ParentChild Bonding Essay Research Paper Psychology of

Parent-Child Bonding Essay, Research Paper

Psychology of Parenting

Parent-Child Bonding in Early Childhood

In each person’s life much of the joy and sorrow revolves around attachments or

affectionate relationships — making them, breaking them, preparing for them, and

adjusting to their loss by any means. Yet of all these bonds, nothing compares to that

formed between a mother or father and his or her newborn infant. Bonding does not refer

to mutual affection between a baby and an adult, but to the phenomenon whereby adults

become committed by a one-way flow of concern and affection to children for whom they

have cared during the first months and years of life. According to J. Robertson in his

book, A Baby in the Family Loving and Being Loved, individuals may have several

hundred acquaintances in there lifetimes, but at any given moment there are only a limited

number of persons to whom they are closely attached. He explains that much of the

richness and beauty of life is derived from these close relationships which each person has

with a small number of individuals — mother, father, brother, sister, husband, wife, son,

daughter, and a small cadre of close friends (Robertson 1).

Attachment is crucial to the survival and development of the infant. Many

researchers suggest that parents bond to their child may be the strongest of all human ties.

This relationship has two distinct segments. The first signs of bonding occur while the

baby develops within the mother s womb. After birth, his survival is utterly dependent on

her until he becomes a separate individual. According to Mercer, the power of this

attachment is so great that it enables parents to make the necessary sacrifices for the care

of their infant. Day after day, night after night; changing diapers, attending to cries,

protecting the child from danger, and feeding him or her in the middle of the night despite

their desperate need to sleep (Mercer 22). It is important to note that this original

parent-infant tie is the major source for all of the infant s subsequent attachment and is the

formative relationship in the course of which the child develops a sense of himself.

Throughout his lifetime the strength and character of this attachment will influence the

quality of all future ties to other individuals. The question is now raised, “What is the

normal process by which a father and mother become attached to a healthy infant?” Since

the human infant is entirely dependent on his mother or caregiver to meet all his physical

and emotional demands, the strength and durability of the attachment may well determine

whether or not he will survive and develop optimally. Experimental data suggest that the

past experiences of the mother are a major determinant in molding her care-giving role.

For their own behaviour, children model adults, especially loved and powerful adults.

Children development literature, states that the powerful process of imitation or modelling

socially inclines children. Unless adults must consciously reexamine their learned

behaviors, they will unconsciously repeat them when they become parents. Therefore, the

way a woman was raised, including the practices of her culture and individual

idiosyncrasies of her own mother’s child raising practices, greatly influences her behavoir

toward her own infant. Bob Brazelton s The Early Mother-Infant Adjustment says that,

“It may seem to many that attachment to a small baby will come naturally and to make too

much of it could be a mistake… but there are many, many women who have a difficult time

making this adjustment…(Brazelton 10). We must understand the ingredients of

attachment in order to help, because each mother-child dyad is unique and has individual

needs of it’s own.

It might be argued that the length of breastfeeding is not a valid assessment of the

strength of bond between mother and infant since it is culture bound. According to Violet

Oaklander in Windows to Our Children, too many variables influence a woman’s decision

to continue breastfeeding to make it a valid assessment of bonding. She explains that a

woman who discontinues breastfeeding to return to work four weeks after delivery can be

just as bonded as a breastfeeding mother who takes a nine-month maternity leave.

Similarly, she explains, the initial decision to breastfeed must be continuously used in the

assessment of bonding (Oaklander 102). A mother’s decision to breastfeed may be an

indication of her willingness to give of herself to her infant, which is characteristic of


The parent-infant (father as well as mother) relationship is a continuing process of

adaptation to one another’s needs, and parents should be aware that all is not lost if early

contact is not possible. However, it should emphasized that it should be the mother’s

choice to determine how much time she spends with her infant in the hospital. “When it is

possible for parents to be together with their babies, in privacy, for the first hour, and

throughout the hospital stay, the most beneficial and supportive environment for the

beginning of the bonding process is established”, (Kennell and Klaus 57). Oaklander,

comments, “A most important behavoiral system that serves to bind mother and infant

together is the mothers interest in touching her baby” (151). Also, eye-to-Eye contact

serves the purpose of giving a real identity or personification to the baby, as well as

getting a rewarding feedback of the mother. The mother’s voice is another important

element as well as entertainment. Infants are intrigued by voices and soothing sensations.

