Children (and the teens they will become) with insecure attachment
patterns can have social problems that complicate friendships and rela-
tionships. They have great difficulty deciphering where their boundaries
end and the boundaries of others begin. And they don’t know whom to
trust (Cozolino 2006). Healthy boundaries permit children and adults to
determine how others can treat them, and empower them to say no, when
it is essential for their security and health (Szalavitz and Perry 2010).
A helpful children’s book about boundaries is Personal Space Camp by
Children with attachment trauma are preoccupied with separations
and a change in teaching staff. Some children desperately try to be first
and in control to avert being left out. Because of experiences of discon-
nect with care providers and a life of always being on alert, they can
present behaviors that are misinterpreted by adults as manipulation. Fur-
ther complicating the teacher’s role, these students interpret standard dis-
cipline as yet another rejection (Levine and Kline 2007).
Another difficulty for young students with some form of insecure
attachment patterns is understanding sequences of beginning, middle,
and ending. Similarly, they may have trouble with understanding the
passage of time and continuity, which can affect memory (Perry and Sza-
lavitz 2006). To them, a past incidence of fear or rejection can become an
ongoing situation, never ending. This can lead to a sense of hopelessness.
Each of these examples of behavior is just that—an example. No one
child will exhibit all of these issues, and just because a child does show a
particular tendency or problem does not necessarily mean that he or she
has had deeply traumatic attachment experiences. What it does mean is
that educators who understand the connection between insecure attach-
ments and behavioral missteps should pay attention to behavior that
signals possibly deeper problems. Any concerns should increase commu-
nication among the educator, the family, and other support staff such as
tutors or counselors.
Educators may have great difficultly not feeling anger toward the par-
ents who have not adequately nurtured these children. But research has
shown that adults who were unable to form a secure attachment to their
parent(s) as infants may not be able to attach to their own infants with-
out sensitive support and coaching (Cozolino 2006). These explanations
can help educators move beyond frustration with children’s and parents’
behavior to address problems at a deeper level.
Attachment COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL and the Growing Brain