Research on Attachment Theory and Anxiety Disorders

Recently, there’s been some renewed interest in a post from Ph.D. in Parenting’s blog post entitled Dr. Phil Stay-at-home mom vs. working mom show.

Normally, I thoroughly enjoy engaging in these kind of debates on other blogs, and rarely (if ever) do I invite such “lively” discussions into my own online home. If you wish to debate, grab a cup of coffee or beverage of choice, sit back and read the About Me page for the rules to playing nice in my online home. As long as you are respectful, we’ll get along just fine.

I’m not about to re-hash the original stay-at-home vs. working mom debate, or offer more counter arguments to a particular commentator’s response (see comment 52 and 64). I’ve already made my arguments (see comments 57, 65-68).

I’m not here to debate whether or not a woman should have kids or not (I didn’t plan on having any at all myself until I found myself pregnant at 30), or whether mothers (or fathers) should work or should stay at home or whose contribution is more valuable or valid (they are equally valuable and valid). In our home I was the primary breadwinner when my husband was laid off for a year and I supported our family, working as a medical genetics laboratory supervisor. Then, we needed to both work to recover his lost income until we got back on our feet, while my mother-in-law watched our 2 children in our home until my second-born was 9 months old, when I decided to come home and take care of our family.

What I am here to do is provide some research-based resources for promoting attachment parenting practices and that the research supports the parent/infant bonding – not day-care provider/infant bonding.

I found this quotation from Zoey, an Australian working mother with flexible work arrangements) offers a continuation of the intense debate, on her blog post entitled SAHM setting the Women’s Movement Back.

Jay Belsky * (quoted in The Complete Secrets of Happy Children) conducted a study that found young children (under 1) in childcare exhibited attachment problems, heightened aggressiveness, non compliance and social withdrawal. Indeed, it was found that the perceived benefits of childcare, in particular improved social skills, was found to be more likely a coping mechanism to deal with a challenging environment.

* Jay Belsky, BA (Vassar), MS, PhD (Cornell); Professor of Psychology – Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues, University of London – Birkbeck

I researched his name and found his website where he has numerous research articles on the effects of disruption to the attachment process due to day-care providers and other attachment theory research. “His areas of special expertise include the effects of day care, parent-child relations during the infancy and early childhood years, the transition to parenthood, the etiology of child maltreatment, and the evolutionary basis of parent and child functioning.” It sounds like if anyone, he would know what he’s talking about here.

In response to this particular quote, I wrote this response on Zoey’s blog

I do appreciate your references to Jay Belsky’s work. I’ve been looking for some citations to refute the claims that putting infants in day-care have absolutely no ill effects. It goes counter to healthy psychology and healthy human development and simple intuition. You don’t remove a completely dependent infant from a primary caregiver [mother or father or close family member if possible if both parents have to work and don’t have flexible work arrangements] and expect them to not have attachment issues. Sure, adaptations are made, but at a very subtle but incredible expense.

I’m convinced that it’s one of the very reasons why there is an incredible lack of basic empathy for others in modern society. Fostering healthy independence doesn’t mean thrusting the infants into strange and chaotic environments that day-care centers are with people who have no vested interest in their proper care and emotional development.

It’s absolutely ludicrous to think that there are no ill-effects from such outsourcing of your responsibility to an institutional setting at a critical time in child development.

Yet…it happens all the time. I cringe every time I hear infants as young as 6 weeks old have to go to day-care. I know…sometimes it’s the only option. But it doesn’t make it right for the child.

There are a couple of key articles I want to cite regarding attachment and anxiety from Ned. Kalin, MD who is the Department Chair of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Biological correlates of attachment bond disruption in humans and nonhuman primates. Kalin NH, Carnes M.  Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 1984;8(3):459-69.

Here is the abstract from PubMed:

Separations or disruptions in attachment bonds occur frequently in the social lives of humans and have been linked to the development of psychopathology. Separation of social nonhuman primates has been proposed as a model to study the psychological and biological effects of separation in humans. This paper reviews the biological alterations that occur in nonhuman primates undergoing separation and compares these with changes associated with separation in humans. The data reviewed demonstrate that separation in humans and nonhuman primates can be an event with profound behavioral and physiological sequelae.

And in particular this one (below) too, because it helps to understand the brain-based research on severe social anxieties.  Selective mutism would definitely be a maladaptive coping strategy to severe social anxiety. I once had the entire article before it got sent to Pubmed, but apparently I never saved a copy to my hard drive before the full text disappeared.

