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What Is Attachment Parenting?

Criticisms of Attachment Parenting

No one would argue that close emotional bonding with a baby could be anything but positive. But can you have too much of a good thing? Yes, say critics of attachment parenting. Controversy still surrounds attachment theory. In part, that's because early research was based on animal studies. Here are some of the things the critics say:

  • Bed-sharing and infant death. Critics are concerned with bed-sharing, which has been linked to sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. Attachment Parenting International tries to address this risk with rules for safe bed-sharing.
  • Changes in attachment with experience. Many developmental psychologists no longer view attachment as a "trait." In psychological terms a trait is a more or less permanent, lifelong characteristic. Recent research has shown that the ability to form healthy, intimate attachments is affected by peer pressure, relationships in school, dating, and marriage -- as well as early childhood experience.
  • Multiple caregivers, changing times. Attachment theory arose in the 1950s, before the advent of childcare. Then, psychologists argued over whether mothers should stay home to raise their children. Many children since then have been exposed to multiple, relatively consistent caregivers as a result of childcare. Critics want attachment parenting research to be updated to reflect this changing reality.
  • Overstressed parents, overdependent children. Critics of attachment parenting claim that constant attention to a child's every mood and tantrum can lead to overdependent children and highly stressed parents. Or worse, kids learn to control and bully their well-meaning parents.
  • Scientific basis. Proponents of attachment parenting raise the threat of severely maladapted children if children don't form secure attachments. They point to a psychiatric condition called reactive attachment disorder (RAD). But the American Psychiatric Association's definition of RAD requires considerable physical and emotional deprivation, such as occurs with neglected orphans. Even then, research has found attachment issues can be changed with interventions such as therapy.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on July 19, 2012

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