Emotional availability vs. AP – from a bona fide attachment researcher

Frankly, I’m not entirely sold on attachment theory. While there seems to be plenty of evidence that being responsive to your baby’s cues is, overall, a good thing and makes babies more likely to be securely attached, I do think being “securely attached” (which, after all, merely represents a specific response pattern) is not absolutely necessary to produce psychologically functional adults. It’s somewhat like assuming that making prom queen in high school is inherently better. While this may be an indicator of of high social functioning, it doesn’t necessarily indicate future happiness or success.

Also IMO, while responsive parenting may attenuate a baby’s behavior, the baby’s basic temperament will also be a major factor in determining her personality (possibly, also, through how adults respond to her behavior). Babies are not presented to us tabula rasa. Attachment theory, to my mind, also doesn’t credit human resilience enough – though we all have heard or know about people who turn out to be wonderfully functional people, despite coming from the most awful, abusive family situations.

But assuming one takes the precepts of attachment theory to heart, how can a parent nurture their baby in a way that will promote secure attachment?

Despite Dr. William Sears’ protests that the basis of his Attachment Parenting is “listening to your baby’s cues”, it becomes very clear, both according to both his book and his followers, that much of the emphasis in practice is on the “Baby Bs”, which claim to be “tools” by which a baby will develop the secure attachment pattern to his mother. (I’ve discussed why this is incorrect in one of my earliest posts, here).

Nonsense, says Zeynep Biringen, Ph.D, child clinical psychologist, associate professor at Colorado State University and author of Raising a Secure Child:

Parenting experts have advocated what is called “attachment parenting”. The term attachment parenting might sound familiar because it has been popularized in many parenting books. However, only the label has been borrowed, not the scientific research on which this topic is based. There is no scientific evidence to indicate that the practices such as “cosleeping” or “birth bonding” — the delaying of any separation or routine procedures during the newborn period until after the family has had time to bod — have much of an effect on long-term parent-child relationships. In fact, such statements have created much unnecessary guilt and worry among parents of premies and parents of adoptive children who for health and logistical reasons are unable to take part in this form of connecting with a child. There is also no good scientific evidence that “babywearing” or “breastfeeding on cue” have an effect on a child’s long-term social/emotional development. Some (but not necessarily all) of these recommendations are sound advice, but they are not based on mainstream attachment theory or scientific research.

Dr. Biringen knows whereof she speaks, as she has been doing attachment research for the past two decades. She has championed the concept of Emotional Availability – and on her website, you can also find a checklist to see if you are an emotionally available parent (the book has one for children aged 2 and up as well).

The nice thing about Brinigen’s ideas is that she gives parents actual guidance (as opposed to Sears’ laundry list of one-size-fits-all of practices) in reading your child’s emotional cues. Also, she stresses throughout the book that it’s never to late to reconnect emotionally with one’s child (even if you were doing it ‘completely wrong’ until your child’s adolescence!), and that the secure attachment is not limited to the parents – a child can, and perhaps should, develop attachments to other figures, such as teachers, babysitters, and other family members. While she believes that home-based care is best for the first year, she emphasizes that a mother’s employemnt outside the home is not an impediment to achieving an emotionally available relationship with her children. She also, very importantly, states that parents have a right to a life of their own and no parent, or anybody else, can be emotionally available to a child 24/7/365; what matters is the overall quality of the relationship. Additionally, she points out that parents may be emotionally disengaged with a certain baby because of their own psychological issues at the time – for example, loss of a previous baby to SIDS or due to depression. In which case, the child will pick up on the parent’s mood even if his/her actions are all ‘by the book’ (and this means parent should probably be working through said issues, perhaps with the help of a licensed therapist).

Biringen also introduces the idea of parental intrusiveness – which can be forcing a child to develop before they’re ready, but also, conversely, doing things for children when they’re developmentally ready to do them on their own. Thus, while it’s emotionally available behavior to change a 6-month-old’s diapers, refusing to potty-train a (neurologically normal) 4-year-old because he’s perfectly happy going in his diaper is considered intrusive. Intrusive behavior can foster insecure-anxious/dependent attachment, rather the the desirable secure attachment.