Nonhuman primate models to study anxiety, emotion regulation, and psychopathology. Kalin NH, Shelton SE.  Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003 Dec;1008:189-200.

Here is a part of the abstract for this one on PubMed

This paper demonstrates that the rhesus monkey provides an excellent model to study mechanisms underlying human anxiety and fear and emotion regulation. In previous studies with rhesus monkeys, stable, brain, endocrine, and behavioral characteristics related to individual differences in anxiety were found. It was suggested that, when extreme, these features characterize an anxious endophenotype and that these findings in the monkey are particularly relevant to understanding adaptive and maladaptive anxiety responses in humans. The monkey model is also relevant to understanding the development of human psychopathology. For example, children with extremely inhibited temperament are at increased risk to develop anxiety disorders, and these children have behavioral and biological alterations that are similar to those described in the monkey anxious endophenotype. It is likely that different aspects of the anxious endophenotype are mediated by the interactions of limbic, brain stem, and cortical regions.

The above article, if I remember correctly (or if not, one of his other papers that is similar), is a toughie, because I believe it includes a section on depressed mothers and the effects of “accidental” neglect of the infants needs because the mother is struggling with depression. Don’t feel bad if you struggled with depression. I did, for a long time after the birth of my 3rd child. I feel, in some ways, personally responsible for contributing to my daughter’s selective mutism and for a while, felt an incredible amount of guilt that perhaps I caused her to have these severe anxieties. While there might be a shred of truth to that, I take comfort in the fact that I was the predominant source of setting us both on the right path to reversing the conditions we were battling.

And still yet another that I’m going to look into:

Early Risk Factors and Developmental Pathways to Chronic High Inhibition and Social Anxiety Disorder in Adolescence. Essex MJ, Klein MH, Slattery MJ, Goldsmith HH, Kalin NH. Am J Psychiatry. 2009 Nov 16.

The abstract from Pubmed:

Objective Evidence suggests that chronic high levels of behavioral inhibition are a precursor of social anxiety disorder. The authors sought to identify early risk factors for, and developmental pathways to, chronic high inhibition among school-age children and the association of chronic high inhibition with social anxiety disorder by adolescence. Method A community sample of 238 children was followed from birth to grade 9. Mothers, teachers, and children reported on the children’s behavioral inhibition from grades 1 to 9. Lifetime history of psychiatric disorders was available for the subset of 60 (25%) children who participated in an intensive laboratory assessment at grade 9. Four early risk factors were assessed: female gender; exposure to maternal stress during infancy and the preschool period; and at age 4.5 years, early manifestation of behavioral inhibition and elevated afternoon salivary cortisol levels. Results All four risk factors predicted greater and more chronic inhibition from grades 1 to 9, and together they defined two developmental pathways. The first pathway, in girls, was partially mediated by early evidence of behavioral inhibition and elevated cortisol levels at age 4.5 years. The second pathway began with exposure to early maternal stress and was also partially mediated by childhood cortisol levels. By grade 9, chronic high inhibition was associated with a lifetime history of social anxiety disorder. Conclusions Chronic high levels of behavioral inhibition are associated with social anxiety disorder by adolescence. The identification of two developmental pathways suggests the potential importance of considering both sets of risk factors in developing preventive interventions for social anxiety disorder.

A large part of my blog is devoted to the severe social anxiety and selective mutism of my middle daughter and how attachment parenting, emotion coaching and SPD therapies she’s done at home, and support from staff at school reversed her maladaptive coping strategy of selective mutism.

Another large part of my blog is devoted to my recovering from my own attachment disorders I inherited as a child. No, I didn’t turn into someone with severe pathologies (could possibly have – I had some really dark days), but it did impact my ability to nurture my child. Everything my child needed – close physical and emotional contact was everything I was struggling to provide in my overwhelmed state of mind.

I have been in contact with many highly sensitive, gifted and talented adults who are suffering from childhood wounds resulting from some pretty severe pain caused from detached, neglectful and sometimes abusive parents from 30, 40 years ago. These things never leave a sensitive child without life-long scars.  I personally know there are more than a few of us highly sensitive, highly gifted adults are walking through our adult lives wounded because they were abandoned/abused by their primary care-givers because they didn’t believe in or didn’t know about promoting healthy attachment to their children, particularly if they were “challenging” as children, which many gifted children are perceived as when their unique qualities aren’t understood.

If one would ever question the validity of attachment theory, one really ought to take a look at the fact-based evidence in support of it.