Another important element is odor. The Relationship Between Mother and Neonate, notes

that by the 5th day of life, breastfeeding infants can discriminate their mother s own breast

pad from the breast pads of other mothers with significant reliability (Macfarlene 63).

According to Claire Berman in her book Adult Children of Divorce Speaks Out,

parents need to understand that the bonding which will take place in the earlier stages of

the infants life is very important in determining the overall type of individual that child will

grow up to be (Berman 16). Mark A. Stewart in Raising a Hyperactive Child, says: there

are some homes in which children are raised so permissively or so haphazardly that they

are never taught how to listen to someone else. Neither are they taught how to stick to a

task, or how to control their impulsive behaviour because there never was a great bond

created between the child and parents…(Stewart 23). Stewart continues by pointing out

that these children will, of course be at a disadvantage when they venture outside the

home, to school, to other children’s home, or in other situations where they are injected to

exert some control over their behavoir. Stewart also stresses the importance of parents

teaching their children how to socialize and behave in public. He says, “if there is a bond

between the parents and child there will never be a problem when it comes to one parent

getting the child to do what s right” (Stewart 24). If a child has been brought up in a very

unstructured environment without a reliable pattern to depend on, in a chaotic home

atmosphere, he will tend to exhibit some of the traits of hyperactivity. As stated by

Stewart there is a widespread but mistaken assumption that behavoir determined by

inheritance, or by damage to the brain cannot be influences. He believes that a mother’s

love is one of the most powerful of all influences when it comes to what the child will be

in the future (Stewart 30). Claire Berman explains that it is not only the mother-child

bonding that is important, but also the father-mother-child that really counts. She explains

that parents need to understand that their bonding should not be dissolve after 2,3,5 or

even 10 years, it is something that should last a lifetime and be taken into consideration at

every bend along the long and dread pathway of life (Berman 21). However, it clear that

no one factor can be held responsible for shaping the kind of person one becomes or the

ways in which an individual tends to look at things. Susan Meyers explains in her book

Who Will Take the Children explains that many elements impact upon people’s lives, from

the genes we inherit, to the families we are born into and the communities in which the

child grows up (Meyers 31). As pointed out by Berman, “Divorce is one of the worst

things that can happen between parents during the early years of a child s life, not only can

divorce break all the bonds which were previously established, but is something that can

leave the children with lots of baggage.”(Meyers 30) Berman later points out that when

children learn that a vow or bond can be broken (and divorce writes the end to the marital

vow), they face life with uncertainty. When they do not receive the nurturing that s

needed, they are likely to enter into healthy relationships (Berman 35). Berman states the

case of a thirty-four-year-old woman whose parents divorced when she was thirteen. The

woman asks, “when your parents betray you and break the bond between them and their

child, then who do you trust?” Is it a rhetorical question? She goes on to explain, “for

years I had the feeling that everyone was out to get me. It took me a long time to trust

anyone.” (Berman 36)

Maybe now people (parents) will come to realize that bonding does not only refer

to mutual affection between a baby and an adult. But it is the phenomenon whereby adults

become committed by a one-way flow of concern and affection for whom they have cared

during the first months and years of life.

Works Cited

Berman, Claire. Adult Children of Divorce. Simon and Schuster, New York: 1991.

Brazelton, Bob. The Early Mother-Infant Adjustment. Elsevier Publishing Co.

Amsterdam: 1973


Kennell, John and Marshall Klaus. Parent-Infant Bonding. The C.V. Mosby

Company,Missouri: 1976.

Macfarlene, Rolland. The Relationship between Mother & Neonate. Oxford University

Press, New York: 1978.

Mercer, Joe. Mother’s Response to Their Infants with Defects. Charles B. Slack Inc., New

York: 1974.

Meyers, Susan. Who Will Take the Children? Bobbe-Mervil,Indianapolis/New – York:


Oaklander, Violet. Windows to our Children. Real People- Press, Utah: 1978.

Robertson, J. A Baby in the Family: Loving and being Loved.Penguin Books, London:

Ltd., 1982.

Stewart, Mark A. Raising a Hyperactive Child. London: Harper and Row Publishers,



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