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Proudly Supporting

Importance of Secure Attachment to Caregivers - Who is Looking After Your Children?

By Yvette Vignando - 1st September 2010

The Benevolent Society runs a program called Partnerships in Early Childhood (PIEC) with preschool and child care organisations in New South Wales and Queensland. This early childhood program is focused on building nurturing and positive partnerships between adults and children. PIEC currently runs in 19 child care centres and preschools across New South Wales. And in my opinion, this kind of program should be available to all caregivers of young children.

Focus on the Importance of Secure Attachment to Caregivers

By focusing on the importance of children feeling securely attached to their caregivers, Partnerships in Early Childhood aims to build strong social skills in children, reduce children's behaviour problems and improve their relationships with teachers. Parents are also given information and support about managing their children's behaviour and there is an emphasis on using positive language and believing in the possibility of change.

Essentially this program works through the funding of three Child and Family Worker visits per week to the preschool or childcare centre. Included in the services are parent education, staff training to increase their understanding of children's behaviours and relationship needs and focusing on the important transition moments for children, parents and staff (such as children's arrival and departure from the centre).

    The importance of secure attachment to a caregiver should not be underestimated - it's something that I hope all parents can take into account when they are choosing a preschool, nanny or child care. Is the care that your child is receiving helping them to feel secure and warmly attached to the adults they are with?

A good place to start reading about the importance of secure attachment is this guide by Dr Robyn Dolby (psychologist and senior Research Fellow with the Benevolent Society)  called The Circle of Security -  Roadmap to Building Supportive Relationships. Central to the program is the Circle of Security map, which helps parents and other carers to follow children’s relationship needs and so know how to become more emotionally available to them.

Your Child's Secure Attachment to His or Her Caregiver Will Reap Rewards

The good news is that the Partnerships in Early Childhood Program was evaluated by the Social Policy Research Centre and the results were very encouraging. They included:

- a decrease in peer problems (such as being picked on) and conduct problems (such as lying or fighting);

- children’s prosocial behaviour (such as sharing, helping and cooperating) improved;

-an increase in the closeness between children and staff in some of the centres, indicating a more secure attachment between staff and children; and

-significant improvements in children’s wellbeing: staff saw children becoming more confident, and less distressed when separating from their parents in the morning.

Will Funding Continue for this Worthwhile Program?

The PIEC program is largely funded by FaHCSIA (a Federal government department) and in one centre, by a philanthropist. The current funding will expire in June 2011 but it is only enough for 19 centres at present. Today I spoke to the Team Leader for the eastern region, Denielle Jens, and found out some more about this very worthwhile program.

Denielle Jens commented that the program is mainly being run in disadvantaged areas but as it is so successful, she wishes that it could be run and funded in all childcare centres and preschools. Funding is presently limited.

Denielle said  "This should be available to all families with young children ...it benefits all children. In PIEC we don't just look at deficits in children, we look at everyday moments with children. We might, for example, work with a quiet, compliant 'invisible' child - they are as much on our mind as the child that seems more 'difficult' and takes up a lot of a carer's time."

The Message for Parents When Choosing a Caregiver

I love this quote from the Benevolent Society about the program:

    "It aims to improve the quality of care, not through potentially costly structural changes or regulatory standards (such as staff:child ratios), but by addressing how staff and parents interact with children."

The message for parents from this research is that when you choose a preschool or childcare centre, it's important to look carefully at the quality of the relationships between the caregivers and the children you see there. More important than the number of toys, computers or facilities is the quality of relationships.

If you are choosing a nanny, it is critical to carefully consider the maturity and personal qualities of your nanny along with his or her qualifications. If you are interested in reading more about the importance of this aspect of your child's care, take a look at a paper by Dr Tim Moore called "The nature and significance of relationships in the lives of children with and without developmental disabilities " in which he points out a number of critical indicators from the research including:

"-Children develop through their relationships with the important people in their lives; these relationships are the ‘active ingredients’ of the environment’s influence on healthy human development. 

-Sensitive and responsive care giving is a requirement for the healthy neurophysiological, physical and psychological development of a child.

-Relationships change brains neurologically and neurochemically, and these changes may be for the better or for the worse. Caregivers are the architects of the way in which experience influences the unfolding of brain development: human connections create neuronal connections.

-The attachments that children form with parents and caregivers create the central foundation from which the mind develops. Attachment is an inborn biological instinct that motivates an infant to seek proximity to parents (and other primary caregivers) and to establish communication with them. For secure attachments to develop, caregivers need to have positive intentions and feelings for the child and be able to perceive and respond to the children’s mental and emotional states."

So the bottom line is this - excellent childcare is excellent - and the really excellent parts lie in the quality of the relationships.

Comments (3)

YvetteVignando's picture

Great Link thank you

That's a comprehensive and useful link to share on attachment, thank you.

Here's some research about attachment parenting

Here's an article that shows some of the research backing up why attachment parenting is so important: http://www.parentingscience.com/strange-situation.html

Seems like a closed case to me.

Kylie Ladd's picture

The PIEC program sounds

The PIEC program sounds brilliant! Had never heard of it before, but this sort of thing has a huge impact on young children's lives. Great article.

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