Does Daycare Cause Attachment Issues?

Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    It has been of interest to parents, legislators, and developmental academics for a very long time whether or if the experience of children with caregivers other than their mothers influences their development and, if so, how. Ever since Bowlby promulgated attachment theory, thinking derived from it has led some to expect daycare, especially when initiated in the earliest years of life, to undermine the security of infant-parent attachment relationships. Some people believed that this was due to the fact that infants had to be taken away from their mothers (or other primary caregivers) when they attended daycare, and that this separation from the attachment figure was intrinsically stressful.

    A mother's ability to offer sensitive care is the key factor that determines a child's level of safety, and separation can make it more difficult for her to do so, which can indirectly increase the risk of danger (i.e., separation-insensitivity-insecurity).

    A final reason for anticipating a link between daycare and attachment security was because security reflected general emotional well-being, so adverse effects of daycare in infancy would manifest themselves as insecure attachment.

    What Is Attachment?

    Child Care Today focuses on getting things right for everyone involved. A British psychologist by the name of Penelope Leach asserts that biologically speaking, mothers are typically the first "attachment figures" that children have, but that they are not necessarily the only viable caregivers. "A mother's love for her child does not require that she be physically present with the infant... Attachments to fathers (and other loving caregivers) can develop in young children in a way that is not subordinate to, but rather distinct from, attachments to their mothers "Leach argues.

    In their book titled "Attachment and Loss," the British psychiatrist John Bowlby, who is considered to be the "father of attachment theory," and the American psychologist Mary Ainsworth, who co-authored the book, stressed the relevance of the first infant/mother link in historical studies. He came to the conclusion that the key to a good learner is a home that is safe, secure, and stable, in addition to having an atmosphere that is empathic and caring.

    Negative behaviours are what we might expect to see in children if our society fails to support their attachment needs. Twenty years ago, I began a career as a school social worker and parent educator. During that time, I worked with children from kindergarten through grade 12 and their families. During that time, I observed a great number of bright children who were unable to function well due to behavioural, emotional, and psychological issues.

    Gordon Neufeld, a developmental psychologist, identifies the order of priorities for parents as follows: first, parents should strive to have a healthy attachment with their children; second, children should mature (within the context of a secure attachment); and third, children should only then begin to socialise. Looking for an early learning centre in Sydney ? Then Little Angels early learning centre  is what you’re looking for. 

    4 Regardless of who looks after the child during the day, the adult is always responsible for establishing and maintaining a positive relationship with the child as a top priority. This obligation falls squarely on the adult's shoulders.

    Developing Reactive Attachment Disorder: Is it Avoidable?

    What causes RAD?

    When young children receive insufficient care and little to no emotional reaction from their caretakers, there is a possibility that they will develop reactive attachment disorder. This puts the child at risk for developing RAD. Researchers have discovered that there is a correlation between the length of time someone is deprived of something and the intensity of their symptoms. The primary cause is neglect, however there are many different ways in which a caregiver can fail to provide adequate care for a kid.

    • If a child is neglected by his or her caregivers and does not receive adequate comfort, affection, or stimulation: A youngster has an ongoing requirement for both physical and emotional affection, in addition to mental stimulation. When a child does not receive enough of any one of these things—physical touch, food, baths, or social interactions—the child may develop an attachment disorder. This disorder can be caused by a reduction or elimination of any one of these items. Other examples of neglect include leaving a child unattended in a crib or playpen on a regular basis, skipping late-night feedings, or not interacting with the child at all.
    • a lack of secure attachments as a result of frequent transitions in primary caregivers: Parenting can be extremely challenging, particularly if you are also juggling the responsibilities of a full-time job or are raising your child on your own. There is a clear need for babysitters and daycares; nonetheless, it is not advisable to switch providers of childcare on a regular basis. The youngster may experience emotional distress as a result of the constant shift, which can be exacerbated by frequent changes in babysitters, daycare providers, or nannies. For children to be able to trust their caregivers and feel secure in their surroundings, they require situations that are consistent and allow them to have long-term interactions with the same person.
    • Receiving care in environments that provide a reduced chance of developing an attachment: A kid may be required to reside in a different environment, such as a foster home, if one or both of the child's parents are incarcerated or frequently admitted and discharged from the hospital. When a kid enters a foster home, they may be moved between homes on a regular basis. This prevents the child from developing an attachment to their caregiver and disrupts their ability to properly care for themselves.

