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The U.S. Baby Bonding Epidemic That Wasn’t

iStock_000020675927SmallBonding, bonding, bonding, bonding bonding. Since when did so many mothers fail to bond with their babies that it became necessary for us all to read books, take classes and talk about it excessively? I was relatively neutral on the current bonding fad until people started to question whether or not I was bonding with my new, [almost] adopted daughter, Clementine.

My close friend, Stefanie, doesn’t have any kids and is completely blind to the bonding chatter. However, she is a psychologist who has studied attachment, so when our mutual friends questioned how I would bond to my [almost] adopted daughter without maternity leave from work, she was baffled.

Psychologists take from Attachment Theory, not to be confused with Attachment ParentingAttachment Theory arose during WWII when psychiatrist, John Bowlby was asked to examine troubled children who had been separated from their mothers and moved to orphanages. There they were cared for in large numbers by only a few staff. Bowlby determined that simply providing food and shelter was not enough, children need a mother-like relationship, some sort of bonding, for healthy mental and emotional development. Any primary attachment figure would do.  As additional research was done, the U.S. government responded by closing orphanages and opening foster homes to promote more natural bonding opportunities.

In other words, Attachment Theory suggests that bonding has to be practically non-existent or severely malformed in order for there to be a problem. The minutiae of the day to day interactions aren’t significant.  Mary Ainsworth continued this research and her model and work continues as the foundation for attachment experiments today.

I’m not worried about bonding with my daughter or her attaching to me. Short of major illness or some other unforeseen crisis, each day will bring us closer. There are plenty of other things to stress about when you have a new baby- join me in crossing bonding off your list!

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