Psychotherapist
Attachment is the basis for all early relationships. It is what shapes, forms and influences who we are and how we are with others. It is where we hurt and heal and learn how to manage. Human relationships across society are also the foundations for positive growth and wellbeing; those we have with our parents, children and partners.
Attachment theory is a theory about relationships, based on the idea that human beings evolved in kinship groups and that human survival was enhanced by the maintenance of secure bonds between parents and children and with members of the wider group [i] (Holmes, 1993).
It has been described as the brainchild of two parental figures, John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth [ii] (Bretherton, 1995). Bowlby[iii] (1969) defined attachment as an enduring affective bond characterized by a tendency to seek and maintain proximity to a specific figure, particularly when under stress. It is an inborn system in the brain that influences and organizes motivational, emotional and memory processes with respect to significant attachment figures. Based on repeated experiences of interaction with an attachment figure, the child forms internal representations of self and of relationships with others[iv] (Bowlby, 1969).
Attachment relationships are critical to the infant’s physical and emotional survival and development [v](Wallin, 2007). Ainsworth’s contribution to attachment theory centred on the development of her concept of the ‘secure base’ which created an important foundation for research methodology in child development[vi] (Ainsworth, 1978).
[i] Holmes, J. (1993) John Bowlby and Attachment Theory. London: Routledge.
[ii] Bretherton, I. (1995). The Origins of Attachment Theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. In P. Goldberg, R. Muir, and J. Kerr (Eds), Attachment Theory: social, developmental and clinical perspectives. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Analytic Press
[iii] Bowlby, J. (1969, 1973, 1980) Attachment, Separation and Loss (3 Vols). London Routledge
[iv] Bowlby, J. OpCit
[v] Wallin, D. J. (2007). Attachment in Psychotherapy. New York: Guilford Press.
[vi] Ainsworth et al (1978). Patterns of Attachment. New Jersey: Hillsdale.
• To raise awareness of the importance of healthy, secure attachment. This will include the dissemination of information to professional and to parents/caregivers. The primary message in this information will be an understanding of why attachment matters for individuals, families and society, as well as the factors that encourage and impede healthy attachment.
• To advocate for knowledge of attachment theory and practice to become a fundamental element in the education of all relevant professionals. This will include professionals in health, mental health, and social care service, as well as educational professionals including primary and secondary school teachers.
• To engage with a range of carers, educators and health and social care professionals in a way that supports their role in relation to understanding and applying attachment informed thinking and decision making in their clinical and educational practice.
• To assist in the advancement of effective attachment-informed practice through the development, support and dissemination of robust research, professional training and CPD, seminars and conferences.
• To act as a central point of contact for professionals who are trained and are working in using attachment-related approaches, so as to facilitate sharing of knowledge and expertise.
• To deliver a minimum of two annual events focused on promoting attachment.
• To advocate for the allocation of research funding to support the development of interventions that can be tailored to particular needs of individuals and groups within society, across the whole island of Ireland.
• To work with the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Government of the Republic of Ireland to encourage the consideration of cross-departmental policies and initiatives to promote healthy attachments.
We believe that improving the existing understanding of and attitudes towards attachment is essential for improving Ireland’s profile in terms of emotional health and in understanding socially destructive behaviors. We believe that a greater understanding of attachment theory can help to promote social cohesion and better outcomes in terms of physical and emotional health.
We believe in supporting parents and families through providing access to knowledge, training and expertise in attachment for professionals. We believe that understanding and supporting positive attachments during all stages of development will deepen our awareness of how physical and emotional health interact and will enhance and help to underpin social policy planning and health strategies that will help individuals and families.
To this end we aim to inform government and non-governmental agencies of the benefits of attachment theory as a fundamental theoretical base for social policy. We aim to help government and non-governmental agencies gain a greater awareness of attachment in the context of their work and in terms of policy and planning.
IAIA seeks to help support individuals and organisations to gain a greater understanding of this ‘Attachment World’ so as to make positive contributions to our families, work places and the communities we live in. Creating a greater awareness of the importance of relationship is one of our key objectives in IAIA.
We are committed to promoting more positive experiences of attachment to enhance our relationships between parents and children, within families and in society generally. We believe that improving the existing understanding of and attitudes towards attachment is essential for influencing the positive development of Ireland’s child and adult health and well-being.
We are committed to promoting better experiences of attachment in the Irish population in order to effect positive changes in policy and practice in education, care and health. We believe that it is important that our way of working is both connected and collaborative, reflecting the vision and values we cherish. In working alongside partner organisations, our intentions are to place attachment onto the political agenda and contribute to fundamental policy and legislative changes.