Biringen is also honest enough to admit that most insecure attachment types are not indicative of future mental pathology – though a child with insecure attachment may grow up to have personality quirks which may cause her stress. She states inborn traits can be overcome with emotional availability (I am not entirely convinced of this, nor am I convinced this is entirely desirable). She also suggests building a relationship with one’s child – along with ‘being there’ emotionally with your children – by acting somewhat like the child’s therapist, something which I admit feels uncomfortable to me (though I’m certainly willing to think about it, and some parents may find this approach helpful). But overall, the book is quite valuable in elucidating the actual claims of attachment theory, and what needs to be done by parents in practice in order to be a responsive parent.

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21 Responses

  1. Thanks for posting. Will defnitely check this out.

  2. The idea of “parental intrusiveness” isn’t really a “new”concept, but one brought up by “middle school” psychoanalytic thinkers like Winnicott who realized that there is a “dance” of closeness and distance that needs to occur between parent and child, in order to promote optimum development. Learning and “play” occurs in the optimum space between parent and child. Too much closeness — or too much distance — (and that amount is unique, based on the child/parent pair) — inhibits optimum growth.

    I do also agree with you that ignoring inborn temperamental features is really a big problem with “attachment parenting”.

    It also really bugs me that the term “attachment parenting” makes unsuspecting parents THINK that AP is BASED ON true attachment research — which it proclaims to be, but is really not. The findings of attachment research, including more recent scientists like Beebe, shows how important it is for the parent to be uniquely tuned in to their own unique child — even if that means their child prefers more “alone time”, or prefers NOT to be held that much — etc.

    So the “one-size-fits-all” approaches to parenting — AP or otherwise — just don’t work (or only work by accident), when you understand that each child responds best to different approaches, based on their own characteristics (and of course the environment, parent characteristics, and other external factors as well).

  3. You say that “I do think being “securely attached” (which, after all, merely represents a specific response pattern) is not absolutely necessary to produce psychologically functional adults.”. Don’t you think that that’s a pretty low standard to aim for. IMO parents should aim higher than that for their children – like for their children to be loving, compassionate, creative, enjoy life and the list goes on. Unless I misunderstood you and you include all of these qualities in “psychologically functional”. When I first started out doing awareness work on myself I was psychologically functional but had ruined a marriage and my children were afraid of my anger. Now I’m much more of a loving, compassionate , happy person and have a wonderful relationship with my children but it took a lot of work. I think that if I had been securely attached the work would have been easier but who knows. I think that attachment theory shows a way to let children develop in a secure environment, which seems to me to be a good thing even if it’s not necesary for the development. Why not? Here in Israel children grow up in an insecure environment. Maybe they’ll turn out ok but that’s not the ultimate test. They suffer a lot. Well I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

  4. Gina,

    When I said “psychologically functional”, I meant people who are able to function well in the setting of friendships, work, marriage (if they so desire), parenting (ditto), etc. A marriage and parent-child relationship ruined – or even strained – by extreme anger management issues would not come under that heading, naturally, and I’m glad you managed to find help for yourself and remedy this. I don’t know anything about your family background, or how much it contributed to your personal problems.

    Also, you have to differentiate between the situation inside the house and the one outside. Certainly, kids in Israel are surrounded by a lot of fears and threats. We’re hardly the only ones who are, though some attachment researchers think the reason there are relatively more insecure-anxious children among those insecurely attached kids here than in western societies is because of all these external pressures (myself, I blame Jewish parenting 😉 ). But what goes on between parents and children is the matter under discussion here. We can’t control the externals, but we can, as parents, control what kids get emotionally inside the house. And apparently, Israeli parents are doing well enough on that score, and usually manage to act as a decent buffer against the bad guys that Israeli kids grow up pretty normal, for the most part. Or else we can give credit to general human resilience…

  5. What’s more, AP results in attached children– TOO attached. I know many children whose parents basically followed the AP model, even if they were a little before the books themselves. These kids invariably wind up with emotional problems as a direct result of their attachment. Many have to fight in themselves for years to break the emotional bonds enough to live functional lives, especially in relationships. Sexual dysfunction is really common for children of AP relationships (real AP, it’s not related to just breastfeeding, don’t worry, I’m not one of those crazies). One common thread among former AP kids is they have felt their whole lives like their mothers were emotionally dependent on them. It’s like living in an emotional prison.