In answer to the question of “how much” is enough? Enough is dependent on the child. Some need less, some need more, some need even more than that. Your child will show signs of enough – he or she will start sleeping better at night, and during the day will start separating from you for short periods of time, then longer and longer periods of time, until one day you wake up and wonder why your child doesn’t need you at all that it leaves you slightly melancholic that they are secure enough without you.

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28 Responses to Research on Attachment Theory and Anxiety Disorders

  1. Krissy says:

    Thanks for compiling these resources. I struggle with wanting to talk about AP but people tend to feel criticized and judged if they want to work. I don’t know how to explain that if you want to work, that’s fine. But you have to accept the fact that your choice is not the best one for your child.

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Yes…some people have to work, some people want to work. It doesn’t make it a bad choice for them, but it isn’t good for their young children. But every choice we make has consequences, and I wasn’t going to gamble that my kids would be okay. For me, the choice was clear – as soon as we were financially able to, I came home. It would have been sooner had my husband not lost his engineering job.

      It could even be that even being separated from my highly sensitive daughter at 3 months of age is what pre-disposed her to develop the severe anxiety disorder. I was gone 11 hours of her waking day for 6 months. Even though she was with my mother in law, maybe in her case, she really needed to be with me all along and it affected her to not be with me more than I could imagine.

  2. When I see people questioning attachment theory, they generally are not questioning its relevance, but are questioning how much nurturing is required in order to have a secure attachment. How attached is attached enough to not cause any negative effects? (Kind of like how much do I have to study in order to pass).

    I never knew how to study “just enough” and I don’t care to try to figure out how to be attached “just enough”.


    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Annie – most people who questioned me, my family of origin mostly, were the type that constantly told me to “put that baby down” ANY time they say me pick my child up, or keep them close. Any amount of “in arms” contact was literally spoiling my child. I’m fairly certain that I’m not the only one who gets that message. I’m putting the research based articles out there for those that don’t believe in it or need support to refute other’s criticism of their efforts to AP their child.

      I know for example that there is a lot of debate over the relevance of AP theory among certain Christians in America. Have you heard of Babywise and To Train Up A Child? These anti-AP techniques have come between a mother’s natural instincts in the guise of “Godly authority” in that families employ strict parent-enforced rules that sometimes actually harm young children. So while your readers may understand the value in AP methodologies, I don’t make the assumption that people who come to my blog agree.

      In addition, these articles aren’t strictly here to for the purpose to respond to your post (though that’s what started me on this). I’ve been wanting to post some research-based articles because my blog is a “clearinghouse” of sorts for selective mutism, a severe form of social anxiety, and emotional self-regulation and attachment difficulties. It fits your post because the one commenter’s assumptions meant that the best solution to properly “socialize” my child would be to stick her to the wolves.

      For middle daughter, it took her 6 years to have “enough” attachment. For the longest time, there was literally NEVER enough – never enough for her to have and never enough for me to give. She was on me like glue sometimes, and still co-slept with me because she had bad nightmares until she turned 6 last September. To me, 6 is not “too old” to co-sleep. I had nightmares until I was about 11, and I continually asked my sister if I could sleep with her (she wouldn’t let me most times). Then we moved to a different house, got a double bed, then HAD to sleep with her, but the nightmares stopped.

      Any mother of an highly sensitive child such as mine knows how difficult it is to parent a child with extreme emotional outbursts (the other side of selective mutism is lots of meltdowns and emotional self-regulation issues). I hear from other mothers struggling with the same issues from their SM children having these unbelieveable meltdowns that they (the mothers) have a great deal of trouble dealing with.

      And personally, I am just a research junkie by nature. I wanted to cite some studies for further research and reflection on my daughter’s conditions, and if anyone else is interested, they can research it too.

  3. 5kidswdisabilities says:

    Very interesting article. I have 3 kids (adopted) with attachment issues, so it really hit home.
    Lindsey Petersen,

  4. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Lindsey – Thanks for commenting. I think I’ll be adding your blog to my blogroll, because I would really love to read how you manage to not dwell on the difficult parts in order to keep going for your family.

    Best wishes and I look forward to reading your blog (not tonight though, it’s 12 am!).

