Your baby 0-1 year

The first baby links

The first baby links


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A toddler weaves strong bonds with his mom and dad, sometimes with his nanny. How are these first relationships built? How are they influencing baby's future? Specialist Blaise Pierrehumbert enlightens us.

How is the first link between a baby and his parents established?

  • Blaise Pierrehumbert: The most important thing for a baby is to feel protected. When he is in distress (pain, fear, hunger, cold, etc.), he gives signals, often crying. If all goes well, his parents will know how to decode these signals and provide an appropriate response to calm his distress. These experiences of safety are very important for the child, who will develop through them an attachment relationship with his parents. It is a first strong and reciprocal link, based both on the need for protection of the baby and the need felt by parents to protect their child. This relationship of attachment can then be combined with a filial love.

When does this filial love appear in the youngest child?

  • Blaise Pierrehumbert: From birth to 6 months, the baby does not yet have a differentiated relationship with others. He recognizes people, identifies them, but accepts everyone in the same way. There may be exceptions but, as a general rule, it is between 6 and 12 months that he starts to establish privileged affective relationships with those who take care of him regularly. From then on, people are no longer interchangeable in his eyes. This is why it is more scary for a baby to separate for the first time from his parents after 6 months. This is done more easily if the meeting with the nursery or nanny educators takes place in the first half of the baby's life.

Does the toddler have a different relationship with his mother and father?

  • Blaise Pierrehumbert: The bond with the mother is not exclusive. The toddler can develop an attachment relationship with both parents if they both respond appropriately to their needs. Is this attachment different to mother and father? The question often comes up again, especially in the alternating residence debate. When a couple separates, the default solution is to share the custody of the children. Some oppose it, claiming that the attachment relationship with the mother is too important for the child to be deprived of it half the time. Others say the relationship with the father is just as important. The theory has not settled the question definitively ...

Can a baby attach to his nanny? Does this pose a problem?

  • Blaise Pierrehumbert: The child can fully establish a relationship of attachment with his nanny or the educator of the nursery. He will thus multiply his experiences of security, which is very positive for him. Parents who work a lot often fear that their child is more attached to his nanny than to them, but there is no risk: attachment is less dependent on the time spent with the baby than its quality, and can very well be shared between the parents and the nanny without this being done to the detriment of someone.

Do the first ties of a baby have an influence on his future life?

  • Blaise Pierrehumbert: Yes ! A toddler who has had secure relationships with his parents is sure they will always come back. This certainty will allow him to separate from them with less anxiety, to go to the nursery, for example. He will probably also find it easier to understand his own emotions and those of others. From childhood, through adolescence and adulthood, it will help to engage in balanced social relationships. Moreover, he will surely tend to have a better self-esteem. There is no determinism: it is not because a child has not had a secure relationship with his parents that he will necessarily have problems in his adult life! Events can change the game throughout his life.

Can we "fix" a badly started parent-baby relationship?

  • Blaise Pierrehumbert: Maybe ... The first year of this relationship is very important. For example, if a depressed mother can not meet the needs of her baby when he cries during his first year, there is a risk that this child may not develop a relationship of attachment with her. But if she ends up getting better and becoming more available to him, I think there are remediation possibilities.

Blaise Pierrehumbert is a doctor in psychology, specialist in the theory of attachment. He was director of research and lecturer at the University of Lausanne.

The theory of attachment

Developed by the British psychoanalyst John Bowlby in the 1950s and 1960s, this theory is based on the idea that a baby, in his first year of life, attaches himself to people who meet his needs in a continuous and appropriate manner and which gives him a sense of security.

This article is taken from the parents' notebook of Picoti, the magazine for babiesfrom 9 months to 3 years