    What’s more, they can’t really BLAME their parents, because they feel like their mother tried really hard and did care about them, so they usually either perpetuate the cycle because they don’t get help or they get help and never inform their mother of the issue because they don’t see what it will help, and the problems come up so long after the mother is past having children that it seems pointless to make the mom feel bad over nothing. So the mom thinks AP worked great! After all, her kids turned out fine! Meanwhile her children spend the rest of their lives picking up the pieces.

    Someday, estherar, I’d like to have some of the children of AP parents that I know write something for you, explaining what they have gone through, in the hopes that maybe some mothers might read it and realize that AP is incredibly damaging to their children.

  6. To Esterar: I understand now that your definition of psychologically functional is much wider than I thought (that’s good). As someone who has lead self awareness programs for years, I don’t think that most people are psychologically functional (see divorce rates as a hint in that direction). I do think that people are very resilient and survive a lot of very bad parenting and difficult external conditions. But the scars are there and they come out in problems in their marriage, as parents, problems with authority, insecurity, lonliness and so on. When you scratch the surface most people have a lot of problems. You ask if my problems (which mainly manifested themselves in marriage and parenting issues) came from my parents – of course. That’s my point. Just like my children’s problems come from me and their father. Bye the way, I think that there is a lot that parents can do to protect their children from external pressures and in my opinion parents do not do enough on that front either. They can’t protect them from the war but they can protect them from large unsuitable nursury schools, for instance. But since these are cheap, people send their kids there instead of to better quality smaller frameworks. In short, I don’t think parents are doing the required job today (and maybe never did).
    To Basiorana: I don’t know if everyone who claims to practice AP really does. You can definitely say you are practicing AP without really doing so since AP requires sensitivity to your children’s needs and its not something that’s easy to teach. There’s a group of parents who produce insecurely attached children who are overly intrusive and go overboard doing with and for their children. That’s not what the child needs, it’s what the parents need. This is not really AP. For me the real AP, is parenting based on attachment theory and not necessarily what is described as AP. In all studies that I’ve ever seen, where the participants are devided into securely attached and the insecurely attachment, the securely attached come out far ahead as far as confidence, social competence, coping with difficult situations and so on. I’ve even seen a study of Arabs who were released from Israeli prisons and even there, those who were determined to be securely attached, coped better.

  7. Gina,

    As someone who leads self-awareness groups, I suspect the people you see there may not necessarily be representative of the general population. Also, I’m not sure that in this day and age, you can assume that partners who decide to divorce are necessarily dysfunctional human beings – it may just be that these specific two people made a bad decision to be together, and that they’ll be perfectly happy and functional with spouse #2. There’s also the fact that many people seem to universally blame their parents for just about everything, regardless of the actual quality of parenting they received (my husband was raised in a very stable, loving family, and he still complains! ).

    Parents are not perfect, neither are children, and no matter how hard parents try, I am fairly sure kids of all types of parents will still claim their folks screwed up their lives…if and until (I hope!) they realize that sometimes, they have to ‘own’ their own emotions and take responsibility for their issues. Mind you, I’m talking about your garden variety, non-abusive parenting practices here. But nobody emerges from life emotionally scar-free, and not all of it (or even most of it) can be blamed on our parents.

  8. Basiorana,

    If one of those people you mention wants to write a guest post, let me know. Can you specify how these people’s parents practiced AP, though? Like the folks at MDC?

  9. No, less crazy. The one in particular who might write for you, his mom didn’t go for the crazy no-medicine or anything, but she followed each of the tenets described on the Attachment Parenting websites once he was born, with the exception of cosleeping, which wasn’t really something she knew was an option. I mean, the responding with sensitivity, the consistent care, the positive discipline, etc. Treated her son as an equal member of the family instead of as a child; responded quickly and immediately to every need; stopped working and stayed at home to be with him 24/7. It varies depending on the parent, of course, that’s just one example. But she wasn’t the no-vaccines, breastfeed to 6, cosleep to 17 type, no.

