Relationship between attachment styles & childcare & single moms

Many researchers have observed that children in childcare may exhibit some behaviors that could fall into an avoidant attachment style, but have stated that this may not actually be what is going on with some of these children.  Many of these children that are in daycare for longer lengths of time come from a single parent home, usually the mother as the single parent.  When a mom is responsible for raising a child alone, she is limited in her choices:  she usually has to work to provide food, shelter, & other necessities, she usually does not have a choice in being at home with her child during the early formative years, & she is required to be aware of & sensitive to her child’s needs whether physical, emotional, or psychological all by herself when she may be extremely tired from the other responsibilities she has to carry in her day.  However, depending on the quality of childcare she arranges for her child, many insecurities can be avoided.  If a close relative such as a grandmother or sister is able to care for that child, holding & loving this child consistently, reassuring this child of the mother’s love while she is away for a few hours, this child can still experience a stable & responsive environment.  If the mother is sensitive to her child & cherishes the limited time that she has with her child, the mother & child will both look forward to the time they have together.  It comes down to quality rather than quantity.

The amount of hours the mother is away from the child can contribute to a child’s insecurity, therefore the mother needs to minimize her time away as much as possible; but if unavoidable, then the quality of daycare is extremely important.  Many single moms have to rely on a licensed daycare system rather than a family member.  The ratio of caregivers to children will be important.  The way the daycare is run is important, such as: are the same caregivers there on a daily basis, consistently, so the child is held by the same familiar faces; are the caregivers responsive to the child’s needs & able to hold & nurture them whenever they need it, are the caregivers trained & experienced in childcare so that they understand the needs in development for the child so they can be supportive in a positive way, & are they supportive of the parent’s position in this child’s life & able to communicate & work with the parent as a team for the good of their child?

Children that receive good quality care from consistently available people that love them can still form secure attachments to the mother as well as others in their lives.  They learn to see the world as a safe place that they are able to be away from mom & trust that someone else will meet their needs, that they can play with other children & feel satisfaction, & that mom will return — & they look forward to the time when they are together again without feeling anxiety if they are separated for a few hours.  They have a secure world that they have adjusted to that is normal for them. 

They may display the behaviors of an avoidant attachment style in that they don’t become as distressed when mom leaves or may not be nearly as reactive when she returns, & they are comfortable having others care for them.  However, their behaviors are based on very different internal working models:  they are familiar with this schedule of mom being gone each day but have learned to develop trust in her love & feel secure that she will be back soon, & in the meantime the child learns to feel safe & cared for by those left in her place.  Rather than feeling that their needs aren’t met & that adults are not dependable, the child learns that mom & others are caring & will be there for them, & they have a sense of safety & security that is displayed in their less reactive behaviors.  Again, the quality of care by both the parent & the daycare provider is the most important element of the child’s attachment style being secure.

Deanna Cote’


~ by dscote on October 4, 2009.

2 Responses to “Relationship between attachment styles & childcare & single moms”

  1. i agree i think that the same with anything it can be qualtity not qunantity. many moms that are stay at home still have avoidiant attachements due to lack of communication and caring.

  2. could one in the same fasion state that individual childeren who do become distressed in this working model are then not securely attached? (demonstrating anxiety when mom/parent leaves, or overly reactive when mom returns). provided the caregiver still is dependable and meets the childs needs. Does this argument then only apply to single parent homes?

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