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The Six Stages of Attachment Parenting

Renowned developmental psychologist and author Dr. Gordon Neufeld, PhD., has formulated a framework of six stages that make up the attachment parenting theory, a style of parenting that believes a child’s need for attention and closeness to their parents must be fulfilled completely in their earliest years in order to keep it from preoccupying their goals later in life. Here, author and therapist Susan Stiffelman, MFT,  outlines these stages.

Stage One

Each stage corresponds to the child’s age. Stage one of the attachment theory focuses on physical proximity and closeness during the first year of life. This can be achieved through being in the same room, babywearing, co-sleeping, or simply holding your baby.

Stage Two

Around the age of two, your closeness with your child evolves into his or her desire for what Stiffelman refers to as “sameness.” At this stage, your child begins to emulate your behavior, from language to mannerisms.

Stage Three

“By the third year, a child becomes preoccupied with belonging and becomes preoccupied with loyalty, to be ‘on the same side as,’ which is a different way of closeness,” says Neufeld. They recognize attachment in this stage as a parent who demonstrates loyalty by showing they are aligned with them.

Stage 4

Stiffelman describes the fourth stage as the need for significance. The child need to know at this point that they matter to the parent and “are cherished for who they are, as is,” Stiffelman says.

Stage Five

The fifth stage of attachment comes in the form of emotional connectedness. Around age five, the child needs to feel “the unadulterated love that we have for them that is not attached to accomplishments or achievements or behavior,” Stiffelman continues. This becomes a major factor in the formation of trust in the parent.

Stage Six

The final stage is where the child and parent develop a psychological closeness. The child wishes to be known, and desires to confide in the parent. If achieved in childhood, this stage is one which can definitely be maintained throughout their entire life.

More from Dr. Gordon Neufeld, PhD. on attachment parenting

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