    “For me the real AP, is parenting based on attachment theory and not necessarily what is described as AP.”

    I was talking about the people who follow the eight principles of AP as described on the AP International website. Obviously it’s good to not ignore your children and foster good, secure attachments; but that is NOT what following the AP movement’s teachings will do. Following the AP movement produces insecure attachments in almost every case I have seen; that doesn’t mean that you have to spank, use CIO, and never hug your kids to make them healthy, just that the AP method is not a good alternative either.

  10. I’m a first time parent and I think I’m practicing AP – although I’m sometimes a little uncertain from the depictions of AP that I read.

    What I can’t understand is why there is a “us” and “them” perspective when it comes to parenting. As a first time Mum, the motivation I had for practicing the kind of parenting that I do is derived from the desire to provide a safe and healthy environment for my child to grow up and live his life to his fullest potential. In fact, most parents I know strive to do what they believe to be the best for their child. We wouldn’t be doing what we did if we didn’t think it was best for our child.

    Personally, I think feel that only the parent of a child will know what is best for his or her own child. Be open and aware of what the options are, and practice what feels right and works best for your own child.

    To my understanding (which may be right or wrong) I am a responsive parent (which I have always understood to be equivalent to practicing AP). To me, responsive parenting is about responding sensitively to your child’s needs and using a style of parenting that fits his requirements. So far, all the practices of AP fit him.

    That doesn’t mean I didn’t try other methods. I tried to get him to sleep on his own but found I was getting up too often in the night to tend to him. Hence we co-sleep. He sleeps better and so do I. I tried to get him to sit in the $2K pram the hubby and I bought but he cried until he threw up. Hence I practiced baby-wearing until he decided he no longer wanted to be “worn”.

    I breastfeed him because I believe nutritionally and health-wise, it was the best option for him. With all the recent melamine infant milk-powder stories in the media (I live in Asia, btw), I’m glad I did. My son has hardly ever been sick, which I attribute to his being breastfeed exclusively until 6 months and thereafter as and when he required.

    I practiced positive discipline because I don’t believe in smacking my child. I still don’t. But it really irks me when ignorant people assume I’ve chosen not to discipline my son just because I won’t hit him. To me, choosing not to discipline is allowing a child to get away with his misdemeanours. I don’t. I don’t tolerate behaviours I deem unacceptable – hitting, throwing toys, damaging property, hurting people. When I see such behaviour in my son, I correct it in a manner I see fit, but I never hit him to get my point across.

    I didn’t allow my son to CIO when he was a baby but that doesn’t mean I can’t tell when he’s faking it to get attention now that he’s older. I respond to real cries and ignore him when he throws a tantrum to get his own way.

    From the things I do as a parent, it appears to me that I do practice the principles of AP, but I certainly don’t see myself as pictured by certain depictions of AP parents by people who are anti-AP.

    I don’t preach to other parents how they should or shouldn’t raise a child, but I am critical of parents who ignore the needs of their children. For instance, while I may have practiced baby-wearing but I am not critical of parents who have children sitting in prams. I certainly seem enough children who don’t mind sitting in a pram. However, I do cringe when I see a parent ignore the desperate screams from a crying infant forced to sit in a pram while the parent is calmly going about their business completely unperturbed by their hysterical child.

    Just for the record, my parents didn’t practice AP with me. I was completely untrusting, unable to form stable relationships, and totally commitment phobic until I met my husband. I grew up a scared and insecure teenager with low confidence. I feared my mistakes and was never able to seek help from my parents. I don’t blame my parents for the distant relationship we have as a result of the way they brought me up, but neither would I choose that style of parenting for my children.

  11. Oh yes… I am a SAHM and chose to be so even though my career used to mean everything to me. I opted to be a SAHM because I believe no one (especially where we live) can be as devoted to my child’s development as I will be (especially in this early age). I also attribute my son’s advanced development to the dedication I have given him but that doesn’t mean I won’t send him to kindergarten or playschool when the time is right.