    Risk Factors for RAD

    Being socially ignored or unnoticed

    • Growing up in an institution such as an orphanage or other similar environment
    • Moving amongst multiple foster homes
    • being taken away against one's will from a household where there is violence or neglect
    • Having a mother who is severely affected by postpartum depression after giving birth to a child
    • Experiencing several forms of tragic loss or critical life transitions with a primary caregiver

    Preventing RAD

    RAD can be avoided, even in situations when it might not be possible to avoid it, such as when parents adopt or foster their children. By providing their children with sufficient opportunities for emotional involvement, physical affection, and mental stimulation, biological parents and carers play the most important role in the prevention of RAD.

    There are some parents who are unable to accomplish this because they battle with their mental health or even because they have a problem with substance addiction. Because of the severity of the potential consequences for their child, these parents need to get assistance from a qualified specialist as soon as possible. It is possible for caregivers to prevent the development of reactive attachment disorder in their infants by emotionally engaging with their children. Emotional engagement might manifest itself in the following ways:

    • Maintaining direct gaze contact
    • Face and voice expressions should be tailored to match the baby's state of mind.
    • reducing the amount of time spent on distractions like technology
    • Participating in the care of the child in activities such as changing his diaper or giving him a bath
    • Singing to or for the infant
    • Smiling at the baby
    • Having fun with the young child

    Get help for yourself


    As a parent, caring for a child who has RAD might at times feel next to impossible, and as a result, you need to make sure that you are taking care of yourself. Joining a community group, a self-help group, or a support group can help you connect with other parents of children who have reactive attachment disorder (RAD). If you want to be able to take care of your child in a way that is both proper and healthy, you need to make sure that you are having fun, exercising, and getting enough sleep. See our list of available early learning programs Sydney to help you make an informed decision for your child. 

    A clinical content writer with a medical degree, Kristen Fuller, M.D., particularly appreciates writing on evidence-based issues that pertain to the cutting-edge realm of mental health and addiction medicine. She practises family medicine, writes books, and is an educator who also makes contributions to the education of medical board members. Her life's work is to spread awareness about diseases that may be prevented, particularly those related to mental health and the stigma that surrounds them. She is also an outdoor activist, and she devotes the majority of her spare time to encouraging other women to explore the backcountry and the great outdoors.

    Six Ideas to Develop Good Attachments Regardless of Care Type

    Having a child's attachment disorder treated by having the parent lose their work is not exactly the perfect option. Instead, adults who take care of children, such as parents, grandparents, nannies, and those who work in daycare, all need to work towards the same shared aim, which is to foster a child's connection to love and dependable adult role models.

    For the purpose of forming and sustaining attachments to a variety of adult caregivers, Neufeld advises recreating the concept of the attachment village that was used in earlier generations. Here are six helpful hints that can be applied in the construction of your attachment village:

