Insecure-ambivalent attachment*

The insecure-ambivalent attachment is characterized by the presence of various and often intense emotions in the child. These are caused by overprotection on the part of the parent towards the child or by a lack of interest or neglect. Thus, the parents may react in an exaggerated, unpredictable, incoherent or simply absent manner, which taints the attachment relationship with the child. Different manifestations may be associated with ambivalent attachment.

  • Child’s intense crying in the absence of the parental figure, but signs of discomfort in his or her presence
  • Resistance when separated from the parent
  • Parental difficulty appeasing the child
  • Aggressive or oppositional behavior from the child
  • Long and frequent negotiations initiated by the child who rarely seems satisfied
  • Criticisms or complaints towards the parent
  • Lies
  • Seductive behaviors towards adult
  • Difficulty in regulating one's emotions in an adequate and pro-social way

These behaviors reflect a lack of confidence in the adult's response, but also low self-esteem in the child. For example, the child could adopt seductive behaviors to get closer to the adult and feel that he matters to the adult, while the appearance of aggressive behavior could be done to move away from an overprotective parent who has no confidence that the child can succeed on his own. Irregular parenting reactions can also lead to feelings of anger, frustration, and fear in the child because he does not feel listened to or taken into account. All of these factors make the child more inclined to manifest his needs and distress in exaggerated ways because he is unsure of getting an appropriate response from his attachment figure.

Since the child’s relationships can have an impact on his development on many levels such as personal self-esteem, vision of the world, learning, and ways to connect with others, the scope of the services offered is not negligible. These may include the following elements:
  • Develop the parent's sensitivity so that he can respond appropriately to the needs of the child and become a secure attachment point
  • Promote the child’s expression of emotions
  • Develop the child’s self-esteem when, for example, reflecting on successes and telling the child he can be proud of themselves
  • Demonstrate a willingness to help the child rather instead of doing it so that he develops confidence in you and themselves
  • Be receptive and attentive to the child’s needs
  • Adopt the appropriate attitude depending on the child’s situation
  • Be positively interested in what the child does
  • Help the child self-regulate emotionally and behaviorally by providing appropriate strategies and tool

Overall, to develop a safe attachment bond between the parent and the child, it is important to respond adequately, quickly, and warmly to the child’s needs. Thus, the more the child feels that the parent is present, attentive and caring, the more he will develop a secure attachment with the parent. More specifically, for ambivalent attachment, it is essential to develop the child’s self-confidence as well as the trust he has in others, so he may develop healthier relationships.

A psychologist, psychoeducator or social worker will be happy to help you. For more information, please contact the Family and School Services at 450 687-6888 ext. 113.

*The use of the pronoun “he” is meant to alleviate the reading of this document.

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