    And no, you’re not a bad mother if you have to work instead of being a SAHM. Although I do feel bad for the mothers who want to stay home with their children but are unable to because of circumstances.

    But I absolutely cannot agree with parents who have children just for the sake of having children and will not take the responsibility to raise them properly.

  12. Such an interesting idea, to have the kids who were/are raised with AP principles (and perhaps those with more mainstream families) discuss their experiences. It wouldn’t be the most rigorous study, certainly not the most randomized or objective sample, but such anecdotes have some value in the debate. It’s always interesting to me to hear how people understand how they were raised, and what they can attribute as related to their current functioning.

  13. Shen-Li – The issue isn’t whether one breastfeeds, cosleeps, practices ‘gentle discipline’ etc. But when one presents these practices, in and of themselves, as a magic formula to producing securely attached kids…we have a problem. Especially when often, in practice, the “be responsive to your child” seems to take a distant second place (and the “being responsive” also often gets interpreted as “never push your child to do anything s/he doesn’t want to do”). There is simply no evidence that any of these practices have any effect on the parent-child attachment.

    I also think you’re making some assumptions here. Yes, it may be that your son has never been sick as a result of your breastfeeding him. It’s equally possible he (like many firstborns who aren’t in daycare) simply wasn’t exposed to many viruses. My second son, who was breastfed for 21 months, was sick many times during his first year or two. Does that mean breastfeeding is useless? No, but it means there are plenty of other things that factor into the mix.

    I will also point out that the mere fact of SAHM-ing doesn’t automatically mean one will be a more attentive parent.

    Does that fact that your parents didn’t practice AP have anything to do with your current personality? Does that fact that you choose to practice AP mean your child will come out differently? I have no idea, and frankly, I don’t think anyone does.

  14. I have to say Shen-li’s comments basically confirm my suspicion that stridency about AP comes from people who came from unstable upbringings, so they don’t really know what a good, loving home looks like. They practice this formula of activities in opposition to whatever instability they experienced. If you’d come from a stable home and witnessed committed relationships in your family, maybe you wouldn’t be so impressed with your personal accomplishments in this arena.

    I don’t know if you can handle this, but there’s nothing new under the parenting sun. Wow, you feed your son when he’s hungry — I don’t know anyone who’s not done that. You’re providing a safe, healthy environment for your child, revolutionary. You correct bad behavior, why hadn’t I thought of that? Let me guess, you also sing songs, do silly dances, and read books.

    Finally, you wondered where the us and them thing happened. I think you set it up with this comment:

    ‘But I absolutely cannot agree with parents who have children just for the sake of having children and will not take the responsibility to raise them properly.’

    Who are these people? They seem to be a ‘them’ who don’t do things like you.

    I am afraid your comment about the $2K stroller gave you away. In addition to practicing the most rigorously responsive parenting, the kind that only someone who raises their child properly, you are obviously the best parent ever to have purchased this:

    http://bestparentever.com/2008/03/13/1-1000-strollers-2/

  15. Estherar – I’m afraid I didn’t explain myself very well. Yes, I attribute my son’s good health to breastfeeding, but I don’t believe that breastfeeding alone will prevent a child from getting sick. I know Mums who breastfed their babies exclusively and they still got sick plenty of times in the first year even though those babies weren’t in childcare and were in environments where they weren’t exposed to as many viruses.

    I agree that there is no magic formula for raising children – every child is an individual who responds differently. I might have chosen to practice many of the AP principles but that is because they appear to work best with my son in a manner that I am comfortable with, but that doesn’t mean it will work with my second child. However, I seem to get an impression that AP Mums are viewed by some to be some hippie, no-meds, all-natural, fanatical parent. Perhaps I’ve read too much into their words and misconstrued their meanings and if I have, then I apologise. But it appears from the sarcasm in WonderingWilla’s comment, she appears to take offense in something that I’ve said and insists on putting me into the category of self-righteous parents who think they are better than other parents.