    • Neufeld counsels parents to foster connections among family, friends, and other reliable and responsible adults as a first method to develop good parent-child attachment. This extends the network of positive adults involved and caring about your child's life. Cultivating social relations in familiar settings like neighbourhoods allows children to feel at home without being at home.
    • Create trust with the caregiver. In whatever form of child care, you use, spend time with the caregiver, showing your child you trust the daycare provider. As the child sees how their parent has a good relationship with the caregiver, they learn to trust the caregiver.
    • Ensure the caregiver is mindful of attachment principles. The caregiver should purposefully invite the child into the space. Neufeld recounts from his memory how his grade one teacher welcomed him with tremendous effect. He calls it "collecting" our children, which is part of inviting them into a relationship with you. "After my mother deposited me in the doorway of my first-grade class, and before I had a chance to be distracted by another child, this wonderful smiling woman came gliding across the room and engaged me in a most friendly way, greeting me by name, telling me how glad she was that I was in her class, and assuring me what a good year we were going to have. I am sure it took her very little time to collect me. After that, I was all hers and rather immune to other attachments. I didn't need them; I was already taken," he describes.
    • Understand that attachments to different adults don't compete. They cooperate. Adults and children alike need to realize that increasing attachment for another adult does not mean decreasing attachment to a parent. The caregiver can say nice things about the parent, and the parent can likewise complement the caregiver. "Our job is to make sure a working attachment covers the child with an adult at all times and that we function as an attachment relay team. We need to make sure we have successfully passed the attachment baton before we let go.
    • Slow down morning routines, so you do not rush small children out the door. Gordon Neufeld writes about how meaningful it was to wake up ten minutes earlier with his children: "We designated two comfortable chairs in our den as warm-up chairs. Right after the boys woke up, my wife Joy and I put them on our laps, held them, played and joked with them until the eyes were engaged, the smiles were forthcoming, and the nods were working. After that, everything went much more smoothly. It was well worth the investment of getting up ten minutes earlier to start the day with this collecting ritual instead of going directly into high-gear parenting.
    • Giving your child a locket or other memento with your picture on it so that s/he can look at it will remind a child of a parent's love even when apart. There are different ways to nurture this connection, including little notes or a phone call during the day. The latter may not be possible for busy caregivers. However, ideals are important quite apart from what is feasible in the care systems we have created. It also helps if parents can tell their children as much as possible about their work. It's something we do with loved adults, and children can benefit from understanding (to whatever extent is realistic) of a parent's work activities.

    The results of a study that was carried out by the National Institute of Kid Health and Youth Development showed that the everyday activities of a family have a greater influence on the attachment that a mother has with her child than does daycare. The conclusion that "cognition, language, and social development at ages 2 years, 3 years, and 412 years showed almost little evidence suggesting that child outcomes were connected to whether or not the child experienced routine child care" was one of the most important discoveries made by the researchers. The question now is, what exactly did seem to make a difference? The nature, degree of frequency, and level of consistency of the interactions that occur between a mother and her kid.

    This indicates that developing and maintaining a relationship with your child is beneficial to both of your relationships and should help soothe your concerns about your child's daycare destroying what you've worked so hard to establish. In order to cultivate that relationship with your child, the website Psych Central provided a number of suggestions for establishing a safe attachment with your child, which will, in the long run, make all the difference. You can feel secure that the relationship you have with your child is important and connective by doing things like displaying affection, responding when your infant is unhappy, and maintaining a predictable routine. These are just few of the ways in which you can do these things.

    For anxious parents who are concerned about sending their child to daycare, gaining an understanding of how the parent-child connection is forged should provide some measure of comfort. Try to keep your attention on all of the ways that you may make the most of the time you spend together rather than dwelling on the potential unfavourable outcomes. Both you and your child should hopefully feel more at ease about the impending move to daycare if you spend quality time with your child and educate yourself on the various aspects of this widespread worry.

    How to parent for a secure attachment and how to know if it's working.

    "It is really vital that the newborn understands how significant they are." A caregiver needs to be involved, attentive, sympathetic, and responsive to the person they are caring for.

    Sroufe provides the following explanation: "The baby will instruct you what to do." "They don't have many ways to communicate what they require, so it's not hard to figure out what they want: if they're fussing, it means they want something. If they are reaching out with their arms, it is a sign that they want to be picked up. In addition, if you misinterpret their signals, they will continue to do so until you get it right." He uses the illustration of feeding a baby with a bottle as an example: "She considers the possibility that the baby needs a break while she looks around. What does the young child need? to get a good look! If the parent misreads and tries to put the bottle back into the infant's mouth, the infant will demand, and the parent may find that she snaps her head away or pulls away more forcefully." If you're looking for a Early Learning Centre Sydney that develops children's unique capabilities, you’re in the right place. 

