“Any guy can make a baby – only some men really want to be fathers.”
Comment from a man in mens’ group
Being a new parent can be difficult. Studies have linked parent-child attachments to an infant’s future mental stability, memory and emotional development, making attachment theory one of the most essential parts of your child’s early life.
So What Exactly is Attachment Theory?
A concept in developmental psychology coined by British psychologist John Bowlby in the late 1960s, attachment theory stresses the importance of the attachment between parents and their kids in terms of personal development.
It says that the ability to form emotional and physical attachments to another person, especially at such an early age, gives that child a sense of stability and security that lets it take risks, branch out and grow.
Simply put, attachment theory says that new partners should prioritize forming a close, healthy relationship with their baby as soon as possible. While it won’t happen overnight, parents will eventually get to know their baby’s wants and needs and be able to respond to them properly, furthering that relationship.
American-Canadian developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth continued Bowlby’s work with the infamous strange situation study, leading to the development of four different types of attachments: Secure attachments, ambivalent attachments, avoidant attachments and disorganized-insecure attachments.
Those different levels of attachment have an impact on every aspect of later life according to the theory, meaning that your behaviors as an adult might be dictated by the attachment you had with your parents as a newborn. That’s how impactful attachment theory is to a developing child.
A study on couples showed just that. “Attachment theory describes the dynamics of long-term relationships between humans especially as in families and life-long friends. Its most important tenet is that an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional development to occur normally, and that further relationships build on the patterns developed in the first relationships.” the study authors found.
So How Do You Form Attachment With Your Infant?
Due to it’s incredible importance to later life, many have questions about how to form the best possible bonds with their baby.
Here are some things to pay attention to as a new father looking to bond with your baby.
1. Learn to Understand What Your Infant Is Looking For
While babies have a limited range of options when it comes to verbal cues, they give plenty of clues to what they need through other aspects. You baby’s face is the tell most of the time.
As you spend time with your baby, you’ll learn what certain faces and sounds mean and how to best react to them. Maybe your baby needs to be rocked to sleep in a chair as opposed to being soothed to sleep while standing. Maybe your baby likes a certain type of music before settling down.
And make sure you touch your baby as much as you possibly can. That physical skin-on-skin contact is great for establishing a meaningful bond with your kid.
Over time, you’ll figure out your baby’s quirks and how best to address those issues.
2. Feed and Put Your Infant To Sleep
While this one might sound like a no-brainer, it’s actually an essential part of the attachment process. Your baby will gain trust and build a relationship of trust with you as you provide for their needs.
As your baby’s ever-changing needs shift, you’ll be there for them to give them what they need. Make sure to engage and shower that baby with affection. It will pay dividends in the long-run.
3. Talk To Your Infant
While this one might seem like a waste of time, studies have shown that parents who talk to their babies often increases their baby’s vocabulary.
“Parents who repeat words more often to their infants have children with better language skills a year and a half later,” said co-author Rochelle Newman, professor and chair of UMD’s Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences (HESP). “A lot of recent focus has been on simply talking more to your child — but how you talk to your child matters. It isn’t just about the number of words.”
Talking, playing with and responding to the sounds your baby makes are a fantastic way to bond. The noises your baby makes is their way of inviting you into conversation or play.
Why a Father’s Relationship With Their Kids is So Important in Today’s World
While it’s unquestionable that the role of fatherhood is often one that’s diminished and downplayed, studies have shown how essential a father is to the cognitive, language and social development of a child. Well-bonded kids also have tended to have less issues later in life as well, dodging behavioral issues and alcohol and drug abuse at a higher than average rate.
Girls with tight relationships with their dad have tested better at math and boys have gotten higher test scores and better grades overall. Well-bonded boys have also shown more developed and realized senses of self.
That bond is even more important now as the family dynamics continue to shift. More parents than ever are single or co-parenting their kids, with fewer than half of American children today living in “traditional” families.
While that switch in dynamics might change up the way you need to link to and work with your kid, establishing that bond is still essential. Whether you’re classically married, single, divorced, widowed, gay, straight, adoptive, a stay-at-home dad or the breadwinner of the family, what matters is that you’re involved in a real and significant way.
While it might be more challenging than ever to be a parent in the modern world, forming relationships with your kids is work worth doing for their future.