  5. Thuan says:

    Once again, thank you! My daughter is 2 1/2 and she is still so extremely attached to me. Thank for saying, “For middle daughter, it took her 6 years to have “enough” attachment.” After reading a lot of this attachment theory from different sources, I felt that I didn’t do enough for her and this is why is so attached to me still at 2 1/2. It felt great to hear you say that it took your daughter 6 years. I am working on accepting the fact that my daughter just needs more time. We gave up trying to get her back into her own room and now she is sleeping with me in my room. The only problem is that I can’t sleep very well with her next to me. We’re going to try and get a bed for her in our room so she can sleep next to me on her own bed. I’ve extremely sensitive to her every move and end up waking up all night.

    Is there a way, I can pick your brain privately on strategies that worked for you and your daughter when she was glued to you. I’ve having a hard time with my daughter being so clingy all the time.

  6. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Thuan – I’ll email you later today. You have my complete sympathy. I know it’s hard to live with a little cling-on. I know it’s tough particularly when you are sleep deprived.

  7. I wasn’t intending to criticize you for putting the research out there on attachment theory. I think it is important and great that you did that. I just wanted to note that lots of people who do come to my blog will rationalize their decision to, for example, use “cry it out” by saying that they spend all day with their child and they are perfectly secure in their attachment despite not responding to their child at night.

  8. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Annie –

    No worries. I did not, at all, take it as a criticism. I did want to explain more fully my intentions in creating the post and more so, why I commented on your blog that it was here. I tend to over-explain myself in order to bring more clarity.

    It’s a complicated thing, this parenting. People make all sorts of decisions based on how they feel about it (or how much energy they want to expend on it) rather than what has been proven to have the best outcomes. I so understand the rationalization we humans can do.

    Sometimes it comes down to cognitive dissonance. We know things may not be good for us, but we persist in bad choices (like most people are educated about the risks of smoking, yet quite a few still do it despite the evidence that it’s bad for you).

    You, and I, and others like us, do what we can to provide evidence so that we might open the minds of others.

  9. raisingsmartgirls says:

    I also very briefly addressed the “how much is enough” sentiment in my original article.

    Your child will definitely let you know when they don’t need you as much as they once did.

  10. el burro says:

    To add to the pile of anecdotal evidence that some kids need more, and others less, here’s the story of one of my children, who was definitely on the “need more” side of the spectrum:

    My now 8-year-old daughter, the fourth of my children, was unwilling to physically separate herself from me, literally, until she was almost 5. She refused to participate in any structured social activity designed for preschoolers if it meant that I couldn’t be there holding her hand. She had her naps on the kitchen floor during the day, so that she could be near me while she slept, and she needed me to lay down next to her at night so that she could fall asleep. She was, and still is a very tactile girl, a very emotionally expressive girl, and she also happens to be profoundly intellectually gifted.

    She was lucky to be my fourth child, because I was a seasoned enough parent by the time that she came along to be able to withstand the very negative comments I received from family and non-family for “babying” my daughter, for not pushing her to separate from me, and for being a bad mother. The message that I got was that I was going to harm this child by not insisting she follow a more “normal” ( read: socially acceptable) developmental path.

    By the time said daughter turned 5, it was as if a light switch flicked, and she literally overnight, stopped needing constant contact. She happily went to kindergarten, she joined a gymnastics class, and she did so as an exuberant, outgoing, confident child.

    Now, at age 8, she’s the most solid child you could meet. She’s able to talk to anyone of any age about anything, she’s able to identify what her feelings and needs are, and she’s very comfortable with expressing those needs and getting them met.

    I think of her as my poster child for attachment parenting.

    She was the only one of my children who was allowed to follow her own developmental timeline for separation, and I believe that her current confidence is the result of knowing at a deep, emotional level that she would be given as much love and nurturing as she needed. She is benefiting from being securely attached.

  11. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Wow…el burro. Thank you, so much for that story. I needed to hear that. I really wish I “met” you 3 years ago. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a seasoned mother at that point – well not nearly enough and I was having to contend with three different children and they ALL needed something at almost the same time.

    I almost DIDN’T figure this out in time before I caused major damage.

    Ugh…I’m really exhausted at the moment, I don’t think I can finish this reply. I took the girls to the bookstore today and I forgot to eat lunch. I think I need a snack and a nap. I will be back when I can be more fully present here.

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Okay…I’m back.

      Again…I have to thank you whole-heartedly for your perspective, el burro.

      The lack of enough attachment in the early years is something I did struggle with, felt tremendous guilt about, and blamed myself for with regards to middle daughter’s selective mutism.

      In addition, I feel another area of pushing a child before they are ready is the concept of “preschool as a MUST” for every child.

