What is attachment theory?

Many families ascribe to the attachment theory of parenting. It’s a great idea to have some semblance of what that means, if you are applying to work with a family who believes and follows this theory. As a caregiver, you can help the child by being a responsive and available person in their life, in addition to their parents.

Q: What is attachment theory?

A: Attachment theory states that a child needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver to ensure healthy social and emotional development. It was first explained by psychoanalyst John Bowlby. Basically he postulated that a child who has a responsive and available caregiver developed a greater sense of security and could then explore the world.


  • Healthy attachment allows children to feel safe when stressed, provides a base of security so that the child will explore the world, keeps the physical needs of the child met and will help to pattern later relationships in life.
  • Attachment in childhood directly affects romantic and other relationships in adulthood.
  • There are 4 main types of attachment- secure attachment, avoidance attachment, resistant attachment, disorganized attachment.
  • Empathy and the ability to express ones emotions later in life are directly affected by a child’s early attachments.
  • Attachment was originally attributed to the mother and later it was found that babies also attached to their father. Now there is evidence that all caregivers can form attached relationships and have an impact on a child’s life.
  • A style of parenting, attachment parenting, has developed from this theory. It’s focus is developing strong relationships between parents and children so that children grow to be empathetic and highly connected human beings.


  • Infant’s needs must be met. It is crucial to later development for babies and young children especially to feel safe and secure.
  • Know that children are looking to connect with caregivers. It is the supreme responsibility of a nanny to connect with charges.
  • Make eye contact and smile and talk with your child. Be warm and inviting. Avoid erratic behavior and loud noises.
  • Follow your child’s lead when appropriate. Keep the day flowing in a familiar schedule.
  • Avoid overstimulation. While it is important to stimulate kids in order to engage their brain, it is CRUCIAL that you know when a child has had enough. This takes practice and careful observation.
  • Read to children of all ages from birth thru school aged.
  • Know yourself and your stressors. Be sure you are at your best when caring for a child.

Written by: Judi is a mom to 2 wonderful kids who love to read, kinda like herself. She has experience as a Teacher-Librarian, making sure others receive the gift of books and reading for a lifetime!

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