    Far from it. I know I am human and I am flawed. It could be that the methods of parenting I’ve chosen will not foster a closer relationship with my child nor help him to become a confident individual with the ability to form secure relationships with others. It could be that in years to come, he’ll be writing the same thing about me as a mother. Who knows? I am the sum of my experiences and all I can do is what appears to fit my situation.

    Perhaps WonderingWilla is right – that I have chosen to practice AP because of my unstable upbringing, but I do know individuals who practice AP because that is how they were raised and they believed it worked well for them. So it isn’t right to stereotype AP parents in such a manner either.

    WonderingWilla – I honestly don’t know what I have said to offend you because you seem to be searching through my words for hidden meanings with which to attack me.

    Yes I have judged those parents because they chose to have children purely because they felt having children is the expected norm of society even though they would have chosen not to had they felt no such expectations of themselves. They then dumped their children into the care of others because they wanted no part of raising them. They are both physically and emotionally absent when it comes to being a parent. For them, children are to be seen and not heard. But yes, you’re right, these aren’t my children and it’s none of my business. Who am I to judge?

    “Wow, you feed your son when he’s hungry — I don’t know anyone who’s not done that.”

    Really? What about those parents who insist on imposing a strict feeding schedule on their babies and allow them to cry for food until their four hour schedule has been reached? (And yes, I know the mother personally). That’s not feeding a child when he’s hungry. That’s feeding a child when it is convenient to the parent.

    Open your eyes and read what I wrote. I said I didn’t like the assumptions from individuals who assumed I had elected NOT to discipline my child because I choose not to physically punish him for wrong-doing. I’m not even sure what point you were trying to make with your sarcasm. And yes, I sing songs, do silly dances and read books, anything wrong with that? Or do you despise me for it because I take the time to do them as a means of bonding with my child and you don’t? I’m sure many parents do this regardless of whether they practice AP or not.

    BTW, I would have been equally happy to buy anything on wheels so long as it fit the baby. I wasn’t into the whole buying the most expensive pram on the market because I felt it wasn’t necessary. I wanted a safe and reliable carseat, yes, but I couldn’t care less what pram we had. My husband chose the pram and I accepted his choice because I wanted him to feel a part of making the decisions.

    Incidentally, our $2K pram is local currency which unfortunately doesn’t fit the $1K pram description of the website link you added. Damn! You mean I’m not the best parent ever after all? I’d better go shopping tomorrow and start looking for a more expensive pram that my son won’t sit in…

  16. No tool or set of tools is guaranteed to create a secure attachment or psychologically functional children or adults. I agree that “The issue isn’t whether one breastfeeds, cosleeps, practices ‘gentle discipline’ etc. But when one presents these practices, in and of themselves, as a magic formula to producing securely attached kids…we have a problem.” In fact, I think it is too bad that Dr. Sears focuses so much on the Baby B’s. Those are only tools. It is possible to use all of them and not be an attached parent or to choose alternate tools and still be attached. I think it is more important to focus on the philosophy or principles of attachment parenting and for each parent to find his or her own set of tools in support of that.

  17. No, Shen-li, you’re even better because you spent more.

    Look, in your initial posts and in your response you set up a straw man and you know it. Where in Esther’s writing or any of the responses on this blog have seen anyone discuss rigid feeding schedules and letting a child scream for four hours until it was the right time to feed? This practice you oppose so much. I know, you haven’t, so instead of addressing the themes that Esther has written about, you decide to make this gallant stand for proper parenting which is basically how you do it.

    You are truly weird if you think I despise you for singing songs to your children. My point was, if you would open *your* eyes, that you’re not bringing anything new to the parenting table.

  18. Willa – to be fair, in the US, it’s perfectly OK to not have kids if you don’t want to. In places where it’s expected for people to have kids ASAP when they marry, it may well be that some parents have children unwillingly and treat them as such (though I can’t say I’ve seen it much here, even though that tends to be the assumption here too, to an extent). There are parents in the Far East who leave their children to be raised by other family members while they travel abroad to work for years at a time. I don’t get that, either, but Shen-Li – that’s not the context we’re talking about here.