      I succumbed to social pressure to get my kids in pre-school. My oldest daughter when she was about 3 was a classic case of “slow to warm up” shy. To the point where she was reticent around my neighbor’s children.

      Everyone suggested preschool as an absolute necessity for “normal” (ie read socially acceptable) social development. My personal opinion was that it was (for my kids anyhow) completely unnecessary, at least as far as the “academic” part of preparing kids for school. I was quite capable of helping them acquire the necessary skills at home.

      I was on the fence for the longest time, but eventually caved and enrolled my oldest in preschool at age 4. I did see positive results in her ability to blossom over time as her comfort levels increased. But, in every grade since then, she goes through that 1-2 months of adjustment to school.

      I anticipated the same for my second daughter. In retrospect, preschool was absolutely the worst thing I could have done. But I didn’t know that at the time. I debated long and hard whether or not I was doing the right thing for my child. I know now that pushing her beyond her capabilities was not only unnecessary, but putting her through more stress than was damaging.

      But…I didn’t know then what I know now.

      I have lots of opinions on the matter of educating our children, particularly those gifted and talented. I think the more gifted the child, the more individualized instruction that child needs, which sometimes means removing the child from general institutional educational settings if need be.

      I think what parents lack is accurate information about, and support for these non-traditional parenting/educating approaches. And I think this is a post I want to cover some day, particularly as it applies to the gifted child.

      But…not today. Today is time to do some other projects round here.

  12. Spacemom says:

    I always have trouble with the research of human relations, mostly since we can’t control all of the variables. I am a geek at heart, so I will, unfortunately, have to fall back to anecdotal evidence…which is NOT data.

    My first child went to daycare at 15 weeks. I was suffering depression and I was going insane at home. She hated being held, she cried and cried and I was just a basket case. It worked out best for both of us. She had the same people at daycare everyday. I had time without the screaming. Our time together was that much more precious and quality filled.

    I respectfully disagree with your comment

    It’s absolutely ludicrous to think that there are no ill-effects from such outsourcing of your responsibility to an institutional setting at a critical time in child development.

    In the good old days (before the industrial revolution), children were raised by a group. It was not considered outsourcing for a friend in the group, a grandparent, etc to do childcare as the parent was doing another task (or with the child). We now live in a society where many people live far from their parents, their support network is spread across the country and needing supplemental childcare is not uncommon. With the same caregivers, the child can thrive quite well.

    I always thought AP meant to help the child find their path in a way that respects their needs and wants instead of leaving their basic needs and wants unmet because the parent wants a specific behavior.

    I have never bought into the logic that AP parents can’t use modern equipment, feed with formula or use daycare.

  13. raisingsmartgirls says:


    Let me tread carefully here. If the choice comes down to potentially neglecting or harming a child due to maternal depression, I’m all for finding alternate arrangements for childcare, regardless of the who minds the children. This is where the risks of both need to be weighed carefully.

    I had been (way in the past) potentially at risk for both neglectful and harmful behavior towards my children, so great were my struggles. I did go to work and leave my children with my mother in law. If I did not have her, it would have had to been other relatives, and failing that, a day-care provider. After the birth of my third child, I did end up using AD’s to help me cope with the challenges of mothering 3 closely spaced girls.

    But when it comes down to the choices of who’s going to mind the infants, in the absence of a parent, grandparent or other family member, NO day care provider will ever be as good as that family care for an infant. I’m not even saying a good “nanny” won’t be as good or a good “in home” provider either where it’s not an institutional day care setting. I’m talking a place where personalized attention just isn’t there because it can’t be there and the child has to cope with 10, 20 or 30 other kids from an early age.

    In the days before modern industrial society, the kind of care you are talking about was much more personal and natural (literally more time spent outdoors) than children get today, particularly those spending time in institutional day care.

    However, it’s modern society that contributes to this problem, because we are so disconnected from each other in the first place – close family members too scattered.

    So I get what you are saying…I really do. I’m not judging any particular person whose only choice is institutional daycare. But at the same time, I’m still saying it’s not as good and can’t be as good for the young child as it would be if they have a parent/family member/friend/neighbor to care for them.

