Baby Bonds – The Sutton Trust Report

Baby Bonds – The Sutton Trust Report

Parenting, attachement and a secure base for children

A very important and well-documented report, highlighting the fundamental role of the parent as the first teacher but also as the first caregiver and  provider of love and security.
Extracts – The Executive Summary:

1 – The bond that children develop with their parents, particularly as a babies and toddlers, is fundamental to their flourishing.

“Mothers and fathers help their children develop secure attachment by caring for them in a way that is warm, sensitive and consistent. When parents tune into and respond to their needs, children manage their own feelings and behaviour, and develop confidence and self-reliance. With the right early parenting, children develop a secure attachment to their mothers and fathers, a base from which they can thrive.

2 – Children without secure parental bonds are more likely to have behaviour and literacy problems.

Children with insecure attachment are at risk of the most prominent impediments to education and upward social mobility in the UK: behavioural problems, poor literacy, and leaving school without further education, employment or training. Behaviour problems are a particular concern for the UK where the gap in such problems between the most disadvantaged children and their peers is larger than in Australia, Canada or the US.

The international research suggests that:

  • Insecurely attached children are at a higher risk of externalising problems, characterised by aggression, defiance, and, or hyperactivity.
  • Insecurely attached children, on average, have poorer language development, and weaker executive function, skills associated with working memory and cognitive flexibility.
  • Insecurely attached children are less resilient to poverty, family instability, and parental stress and depression.

3 – Boys growing up in poverty are two and a half times less likely to display behaviour problems at school if they have secure attachments with parents in the early years. Those without strong bonds may be more likely to be NEET (‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’) and less likely to be socially mobile and get good jobs in later life

Among boys who lived under the poverty threshold at some point between 18 months and five years, those with secure attachments at 18 months were two and a half times as likely as others to show positive adjustment – a lack of behavioural problems or below-average social skills – five and a half years later.

The teenagers whom teachers rated as less confident resilient and more likely to be bullied or bully at school, were those who had insecure attachments in early childhood. Amongst children growing up in poverty, poor parent care and insecure attachment before age four strongly predicted failure to complete school. Neither IQ nor exam results improved on this prediction. Upward social mobility is also linked to attachment; men with insecure attachments were less likely to overcome educational disadvantage and reach higher-grade civil service jobs.

4 – Many children do not have secure attachments. Around 1 in 4 children avoid their parents when they are upset, because they ignore their needs. A further 15 per cent resist their parents because they cause them distress

While the majority of children are securely attached, 40 per cent are insecurely attached. This is split into the 25 per cent of children who learn to avoid their parent when they are distressed, because the parent regularly ignores their emotional needs (avoidant attachment) and the highest risk 15 per cent of children, rising to 25 per cent in disadvantaged cohorts who learn to resist the parent, because the parent often amplifies their distress or responds unpredictably (disorganised or resistant attachment).”

From: Baby Bonds, Parenting, attachment and a secure base for children.
The Sutton Trust Report, 2014
Elizabeth Washbrook, Jane Waldfogel, Sophie Moullin
Inage: courtesy The Sutton Trust

Read “The recommendations”  and the full report


Baby Bonds


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