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CARERS must CARE – Lessons on attachment from Colby Pearse

It was such a privilege to be asked recently to write a testimonial for Colby Pearce’s second edition of a ‘Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder’.

Colby Pearce is one of the leading experts in attachment and as a clinical psychologist, he has interacted with hundreds of children over his long career. His writing is informed by his considerable experience and he has a huge amount of empathy with children who have experienced early childhood trauma.

I want to summarise just a few of the core insights on attachment from this latest guide.

  • Attachment is the term used to describe the dependency relationship children develop towards their primary caregivers.

  • An attachment figure is someone who provides physical and emotional care, has continuity and consistency in the child's life, and is emotionally invested in the child.

  • Human infants are not born with attachments already in place with their primary caregivers. This special relationship emerges over time.

  • Attachment theory was developed by John Bowlby and colleagues to describe the relational variables in the development of the mother infant relationship and the importance of the relationship itself on the successful adaptation of the young child to life more generally.

  • Children can form multiple attachment relationships.

  • Infants form attachment to the person or persons who they experience to care for them physically and emotionally on a continuous period.

  • Pearce Identified that carers must be experienced by the child as Consistent, Accessible Responsive and Emotionally connected. Hence his C.A.R.E. model

  • Consistent -consistent care is where an action is consistently followed by a desired outcome.

  • Accessible care means the parent is present and available physically and emotionally to the growing child.

R- Responsive carers accurately interpret the child’s signals and directly address their needs

E- Emotionally connected carers “tune in” to the infant and reflect a similar emotion back.

Tronick’s ‘still face’ experiments vividly demonstrate the distress experienced by youngsters when a previously playful parent adopts a ‘dead pan’ expression and stops engaging with the child.

  • Early attachment experiences contribute to a child’s sense of self and self-worth. It also forms the basis for future relationships as, if children experience parents to be consistent, accessible, responsive and emotionally connected, they will develop emotional resilience in their engagement with the rest of their world.

Having established the basis for healthy attachment, Pearce goes on to consider how attachment can be disrupted through early childhood experiences of abuse, neglect and other trauma. He offers effective forms of treatment for attachment disorders.

This is an essential read for Social Workers, teachers, foster carers and residential care staff. It is available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Colby’s website is

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