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Attachment Parenting: A Natural and Scientific Approach to Raising Children in Today’s Society

Updated on November 8, 2012
CC, BY-SA 2.0 via flickr
CC, BY-SA 2.0 via flickr | Source

Forming a strong bond with a child that is based on nurturance, compassion and respect is the very essence of attachment parenting. Research has clearly shown that children who are raised in accordance with this model have grown to become adults who are independent and who have healthy and meaningful relationships for life. Furthermore, these same adults have a significantly lower risk of developing a multitude of emotional disorders and maladaptive behaviors. Unlike many other parenting methods, attachment parenting is both primitive and scientific-based.

Attachment parenting is the oldest “type” of parenting there is. It is essentially the way our ancestors parented and it is how the vast majority of mammals instinctively raise their young. As human beings, we have an innate predisposition to establish and maintain an attachment relationship with our children, and likewise, our children are born hardwired to maintain a close physical and emotional bond with us. This natural harmony between parent and child is what nature intended – it offers protection, warmth, stability and consistency – all of which are survival mechanisms that promote healthy brain development.

Although the principle of attachment is nothing new, theoretical explanations of attachment did not arguably emerge until the groundbreaking research of psychologists Harry Harlow and John Bowlby. In his well-known monkey experiment, Harry Harlow observed the behavior of baby monkeys who were separated from their mothers. “Surrogate” mothers replaced the monkeys’ natural mothers within their habitat. One mother was made of wire material and the other of a soft cloth. Harlow noted that the monkeys spent considerably more time with the soft mother even when the wire mother dispensed food. Further observation revealed abnormal behaviors of the monkeys as they grew. In his pioneering research, John Bowlby postulated that the likelihood of problems ranging from depression to delinquency were highly correlated to maternal deprivation, and that attachment to a parental figure was both innate and necessary. Both psychologists came to the seemingly irrefutable conclusion: the attachment relationship is vital in order for human beings to properly thrive, and that lack of attachment results in profound and serious negative consequences.

While these findings highlight the implications of attachment, they are also characteristic of the most dire and extreme circumstances. Can these dated and heavily scrutinized experiments be applied to parenting techniques today? In a way, yes they can. Attachment studies have long been replicated time and time again with different subjects, longitudinal data and careful consideration to avoid the confounding of results. Today, researchers also conduct experiments that can be applicable to real-life situations. They also observe attached and non-attached babies, children and adults – not necessarily those who were neglected, abused or otherwise in a relationship devoid of love.

Thus, attachment parenting is the perfect blend of science and art. Of logic and love. Of critical thinking and intuition.

Practicing attachment parenting when raising children is much the same as cats raising their kittens or horses raising their foals. Nature has created a perfect and carefully crafted design that is focused on the optimization of the growth and development in all species. The difference between humans and other mammals is that human parenting methods have undergone a series of changes throughout the course of history. To a point, this is to be expected – humans have superior capabilities compared to other mammals. Humans possess abstract and higher-order thinking skills that are exponentially greater than those of any other living creature. Consequently, we learn, we study, and we invent; we are cultured, and we are scrupulously influenced by societal phenomena. Quite simply, our brains are intricate and complicated – hence, everything around us (including parenting) must be as such.

Perhaps attachment parenting could be better understood within the context of our society as conscientious parenting. By today’s standards, it is quite impractical and barely imaginable to raise children under the same parenting gamut practiced by our ancestors many years ago. So what does attachment parenting look like in our society? It means opening our hearts and becoming attuned to our children’s needs, listening to our instincts while allowing them to guide us, responding appropriately to our children within the realm and limits of their development, respecting our children as people, and above all else - nurturing the relationship with our children unconditionally.


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    • Attach profile imageAUTHOR

      5 years ago

      Thanks for reading! I agree with you one hundred percent. Your heart always knows best. Listening to your heart is exactly what attachment parenting is! The beautiful thing about AP is that by simply listening to our hearts and instincts, we are also parenting with an approach that is scientifically validated.

    • Beata Stasak profile image

      Beata Stasak 

      5 years ago from Western Australia

      Excellent hub, but as an experienced teacher, mother and soon to be grandmother, I have learnt that keeping up to date with all the scientific research is great but at the end of the day is the best to listen to your heart, it knows the best:)

    • Val Swabb profile image

      Val Swabb 

      5 years ago from South Carolina

      Thanks, I will look at the other hub then.

    • Attach profile imageAUTHOR

      5 years ago

      Thanks for reading Val. Yes, it is very important that children have a strong sense of self. What many people don't realize is that this is one of the goals of attachment parenting. Children who are attached are often more independent than other children. In all species, (whether its a kitten or human) attached parents tend to follow the lead of their young - when their young are ready. The principle is the same. Kittens just become independent sooner because they have a shorter lifespan and mature faster. The same is true for many other mammals.

      This is a broad overview of attachment parenting at its roots and is an aggregate of data. Attachment Parenting International has lots of good information and research if you are interested. Also see my hub "misconceptions of attachment parenting" that explains some of your points.

    • Attach profile imageAUTHOR

      5 years ago

      Thank you for your feedback Chuck. Many people raise their children this way and don't realize there is a name for it. Essentially, that's because they are just doing what comes natural for them.

      The monkey experiment is a very famous experiment, so I'm not surprised to hear it was in Time Magazine.

    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 

      5 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Excellent Hub. While I have never heard the term attachment parenting, this sounds like the way my parents raised my siblings and me and how I tried to raise my own children.

      By the way, I recall reading an article years ago in a news magazine (probably Time Magazine) about the monkey experiment and its observations about the abnormal behaviors of the monkeys with the artificial mothers.

    • Val Swabb profile image

      Val Swabb 

      5 years ago from South Carolina

      This 'attachment' parenting seems very interesting. It makes some really points, but then seems to go too far. The studies cited here are very incomplete. Yes, these species are basically 'attached at the hip' during part of the 'childhood' phase, but these species childhood lasts much much less time then ours. And even in these species, the attachment doesn't go on past early childhood. A kitten begins to learn to hunt at a couple months old, and by 6-9 months is completely on it's own. This idea seems to have a lot of merit, but can easily be taken too far. It is definitely important for our children to feel close to us, but I believe it is equally important for them to have a strong sense of self. Perhaps moderation is the key here?


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