Can ultimately measure children’s attachment styles

Key points

  • A new tool can easily and quickly assess a child’s attachment style
  • Understanding your child’s attachment style may help solve mental health problems
  • Parents can cultivate a safe attachment style with their children in many ways

According to new research, computer games can now be used to determine your child’s attachment style, opening the door to information that can help them with mental health treatment.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow found that the School Attachment Monitor (SAM) can use a machine to accurately measure children’s attachment style, based on the Manchester Child Attachment Story Task (MCAST), which is used by trained administrators to elicit attachment The method is suitable for children from 5 to 7 years old.

However, unlike MCAST, SAM does not require an administrator to determine its discovery; only a laptop, webcam, and a felt pad with a doll equipped with smart sensors.

“Due to the training and evaluation requirements set by the founders of the evaluation method, accessory evaluation is very labor-intensive and not easily used by researchers or clinicians,” said the study’s author and university research assistant Dr. Maki Rooksby. Glasgow.

“MCAST is an example, but now we have proved that with the help of modern sensors, machine learning technology and human-computer interaction research insights, some of the main objectives of MCAST evaluation can be achieved without trained evaluators.”

Understand the research

SAM is provided by a novel software that interacts with children, starting with warm-up activities to familiarize children with tasks. Then the children play “smart dolls” while interacting with the stories on the computer. When they do, data related to their attachment patterns will be recorded through the video recording and motion sensors in the smart doll.

To determine the effectiveness of SAM, the researchers recruited 130 elementary school children between 5 and 9 years of age.

Maki Rooksby, PhD

Our research results show that our tool School Attachment Monitor (SAM) can classify the main types of attachment that have been known for a long time in attachment research, namely safe and insecure, and a further classification in unsafe attachment, namely avoidance type Ambivalent attachment

— Maki Rooksby, PhD

A comparison of human scores between SAM and machine learning algorithms shows more than 80% agreement.

“Our research results show that our tool School Attachment Monitor (SAM) can classify the main types of attachment that have been known for a long time in attachment research, namely safe and insecure, and a further classification in unsafe attachment, namely avoidance And contradictory attachment,” Ruxby said.

She added that the most important finding is that SAM can distinguish between organized and unorganized attachment styles.

Organized and unorganized attachment styles

Helen Egger, MD, child psychiatrist, and co-founder and chief medical and scientific officer of Little Otter, said that children develop attachment styles through relationships with their primary caregivers in the first few years of life.

“The quality of the baby’s relationship with the caregiver—sensitivity, responsiveness—lays the foundation for future relationships and connections with others. However, attachments are not fixed. In fact, although infancy’s attachment style can be very good It predicts the attachment style of late childhood, but it does not predict the attachment style of adults,” Iger said.

Helen Egger, MD

The quality of the baby’s relationship with the caregiver—sensitivity, responsiveness—lays the foundation for future relationships and connections with others. However, the attachment is not fixed. In fact, although the attachment style of infancy can well predict the attachment style of late childhood, it cannot predict the attachment style of adults.

— Helen Egger, MD

The following are the main types of attachment styles:

  • Safety: The ability to establish safe, loving relationships with others.
  • The insecure attachment style is a general term for the following two styles:

Rooksby explained that the expression of organized attachment includes safe and insecure attachment styles. In contrast, she said that disorganized attachment is an attachment in which a child’s attachment behavior is so disturbed that any mitigation strategy does not show a recognizable dominant position.

“Unorganized attachment is important for attachment research and the health and well-being of children and families, because we know the important link between attachment disorder and psychopathology in childhood and later in life,” Ruxby said.

Egger agrees that chaotic attachment is associated with an increased risk of mental health disorders. “[Being] Being able to screen at the demographic level, especially using a proven and scalable tool like the school attachment monitor described in this article, may be a viable way to screen young children’s mental health challenges in school,” she Say.

Why is it helpful to understand a child’s attachment style

Rooksby said that in the absence of any other factors that may cause concern, a child’s attachment style may only make the child their unique person, similar to personality or temperament. However, if there are any known concerns about a child’s happiness, their attachment style may be an important indicator of whether the child is thriving and coping in life, she adds.

“For example, a child who is easily frightened and a little insecure should be fine in a happy and loving family, but if you know that the child has recently experienced some traumatic things (such as bad childhood experiences, ACE), Then, the child’s attachment can be used as an additional piece of information, or even as a reason for monitoring, to see if the child or their family members can benefit from some clinical help or intervention,” Rooksby explained.

However, she added that the tool should only be used when needed and with the help of professionals.

Helen Egger, MD

what [you] Paying attention [your] A child’s attachment style may indicate a treatable mental health challenge. So much mental health care focuses on supporting children and their families to develop healthy, mutually nurturing, and positive relationships, as well as teaching emotion regulation skills.

— Helen Egger, MD

“[It] Never use it alone or without the guidance of expert researchers or clinicians. This is because children’s attachment information, like any other measure of children’s health and well-being, should not be used alone or taken out of context, which may cause excessive attention or confusion,” Rooksby said.

If you are concerned about your child’s attachment behavior, Egger recommends contacting your child’s doctor.

“what [you] Paying attention [your] A child’s attachment style may indicate a treatable mental health challenge. So much mental health care focuses on supporting children and their families to develop healthy, mutually nurturing and positive relationships, and to teach emotion regulation skills,” she said.

Cultivate safe attachment with children

Egger said that instead of understanding the attachment types of children, it is better to let parents know that they can establish a safe attachment relationship with their children.

“Responsive care is the most important way for parents to support a child’s safe and organized attachment style: it is the process of paying attention to and contacting the child’s cues and responding in a sensitive and compassionate way,” she said.

Being able to establish attachment relationships by establishing strong emotional connections with parents and other people will teach children to trust and be confident that they will be loved and cared for.

“There are many factors that affect children’s ability to develop healthy relationships and healthy emotional regulation. Although the sensitivity of caregivers will have an impact, development is deeply affected by social, economic and cultural factors. We need to be careful not to take the challenges facing children “Blame it on the mother (or father),” she said.

In addition, she pointed out that it may be more valuable for parents to understand their attachment types because it may affect the way they interact with their children or may reflect their own bad childhood experiences.

“Adult attachment insecurity may be related to mental health challenges, so understanding a person’s attachment style may be a way to seek mental health care and treatment,” Iger said.

What this means to you

A new tool makes it easier to assess a child’s attachment style and is almost as accurate as the old method. If your child needs mental health care, knowing their attachment type may help you find the right treatment.

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