  14. mom gail says:

    Hi honey,
    Just a short story. When I was born, 2 of my aunts had babies, one the day before me, the other 1 week before me.
    When any one of the mothers needed to run some errands or such, one of the others would take care of the other’s baby, that included breast-feeding. In essence, I had 3 mothers. But, I was only attached to one and that was my mom. I felt the love that she had for me that nobody else had. I’m sure it was the same for my cousins too. I totally agree with you.
    But, in another instance, after I got out of high school, I became the nanny to an 8yr. old. she was extremely smart and wise beyond her tender age. She had parents that were more interested in making money and getting high with their clients (they had a recording company) than they were with her. It used to break my heart to hear her crying in the middle of the night, and just clinging to me because she needed someone to hold her and let her know that someone cared. I actually got in her mother’s face about taking responsibility as a mother and start showing some consideration for her only child. I quit that day, and I still remember Kristin begging me not to go, and asking who’s goint to take care of me now. I saw her mother about a month later, still partying and getting high, and leaving Kristin with who knows. I did what I could while I was there, and I can only pray that after all these years she found someone to love and care for her

  15. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Oh wow, Mom Gail. What a sad story for Kristin…

    And of course, you know the outcome for my life, with a mother more concerned about money and her home and her status in life than us kids. Of the 5 of us kids, none of us are truly unaffected by this lack of maternal attachment. We feel obliged to stick together, but it’s not love that is the basis for it.

    I do not at all have problem with having extra “mothers” to love and that loves and cares for a baby. I think that’s absolutely wonderful. That builds a secure network of caring adults for the child.

    What I have a problem with is the industrial society we live in that created a “every man for himself” attitude. Our economy is crumbling because of this pervasive attitude. It’s the disconnection from others due to lack of empathy and failure to think of the long term consequences of our actions on others. We get this disconnection from others because we as a society insist on pushing independence from birth.

  16. Spacemom says:

    No offense is taken by me! Really!

    I do agree that nobody is as good as the parents. Even if you leave a grandparent to nurture the child, the parent is still the chosen one. However, I think there is a big difference between “ill effects” and “not the best” when talking about daycare.

    It is similar to breast feeding. Sure, breast feeding is best. The science shows that. But formula in the United States is not bad although it is not the best. I believe the same holds true for daycare for the average.

    Daycare doesn’t equate to ill effects just as much as formula feeding doesn’t equate to poisoning your child.

    My daughters were both happy with their child care providers and were not left to find independence by being ignored, but were in a safe and healthy environment. Very rarely are infants in with 20 or 30 others. I think the daycare our children went to had 4 adults to 12 children, so 3 kids per adult. That certainly wasn’t a situation where they would wait very long for things.

    I guess the key is that I don’t see the major difference between a daycare center where there is a good staff/infant ration (1:3 or 1:4) and a neighbor or grandparent being the daytime caregiver.

  17. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Okay…I can see your points. Perhaps “ill effects” is too harsh/subjective of a phrase to use. And it’s good to hear there aren’t too many infants per adult.

    I still do believe that there will be repercussions down the line. They perhaps may not be traced back completely to infancy and the early years, but I do believe the institutional care of our children does have a cumulative effect. I’m not just talking day-care. I’m talking the amount of time spent in day-care, preschool, conventional public school.

    And…well, while formula may or may not be poison, I have been forced to use it myself. I had difficulty feeding my babies breastmilk. I had to use formula. I still HATE the idea I had to use formula, and felt tremendous guilt for that for the longest time. But it was either that or let them die from dehydration (I couldn’t make enough for my oldest to even pee in the early days…she had uric acid crystals in her diaper). When the choice was to let my baby die (because I couldn’t produce enough AND I had to return to work and couldn’t work on recovering a very bad start to nursing), or supplement them substandard food alternatives, there’s no question what had to be done. Hell, I wish I had another mama to take over nursing for me, so they could get the good stuff. But our world just isn’t like that anymore.

    I do think we do have a societal problem though…because we don’t offer enough flexible work options so that we can keep our jobs AND have a parent at home time for our infants. European countries have 18 months of parental leave, to be share by the father and the mother, so that the child doesn’t have to do daycare at all that young.

    I read in Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children that the feminist movement in the US had a different focus than the feminist movement in Europe. The focus in the US was total equality with men and ignoring on what to do if children came, and European women focused more on how to adapt to the many roles a mother takes on, especially after childbirth. European women made sure that plenty of consideration was made for motherhood. What incredible foresight those women had.

    But…and here’s where my wacko hippie altnernative views are going to alienate people (even though I’m not really a hippie or all that alternative). It’s my belief that industrial progress and modern practices will be our world’s un-doing. The further we get away from the natural way of doing things, the worse things will get. Okay, so one might say, “adjust, adapt, acclimate” – we humans are flexible creatures and we can survive. Meh…maybe. My personal feelings are this: Resistance is futile…you WILL be assimilated. And institutional settings get children ready from a very early age to “groupthink”.

