Attachment is the deep and enduring connection established between a child and caregiver in the first several years of life. It profoundly influences every component of the human condition - mind, body, emotions, relationships and values. Attachment is not something that parents do to their children; rather, it is something that children and parents create together, in an ongoing reciprocal relationship. Attachment to a protective and loving caregiver who provides guidance and support is a basic human need, rooted in millions of years of evolution. There is an instinct to attach: babies instinctively reach out for the safety and security of the "secure base" with caregivers; parents instinctively protect and nurture their offspring. Attachment is a physiological, emotional, cognitive and social phenomenon. Instinctual attachment behaviors in the baby are activated by cues or signals from the caregiver (social releasers). Thus, the attachment process is defined as a "mutual regulatory system" - the baby and the caregiver influencing one another over time.
Beyond the basic function of secure attachment - providing safety and protection for the vulnerable young via closeness to a caregiver - there are several other important functions for children:
Children who begin their lives with the essential foundation of secure attachment fare better in all aspects of functioning as development unfolds. Numerous longitudinal studies have demonstrated that securely attached infants and toddlers do better over time in the following areas:
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