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Attachment and Neuroscience

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Presentation on theme: "Attachment and Neuroscience"— Presentation transcript:

1 Attachment and Neuroscience

2 YoungMinds Presentation
Attachment Theory Attachment behaviour is defined as: The seeking of protection when anxious which is triggered by external threats or behaviours The person to whom a child is attached provides a secure base, a place of safety, warmth and comfort

3 YoungMinds Presentation
Attachment Theory A securely attached child feels confident that should they feel anxious, their parents will respond. Such security is brought on by interactions which are: Sensitive Regularly available and reliable Warm Responsive Consistent

4 Way attachment develops
YoungMinds Presentation Way attachment develops

5 Secure and insecure attachment
“A securely attached child is likely when faced with potentially alarming situations .... to tackle them effectively or seek help in doing so” Children whose needs have not been adequately met see the world as; ‘comfortless and unpredictable and they respond by either shrinking from it or doing battle with it.’ Bowlby (1980) Attachment and loss Vol. 3 and Bowlby (1973) Attachment and loss Vol. 2

6 Insecure Avoidant Caregiver subtly or overtly reject child’s attachment needs at time of stress Bids for comfort will be rebuffed Child keeps his/her attention directed away from their caregivers in an effort not to arouse anxiety and frustration In control because of the need for self reliance Comfort self rather than accept it from others In foster home, cause concern because they find it hard to trust carers with their feelings or let people get close At school some do well at school work some find it hard not to be ‘best’ and hard to allow teachers or other children to get close enough to build relationships In the community because for some there will be flashes of anger and a need to control other children and or be defiant of authority

7 Insecure Ambivalent/Anxious
Caregiver will be inadequate at meeting child attachment needs (caregiver is passive, unresponsive and ineffective) Child’s strategy is to amplify attachment needs and signals in an effort to arouse a response (verbal and behavioural: bubbly affection to rage, anger, panic and despair. All experienced as controlling) Unlovable and helpless selves & unpredictable and withholding others. In foster care cause concern because they can provoke carers or wear them out. Their preoccupation with demanding but unpredictable birth families may also be a source of stress. At school lack concentration, restless, confused thoughts and stormy, love-hate relationships with peers and teachers In community they may take risks and needy angry and indiscriminate in relationships

8 Insecure Disorganised
Child experiences the carer giver as ‘the source of alarm and its only solution’. Child in these circumstances is unable to be guided by their mental model of the world because it offers few directions. Frightened, helpless, fragile and sad At risk of mental health problems or anti-social behaviour Cause concern In foster home because their behaviour whether this is secret soiling or aggression against family pets, is hard for carers to manage and for other children to live with At school because their bizarre behaviour, their tendency to be manipulative, aggressive or unable to think straight, makes both the interpersonal and academic aspects of school life a problem for them In the community, because they react with such helpless anger and/or distress to anxiety, that they may be unable to resist being drawn into self destructive or anti-social behaviours

9 In Essence… Attachment needs are activated during times of perceived stress (discomfort, environmental, danger, fatigue, illness) The child must either have these attachment needs met or find other ways to cope.

10 Adolescent attachment styles
Compulsive self-reliance Distrusts relationships, avoids being rejected or relied upon. Prone to depression or psychosomatic symptoms. Compulsive care giving Actively involved in relationships but always as a care giver. Own parents unable to provide care but might have demanded it from child. Care-seeking Vigilant to signs of loss or abandonment. Constantly anxious. Parents probably unresponsive or threatened to leave family. Angry withdrawal Generalised anger towards attachment figure who is seen as unavailable.

11 Positive brain development
The way a child is stimulated shapes the brain’s neurobiological structure. Experience has a direct impact on a child’s capacity for living, learning and relating as a social being.

12 Early Brain Development
We are born with most of the neurons (brain cells) we will ever own but; At birth the brain is 25% of its adult weight - by the age of 2 this has increased to 75% and by age 3 it is 90% of adult weight. This growth is largely the result of the formation and ‘hard wiring’ of synaptic connections Babies brains are both ‘experience expectant’ and ‘experience dependent’

13 Proliferation of synapses

14 The Learning Years: 5-10 Synaptic pathways that are regularly used are reinforced. This is the basis of learning. Reinforcement leads to permanent neurological pathways. Neural connections needed for abstract reasoning are developed Motor skills are refined

15 Adolescent Brain Development
Brain development continues up to at least the age of 20 There is a significant remodelling of the brain in adolescence, particularly the frontal lobes and connections between these and the limbic system The frequency and intensity of experiences shapes this remodelling as the brain adapts to the environment in which it is functioning and becomes more efficient Frontal cortex is essential for such functions as response inhibition,emotional regulation, analysing problems and planning. Many of these aptitudes continue to develop between adolescence and young adulthood, whereas spatial awareness functioning and sensory functions (such as hearing and language processing) are largely mature by adolescence. Synaptic pruning is believed to be essential for the fine-tuning of functional networks of brain tissue,rendering the remaining synaptic circuits more efficient. This pruning occurs on the use it or lose it principle: this means that what adolescents do is critical to ensuring that circuits (or processing systems) which adaptive, rather than maladaptive, functioning strengthen and grow.

16 Emotional Functioning
There is a mismatch between emotional and cognitive regulatory modes in adolescence Brain structures mediating emotional experiences change rapidly at the onset of puberty Maturation of the frontal brain structures underpinning cognitive control lag behind by several years Adolescents are left with powerful emotional responses to social stimuli that they cannot easily regulate, contextualise, create plans about or inhibit These changes in brain structure generate powerful emotional urges for sexual behaviour, independence and the formation of social bonds.

17 Impact of trauma In the face of interpersonal trauma, all the systems of the social brain become shaped for offensive and defensive purposes. A child growing up surrounded by trauma and unpredictability will only be able to develop neural systems and functional capabilities that reflect this disorganisation. Source: National CAMHS Support Service, Everybody’s Business

18 Traumatic stress When children and young people experience persistent stress they are likely to produce toxic amounts of cortisol which can have a detrimental effect on Brain function All major body systems Social functioning

19 Over production of stress hormones
These functions may be diminished or lost: Ability to learn language and to speak Understanding feelings or having words to describe them Connection between how we feel and our sensory experience Empathy Control of impulse Regulation of mood Short term memory Enjoyment


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