    So, anyone might argue…oh, no, not possible? Well, I don’t really thing that is all that impossible when you think about it.

  18. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Here’s another thing I don’t understand…why do we humans accept “good enough” at all? As in, “if it’s ‘good enough’ for me, it’s good enough for them” or as in “well, it didn’t hurt Johnny down the street, so it’ll be ‘good enough’ for my kids”.

    We (limiting myself to US citizenry) accept this premise WAY too often. When it comes to me and mine, there are certain things that are not ‘good enough’.

    There are a few things that are not ‘good enough’ for me. I have to accept full responsibility for the outcomes of having to use substitute care/feeding methods (and yet at the same time not crucify myself for falling short of my ideals).

    Trusting others with my most valuable treasures – my children – does not come easy to me. ESPECIALLY since I could not even trust my own mother to watch my children because I know she’d instill HER values in my children. My mother was not going to get a chance to inflict severe damage on another generation – not on my kids anyway…

  19. What an impressive gathering of information – it’s great that you were able to get more information on that study. I think often times as parents, we’re afraid to face all the information because of what it might mean if we did.

    I think this is very true of the daycare debate. It might be uncomfortable to acknowledge that it is not the best situation for young children, particularly if you have limited options. But that’s not a reason to ignore it or rationalise it. If you are aware of it, at least you can attempt to mitigate it by what you do at home.

    Likewise, it might be uncomfortable to me acknowledge all the areas where I fall short of being the parent I want to be for my daughter, but that’s all the more reason to arm myself with as much information as possible.

    Which is why I don’t really subscribe to the whole, ‘well I did/my parents did this and my kids/I was fine’. What is fine? And how do you know how fine you are if the alternative was never attempted. My husband was spanked as a child and says he was fine with it. That doesn’t mean that I’ll spank my daughter. You’ll never really know what the impact is, because you can’t go back and change it.

    I respect (with regard to child care) that it is a necessity financially for some families and that it is also a necessity for some women and men who are at their best when they are pursuing a rewarding career and want to balance that with children. But I would hope people who are in that situation would be happy enough with their choices that they wouldn’t feel the need to demonise mine.

  20. raisingsmartgirls says:

    I have to get lunch for two of my daughters, but I just wanted to say I actually have full journal copies of these articles in case anyone was interested…a good friend of mine sent me them via email.

    Zoey, I’ll reply more fully later…thanks so much for your blog post that inspired this one of mine.

  21. Robin says:

    Attached is a link to an article following up Belsky’s findings with new studies. Secure/insecure attachment depends not only on the quality of care at a daycare or other alternate form (relatives, in-home daycares, et.c) but on how sensitive and responsive the mother is. An excerpt – “In response to the controversy of the 80s, a USA consortium was formed to study the effects of early child care. The National Institute of Child Health and Development Early Child Care Research Network included Belsky and his antagonists. Infant-mother attachment was assessed on 1153 infants from 31 hospitals in nine states using the Strange Situation at 15 months of age. The results revealed no significant effects of any of the alternate child-care variables on attachment to the mother. Infants were more likely to develop secure attachment with their mothers when their mothers were rated as higher in sensitivity and responsiveness regardless of whether they worked at home or outside the home. But child-care experience and maternal behaviour did combine to affect attachment. Specifically, poor quality alternate care, increased hours of care, and changes in care arrangements were associated with insecure attachment when the mother was rated as low in sensitivity and responsiveness to her infant. A smaller but parallel study in Canada in 1999, replicated these findings. ”

  22. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Thanks Robin,

    I always appreciate updated studies.

    I am beginning to think that overall we are still setting ourselves up to fail culturally. Anxiety disorders are on the rise. Interestingly enough, I just read this article:

    “Dr. Twenge sees at least some of the reasons in the deep cultural shifts we as a society have undergone since the 1960s. “Recent generations have been told over and over again: You can be anything you want to be, you can have the big job title, you can have the big bank account, and in the case of women, you can have the perfect body. That puts a lot on a person’s shoulder – and it is also not really true. That disconnect creates a lot of anxiety about how hard you need to work […] and a deep fear of failure.”

    And it’s not only that people have impossibly high expectations that are bound to be frustrated at some point in their lives. The world keeps changing so fast that many feel left behind even at a relatively young age.

