ABSTRACT

This chapter examines the pivotal role that the family plays in creating inner, psychological templates that facilitate resilience in childhood and later life. It shows how the human brain is highly dependent upon external, generative stimulation for optimal development of cognition and emotion, and it describes how the developmental processes that shape the infant’s brain are a product of continuous interaction between the innate, biological dispositions that the child is born with and the quality of the parental and social environment. The text emphasises the importance of warm, sensitive parenting for the development of resilience and argues that exposure to developmentally inhibitive stimuli, such as parental abuse, neglect or inattention, result in states of vulnerability rather than resilience that are characterised by insecurity, poor social skills and emotional dysregulation.

The chapter then moves to explore the development of trust and intimacy in childhood.

It shows that parental practices, which set healthy boundaries and are accepting of the child without pre-conditions, enhance the development of secure emotional attachments, trust and intimacy. The text then moves to describe the qualities that characterise resilient families and the factors that constrain resilience in family units that are headed by a lone parent.

The chapter then revisits attachment theory and focuses on the three insecure attachments styles that have been identified by research. It shows that whilst two of these attachment styles are associated with the development of resilient coping mechanisms in adulthood, the third style, termed a disorganised attachment, is associated with lifelong vulnerability.

It details this attachment style and explains that it is closely correlated with trauma and abuse in childhood and the abnormal development of structures in the brain that regulate emotion and attention. Following on from this, the text describes how the disorganised attachment style is associated with problems relating to chronic insecurity and distrust, which may be passed down from one generation to the next. The chapter concludes by drawing attention to the need to improve professionals’ knowledge and awareness of these conditions and considers some of the conceptual problems associated with attachment theory, including evidence that the behaviours associated with the disorganised attachment style are mirrored in conditions, such autistic spectrum disorder and borderline personality disorder.