“If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.” – Carl Jung, Founder of Analytical Psychology, Swiss Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst
Attachment to Both Parents Predict Preschool Children’s Emotional Regulation
A 2021 Portuguese longitudinal study measured the influence of parent-child attachments at age 3 on the child’s capacity for emotional regulation at age five. Emotional regulation is the child’s ability to balance his emotions so that he can engage in the new task at hand.
- When children are securely attached to both parents, they have optimum capacity to regulate their emotions so as to engage in the task at hand.
- Father and mother contribute to emotional regulation in very different ways. For instance, playing with father generates greater intensity of emotions, thus giving very different experiences than mother gives.
- A lack of secure attachment with one parent is compensated somewhat by secure attachment to the other parent.
Data Source and Description: 53 Portuguese, always-intact middle-class families. Children were mostly girls (53 percent). More than half of parents (55 percent of mothers and 59 percent of fathers) had a college degree. Most parents worked full time (96 percent of mothers and 98 percent of fathers).
Brain Structure Differences Are Associate with Different Infant-Parent Attachment Styles
A 2019 Dutch study measured the association between different infant-parent attachment styles and brain (hippocampus) structures.
If the mother/caregiver is not consistently responsive, some infants form an insecure, but organized attachment pattern (i.e., avoidant or resistant). Other infants, however, develop a disorganized attachment, another variation of infant attachment; these infants display contradictory behaviors when exposed to stress. These combinations result in four different attachment styles.
Secure vs Insecure (which has two subsets: disorganized and organized [which has two more sub-sets of its own: anxious and avoidant]).
The major finding was that only one style — disorganized infant attachment — had larger hippocampal volumes than all the rest. The hippocampus (which has a major role in memory) likely contextualizes new fearful social situations, linking them to these original fear-inducing patterns of interaction with the caregiver/mother.
Data Source and Description: 551 children from The Generation R (Rotterdam) Study in the Netherlands (born between April 2002 and January 2006) who met all the criteria for the study, were included
During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Parents’ Emotional Health Influenced Their Children’s Emotional and Behavioral Health
A 2021 American opportunity study assessed the link between parent emotional health and child emotional and behavioral health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Descriptors—During the pandemic
- 42.percent of parent had mild depression,
- 47 percent of parents had mild anxiety,
- 51.4 percent of parents had traumatic clinical concerns,
- 82.9 percent of children had no indications of the severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
- 54.4 percent were severely impacted by the pandemic
- Daughters compared to sons were characterized by their parents as having more emotional health issues
- Sons compared to daughters were characterized by their parents as having significantly higher behavioral health issues
Contributing and mitigating factors:
- The more the parent-child relationship was characterized by conflict the greater the probability of negative emotional or behavioral outcomes. The more positive the parent-child relationship the less likely were negative emotional or behavioral outcomes.
- Parents’ emotional health was the best predictor of their children’s emotional and behavioral health
Data Source and Description: An opportunity sample of 158 parents in the US with at least one child (age 6-12), recruited by Facebook advertisements, fliers to social and professional networks, and fliers to parenting groups in New York and California. Ninety-two percent of participants were White. Twenty-nine states were included, with the largest groups from NY (16.5 percent) and CA (13.3 percent). Nearly 90 percent of parents were married or cohabiting. Nearly 60 percent reported a household income over $100,000. Almost half had two children.