    Reconsidering one’s values and making changes to one’s lifestyle is not easy. It’s hard if not impossible to get off the train once you’re on it. “People feel they should always be on, and that they could be called upon at any moment to do something,” said Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a professor of psychology at Yale University who specializes in stress and women’s health. “Our e-mail and iPhones are constantly pinging, which keeps anxiety heightened all the time.”

    Part of the reason WHY I came home to stay with my kids was that I felt an increasing sense of anxiety and dread. I could barely keep up with work stress, barely have energy by the time I got home, but I still managed to bathe and sing and rock my babies to sleep (my mother in law came and babysat for us in our home). It was not uncommon for me to fall asleep in the rocking chair while my daughter was still awake.

    After I came home to be with my daughters, I saw (and still see) many mothers pulling their hair out trying to meet the needs of their family. They might joke about it, but I see the stress fractures in their faces. When I talk to my friends’ husbands, they aren’t getting sex. Their women are too tired and have this general feeling of anger towards their husbands. The men in turn are pulling away from their wives, unwilling to meet their needs emotionally.

    I have seen some women turn their affections from their husbands and focus it towards their children, though. One friend of mine hasn’t touched her husband intimately in 5 years, but is very cuddly with her two boys. Needless to say, they are now separated. I know of another couple who completely spoils their child but fights over how much it ‘costs’ to have that child (course it would help if they didn’t spend money on pony rides for her birthday or take her to Disneyland AND Disneyworld two years in a row and fight over other bills. I know of a third person who is 5 years into his second marriage and he can’t even get a hug from her on the way out the door to work.

    I have been speaking to my therapist about this phenomenon. I am 41 years old and talk about new horizons in my personal growth with regards to job, avocation, AND sexual intimacy. She finds that MOST women by the time they reach my age have turned off their sexuality because they are being run into the ground and really have no energy or desire to explore anymore.

    People ARE becoming less attached with each other. It may have less to do with how they started off (daycare or parent care) and more to do with how stretched thin we are in this consumer-driven nation.

    We just can’t keep going at this breakneck pace of ours. It’s a train wreck ready to happen.

    So no, I’m not really going to be arguing much about whether its horrible to stick kids in daycare. We have much more widespread attachment problems than that due to all the other stresses in our lives.

  23. Rob says:

    It seems to me that there is some confusion about the issues raised in the comments. First of all, social attachment necessary for good child development does not necessarily require attachment only to one or both parents. From what I’ve seen, what is important is that the kids have individualized attention by somebody who really cares about them, not necessarily that the person is a biological parent.

    Many biological parents frankly may be highly damaging to their children (think about the prototypical Borderline mom or Narcissist dad) and the kids would be better off with somebody who is an attachment figure who is not a biological parent but who is very focused on interacting positively with the children and uses appropriate adult/child interaction patterns.

    There are lots of models for this in other societies. For instance, in many Asian societies it is common for children to be cared for by grandparents on the weekdays as the bio-parents are busy working. These kids can still do well so long as the grandparents remain involved most days and don’t get cast aside because one of the bio-parents becomes jealous or overly insecure.

    American style daycare doesn’t cut it. Daycares and camps are often staffed with too few caregivers and those caregivers are often young people who are lacking in child development education and experience. Morever, because it pays so poorly these caregivers also tend to be much less capable of raising kids than many bio-parents are.

    Also, there are a lot of comments about maternal depression. I see two major reasons behind this. One is that the social support systems for new parents in the US are abysmal. Many people have no close family nearby to help them and their peers are busy working and caring for their own families. Second, the food supply in the US is horrible quality. The SAD (Standard American Diet) is crap that literally ruins people’s physical and mental health by amino acid deficiencies, triggering metabolic syndrome and diabetes along with lipid abnormalities and hormones that are totally screwy.

    As a guy, I understand this better from my own health but know that similar problems happen in women, too. In my case, I have more estrogen than many women do and less cortisol than just about everybody except for a few people with Addison’s Disease. Why is that? Because I ate the SAD, was abused badly for years (and still am) and have C-PTSD from the abuse, and now my hormones are a disaster that has left me in chronic physical pain every hour of every day. There are few if any medicines for treating these kinds of problems well, and most doctors have a total lack of knowledge how to treat anything without medications.

    I suspect that many moms with post-partum depression are in the same sort of situation. They need radically different nutrition to rebuild their bodies, but what they get from SAD means they will stay depressed.

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