Attachment difficulties is a term that is quite commonly used in schools, but it is important for parents to know that there is no agreed definition of what this means.  Most commonly it is used to describe children with an insecure attachment style who are presenting some concerning behaviour.  It is important for parents to know that about 4 out of 10 people, that's children and adults, have an insecure attachment style and that there are many happy and successful people who have an insecure attachment style.


Attachment theory is a concept that explains how a child relates to the person who cares for them the most (usually their mum or dad).  That very first relationship between the mum and the child then becomes a blueprint, or plan, that the child uses when making all their other relationships, for example with friends, other relatives or teachers.  It can be a difficult topic for schools to speak to parents about, and for parents to learn about, because it can feel as though the parent is being blamed for doing something wrong.  The reality is that there are no perfect parents; we all get it right sometimes and wrong at other times and this can be for a variety of reasons, maybe because we don't know what the right thing to do is because we haven't been taught it or experienced it from our own parents, we don't have the time or energy to do what is needed or we are unable to because our own lives are overwhelming, for example due to depression, illness or domestic violence.  It is also true to say that some babies are born and are very easy going and others are hard to settle from the very beginning, making the job of parenting more or less easy. 


The most important thing for a baby/young child is how 'attuned' their parent is to their needs.  This means how well they respond to their baby emotionally (physical care, such as changing nappies and feeding are important too).  You can think of it a bit like a dance - the parent and the baby have to 'dance' together to form a good, secure attachment.  If the parent is doing a really good dance but it's not the same dance the baby is doing (or vice versa) then a poor, or insecure attachment can form.  In some cases, due to things such as severe depression, domestic violence or substance misuse, the parent doesn't dance with their baby, or they frighten it with the dance they are doing.  These kinds of things can lead to a particular attachment style, called disorganised attachment, where the child will find it more difficult to make relationships with others and have a poor image of themselves.  The good news for parents is that it's never too late to learn to dance or to learn about 'attunement' and how you can support your child's attachment needs.


In very rare cases children may be diagnosed with an attachment disorder, such as Reactive Attachment Disorder.  This would be diagnosed by a CAMHS or paediatric service.  Due to the early care that they may have received disorganised attachment and attachment disorders are more likely to be seen in Looked After Children.