... a distinction is made between attachment and attachment behaviors.

Attachment denotes the affective bonding experience the feeling of mutual dependence known or felt by an individual but not necessarily behaviorally expressed. Attachment specifies an experience of interpersonal intimacy and closeness where support has the promise of reaching beyond the present. In a sense, attachment formation is another way of conceptualizing what is generally called "developing a relationship." Attachment emerges when a relationship moves beyond a beginning phase. It is a common event in early child development during the second half of a babys first year. It is then, at this particular point of development, that stable hierarchies of preferences (attachment) develop. It is also the time when a good deal of trouble starts, such as the childs preference for one parent over the other, or demands for a parents presence over a previously acceptable babysitter. These manifestations are promising signals that the individual is well on the way in his or her maturing process. These child developmental incidents are matched by similar occurrences in the selective attachments to different workers by the children in group care settings and by evidence of fluctuating feelings as work shifts change or substitute care workers are introduced. Attachments occur and are needed at any point in a persons life (Bowlby, 1969; Bronfenbrenner, 1976; Sroufe & Waters, 1977). After all, one of the signs of maturity is to have the capacity to choose on whom one will depend and to maintain such an attachment over time.

Attachment behaviors, as the words already imply, represent efforts of striving towards attachment but in no way constitute attachment as such. Attachment behaviors signal that the individuals self-management capacity is experienced as unsteady. Attachment behaviors can be described by such proximity-seeking efforts as clinging, staying close, or repeatedly posing self-evident questions (e.g., "What time is it?", "When do we eat?") which actually are a cry to be noticed and included. It is useful in practice to be aware of this differentiation and to recognize attachment. Appropriate actions have to be directed toward the process of attachment formation rather than the attachment behaviors themselves. Attachment behaviors, moreover, are intrinsic and natural human reactions and are not merely peculiarities of children in group care settings. Studies of securely attached children bring out that in moments of stress, such as at points of separation, they seek the proximity of the care giver. After reciprocal response of inclusion by, the care giver, these children can subsequently handle the separation more competently. In contrast, children with uncertainties in their attachments will either avoid falling back upon their primary care givers or will have added difficulties in facing the changed situation (Kagan, 1978; Sroufe, 1978, p. 56).

Applied to group care this means that such daily care events in attachment strivings should be dealt with as attachment seeking ventures rather than as behavioral expression per se. Frequently, when a child screams about other childrens behavior with such penetrating volume that it can be heard in the farthest corner, this call is a cry of loneliness and a sense of desertion rather than a mere act of disruptive behavior. Workers may want to conceive of these cries as reminders that the particular youngster needs much active assurance of being included by the worker, possibly right at that critical moment or perhaps later on. The childs loud screams, i.e., the attachment behavior, is not the point to be addressed. Thus, the tempting reaction of shouting back: "Stop your screaming!" would need to be swallowed in preference to a caring response which has significance to the youngster.


Maier, H. (1987)  Developmental group care of children and youth: Concepts and practice. New York: The Haworth Press, pp.50-52



















Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and Loss, Vols. I and II. London: Hogarth Press.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1976). The Family Circle: A Story of Fragmentation.  Principal, 55(5), 11-24.
Kagan, J. (1977). The Child in the Family. Daedalus, 106 (Spring), 33-56.
Sroufe, L. A. & Waters, E. (1977). Attachment as an Organizational Construct. Child Development, 48(4), 1184-1199.
Sroufe, L,A. (1978). Attachment and the Roots of Competence. Human Nature, 1(10), 50-57.