Promoting positive parenting: An introduction
Since Mary Ainsworth (1967) and John Bowlby (1969) discovered that children use their parents as a secure base to fulfill their attachment and exploration needs, an impressive body of empirical research has been devoted to the search for the origins and consequences of (in)secure child-parent attachment relationships. Today attachment security can be characterized as a construct that has proven to be valid across various cultures (Van IJzendoorn & Sagi, 1999); in different contexts, such as family, childcare, and institutional settings (e.g., Goossens & Van IJzendoorn, 1990; Howes, 1999; Vorria et al., 2003; Zeanah, Smyke, Koga, & Carlson, 2005); and in families with different types of genetic kinship (e.g., parents with twins, siblings, or adopted children; Bokhorst et al., 2003; Juffer & Rosenboom, 1997; Van IJzendoorn et al., 2000). Secure attachment relationships have been associated with better social competence (e.g., Stams, Juffer, & Van IJzendoorn, 2002; Weinfield, Sroufe, Egeland, & Carlson, 1999) and with more optimal parent and peer relationships than insecure attachments (e.g., Sroufe, Egeland, Carlson, & Collins, 2005). The concept of secure attachment relationships and the related concept of parental sensitivity appear to be highly significant for the clinical field, including the development and evaluation of attachment-based interventions for at-risk and clinical families. In particular, parental sensitivity as the empirically documented determinant of children’s attachment security (De Wolff & Van IJzendoorn, 1997) has been the focus of intervention efforts. Parental sensitivity can be defined as the ability
to accurately perceive the child’s signals and to respond to these signals in a prompt and adequate way (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978).