The Ultimate Price Paid for Violent Acts in Families & Against Young Children
Harvard Felton Earls summarizes the ultimate societal price paid out in violent acts as follows: “The rising tide of abuse and neglect of children usually occurs during the critical period when children are developing ‘moral emotions.’ These are emotions rooted in brain chemistry and are established in the first three years of life.”
Trauma due to abuse and neglect result in ‘disrupted attachment’. Left untreated it has devastating social and emotional effects upon the family as described by Keck & Kupecky (1995):
- Indiscriminate affection toward strangers
- Lack of affection with parents on their terms
- Little eye contact with parents
- Lying about the obvious
- Destructive behavior to self, to other, and to material things
- Abnormal eating patterns
- No impulse controls, hyperactivity
- Learning difficulties
- Poor peer relationships
- Lack of conscience
- Cruelty to animals
- Preoccupation with fire
- Crippled ability to attach to any human being
How to Treat Disrupted Attachment
A baby and young child’s brain has a type of window of opportunity like none other to build synapses (the start of new brain patterns) and hard wiring that will last a life time. As foster parents we therefore have to focus on cultivating intense emotional well-being in infants and young children placed in our care.
There are many models for improving the attachment between foster/ child and /parent. One of them are ‘The Circle of Security Project’ (Marvin, Cooper, Hoffman, & Powell, 2002). The model necessitates strong family involvement and their training protocol are earmarked by the following objectives for the foster/ parents to:
- Grow more sensitive and responsive to their child’s signals.
- Increase their ability to consider their own behavior as well as the child’s behavior along with their thoughts and emotions about the attachment building interactions.
- To consider experiences in their own backgrounds that impact their parenting styles.
The Circle of Security train foster/ parents to become familiarized with their own history of security as it developed for them as young children. They learn to rethink the cues from their foster/ children that in the past have caused them to grow frustrated, angry or distant, resulting in all the more difficulty with building a secure attachment with their child. The strategies used in the program are based upon the understanding of what have been identified as four patterns of attachment (Marvin & Britner, 1995):
- The secure child-autonomous parent
- The insecure, avoidant-dismissing
- The insecure, ambivalent
- The insecure, “disordered” pattern.
The developers of Circle of Security state that as the pattern of attachment and communication shifts within the foster/ parent, the foster/ child’s level of attachment and relational exchange shifts as well (Marvin et al, 2002).