Fostering Successful Attachment in Intercountry Adoption

By: Madison Howard

adoptive-family

Introduction

Attachment is the glue that establishes the connection between a child and a parent. When a child is born and remains with a biological parent, bonding and attachment begin immediately. With adoption, however, that is not always the case. In intercountry adoption children often face multiple broken attachments, causing them to lack the foundation on which to build healthy relationships later in life. In cases of adoption, early attachments are too often disrupted or broken. Positive, consistent relationships with early childhood caregivers and, later, adoptive parents can help reestablish a child’s healthy attachment abilities.

The Basics of Attachment

To understand how to foster healthy attachment for children adopted internationally, it is important to understand the heart of the subject at hand: attachment theory. According to Bowlby, a pioneer in attachment theory, attachment is a biological, motivational system that develops within humans during our early years of life. This system is what stimulates children to try and find security, support, and care from specific "attachment figures" in their lives. In her first year, when the child becomes selective about which person she seeks out to provide these things, "selective attachment" occurs. This person the child has selected becomes a "secure base," meaning that she will use this person as a "home base" of sorts to venture out from and return to at any sight of "danger." When parents cultivate healthy and secure attachment relationships within their children as infants, they in turn cultivate an "internal felt sense of safety and trust, and an emerging sense of the self." Attachment, then, is not only important to relationships with parents and family members, it is also essential to children’s forming relationships in the world around them.

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