    A customer of mine who was carrying her baby for six months asked me, "How can I tell whether my kid is securely attached?" Attachment is not readily apparent until approximately nine months after birth; nevertheless, there are indications that a healthy attachment is developing before to this time:

    0-3 months:

    • The baby's physiology is just settling as the baby cycles quickly among feeding, sleeping, and alert wakefulness. Meeting the baby's needs at different points in the cycle helps establish stability.
    • At this point, the baby has no clear preference for one person over another.
    • In her quiet, alert state, the baby is interested in the faces and voices around her.

    4-8 months:

    • Attempts to soothe the baby are usually effective at calming her down. (Caveat: An inability to soothe might not be predictive of insecurity but rather point to one of a host of other possible issues.)
    • The primary caregiver has positive interactions with the baby where the back-and-forth is pleasant.
    • The baby has calm periods where she is interested in the world around her. She explores and experiments to the extent she is physically able to—looking, grasping, reaching, babbling, beginning crawling, exploring objects with her mouth, hands, etc.
    • Infants begin to discriminate between people and start to show preferences. They direct most of their emotions (smiles, cries) toward the caregiver but are still interested in strangers.
    • They are very interested in the people they often see, especially siblings.

    9 months:

    • The baby shows a clear preference for a primary caregiver.
    • The baby shows wariness toward strangers, though the degree varies with temperament.
    • The baby is easily upset when separated from her primary caregiver, though that, too, goes with temperament.
    • The baby is easily soothed after separation and can resume her exploration or play.

    9 months – 3 years:

    • The child shows a clear emotional bond with a primary person.
    • The child stays close to that person but forms close relationships with other people around a lot, too, e.g., babysitter, siblings.

    Keeping a firm grasp on our kids, especially in those early years, is one of the most difficult challenges we face as parents. Fortuitously, parents have nature on their side because, in the end, children want to be with them and want to look up to them. This is an advantage that parents may take advantage of. According to a recent Ted Talk, children learn more in their first four years of life from unstructured activities than they do throughout their whole official schooling.

    Children only reach their full potential as learners when they are immersed in environments that foster healthy relationships (attachments). It is of considerably greater significance than the majority of parents and other caregivers understand to cultivate an adult orientation as well as attachment to dependable, mature adults. The gravity of this situation becomes more apparent when you are unable to secure the child care that you require. Regardless of the type of care that a child receives, the good news is that we can all work towards greater attachment and children who are more adult-oriented.

    FAQs About Attachment Issues

    Available data indicate that, for most children, parental attachment processes are not disrupted by daycare participation. ... In fact, for some children, secure attachment with caregivers in daycare may compensate for the adverse effects of insecure parent-child relations.

    According to research, enrollment in a high-quality daycare center can have a significant, long-lasting impact on children's social and emotional development. Consistent socialization and play in early childhood have been associated with higher levels of empathy, resilience, and prosocial behavior later in life.

    Insecure attachments develop if early interactions between a child and their caregiver are negative, inconsistent, inappropriate, neglectful or abusive. When a child's care giver and home environment is a source of fear rather than a source of safety, this can be highly toxic to a child's development.

    Causes. No one knows exactly why some children develop attachment disorders while others living in the same environment don't. But researchers agree there is a link between attachment disorders and significant neglect or deprivation, repeated changes in primary caretakers, or being reared in institutional settings.

    Attachment is formed when a parent responds to their child's needs in a manner that is warm, sympathetic, and consistent. This is of the utmost significance whenever your infant is ill, upset, or otherwise distressed. As you go about your everyday routines with your baby, providing care for them and engaging with them, the bond that you have with them will also grow.

    Scroll to Top