    Shen-Li – you pointed out that “I seem to get an impression that AP Mums are viewed by some to be some hippie, no-meds, all-natural, fanatical parent.”. Honestly? At least in the western context, many come across exactly that way. And they feel “sad” for all the babies who aren’t parented the same way theirs are. It really rankles after a while. You might want to go to mothering.com to see what I’m talking about, if you haven’t yet.

    I’ve done all the things you mention (except SAHM) with my children; I still consider myself opposed to the AP philosophy, because it doesn’t wash on scientific grounds. And the superior ‘tude of some of its practitioners and gurus…which overlap a lot with the “Natural” Parenting crowd.

    Annie – My contention is that the “Baby B’s” are not tools at all to secure attachment . They’re merely the preferences of some parents. Which is fine in and of itself – except when parents feel like failures and their babies less likely to be securely attached to them as a result of their “failure” to birth bond, breastfeed, etc. Or parents do things, at great inconvenience to themsleves and perhaps against their better judgement, ‘because it’s good for the baby’. There’s also no good evidence that societies where practices which are anathema to Sears and the AP/NP crowd (CIO, Mom going to work, epidurals) are common, produce cohorts of babies who are any less securely attached.

    I’ve also pointed out that it’s not only Sears, but even more so his followers, who espouse the ‘laundry list’ type of AP.

  19. WonderingWilla – Oh gosh, you’re right! I am the best parent ever. In fact, I’m so good, I think I should get an award for it. Thank you for suggesting it.

    Incidentally, I was not trying to bring something “new” to the table on parenting but merely pointing out that not all AP mothers should be classified as extremists. My examples were an attempt to highlight that as an AP mother, I’m hardly extreme in the manner that I parent – which you have already pointed out when you wrote that I’ve brought nothing new to the table.

    But, yes, you’re right, I have gone off topic and chosen the wrong place to air my irritation. For that, I do apologise to Estherar.

    Estherar – I guess I’ve always considered myself an AP mother because a lot of the practices I follow happen to be AP practices. Perhaps I have read too many criticisms of AP mothers being extreme, “holier than thou”, and being fanatical about their methods, which I object to.

    Perhaps you’re right that many AP mothers and even experts on the field do portray a superior attitude. However, I have also noticed that the attitude of parents who do not practice AP (for lack of a better description) and criticise AP practices can also appear superior.

    By the way, I am sorry for raising issues that weren’t even discussed in your blog post. I was reading a several blog posts where there were such comments and misplaced my thoughts on your post instead. Blame it on my failure to multi-task.

    Back to your post… I think you’ve raised a very interesting point which I intend to look further into. My hope as a parent has always been to raise a child as an emotionally available parent even if I haven’t always been sure how to go about it.

    Regarding Sears’ Baby Bs, it is clearly stated in one of his books that you don’t have to practice all of the Baby Bs to be an attached parent. The Baby Bs are merely a guideline for how a parent might form a strong attachment with their children for parents who want to know what they can do to help foster this bond.

  20. Basiorana, I think that any claims of sexual dysfunction vis-a-vis parenting style really is rather extreme. I also suspect you’re defining “AP” rather narrowly so you can shoehorn in your theories about “real” AP children. The entire AP-a-la-Dr Sears thing is really relatively recent, so I don’t even know how many long term conclusions we could draw.

    Amongst the self-described AP parents I know, the Continuum-Concept-to-the-Extreme with the awful children are in the minority. Most of the kids are just normal. Not necessarily special snowflakes, but unremarkable in terms of behavior. I think that when AP works, it works because it’s a parenting style that suits that particular parent and baby, not because it inherently produces children with more eye sparkles.

  21. Shen-Li – Sears is meticulous with his disclaimers, not being entirely stupid. However, his ‘research’ into AP, about which he makes the claim that APed kids turn out uberchildren, involved color-coding his little patients’ files according to how many Baby Bs their parents kept. It’s a little disingenuous of him to claim he said they don’t really matter.

    (Said ‘research’ is on page 17 of The Baby Book, in case you’re interested).

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