Attachment in Childhood
As babies we don’t recognise ourselves as separate people from our mothers and this influences our view of ourselves in adulthood.
Our mothers influence our physical and psychological development. As children we are dependent on our mothers, as well as other caregivers, to help us navigate our way in the world. In a maze of discovery, we seek a mother’s nurture, support and encouragement. Our mother is our first love. We are attached to her in the womb and after birth will remain emotionally and physically attached, dependent on her love, nurturing and presence. This dependence remains until the fourth or fifth year according to Freud in his essay ‘Female Sexuality’.
Some mothers find it difficult to bond with their daughters while for others it comes naturally. A daughter ideally will receive both nurturance and support from her mother to gain autonomy. Forming a healthy bond and attachment with her mother, a daughter will feel close physically and have the emotional support in place for her to develop a healthy sense of self.
John Bolby (author of Attachment and Loss) describes in his theories of human attachment, how the survival of our species has depended on the closeness of mother and infant.
Generally speaking, without the mother’s care, the helpless child cannot exist. With a healthy attachment, a mother ideally responds to her infant’s distress, offering nurturance and care as and when it is needed. These set patterns of responding may continue long after a child grows into adulthood depending on the depth of attachment.
Daughters who did not experience a positive bond with their mothers (especially in terms of physical contact) may have a sense of eternal longing to be touched. Intimate touch is not sexual touch, though some daughters may confuse the two later in life. The daughter grows up hungry for love still yearning to be cuddled, bathed and caressed.
On the other hand, daughters who have not experienced loving touch may become touch sensitive and refrain from physical intimacy altogether as it is an unknown experience for them.
However, if mother or daughter becomes overly attached by becoming the centre of the other’s universe, this leaves little room for other relationships to prosper. This type of attachment can cause difficulties when a mother turns to her daughter for the love she never received - thus becoming co-dependent. If there is a desire for a mother to dominate and control her child she may demonstrate this by bullying, over protecting, abusing, humiliating, terrifying, suffocating, or over indulging her. When separation eventually occurs the one who is left may fall apart, they have no self identity without the other.
When both mother and daughter strive for emotional intimacy and the desire to have positive mutual attachment, the relationship will flourish. For many daughters having a healthy relationship with their mothers serves them well throughout their adult life. When mother and daughter are independent of each other they are able to connect as friends and adults as well as mother-daughter. In this kind of relationship, the separation process allows both parties to express themselves independently and they do not feel overly responsible for each other.
Through positive attachment, the mother becomes the daughter’s role model throughout the daughter’s development. The daughter will grow with her mother until she is ready to move out into the world independently.
If you'd like to work with me to heal the hurt places within or you simply want to improve the relationship you have with your mother, check out the range of support services at http://www.mothersanddaughters.solutions/support
You can read more about the mother-daughter relationship in my second book 'Mothers and Daughters: The guide to understanding and transforming the relationship with your mother' right here