A psychotherapeutic exploration of the connection between early childhood attachment and developing communication skills

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Kerins, Ruth
Issue Date
Higher Diploma in Arts in Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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The purpose of this dissertation was to explore the effect of early childhood attachment on communication skills, and to reflect on and investigate this from a psychotherapeutic perspective. Firstly, early attachment theories were studied and discussed in order to gain an understanding of attachment in childhood and its importance for the development of the child. The different styles of attachment were discussed to gain an understanding of their implications on the cognitively developing child. Secondly, modern attachment theories that focus on the neurobiological affects of attachment on brain development were examined. Theorists that have written extensively about the biological implications of attachment believe that brain development is directly linked with it. Thirdly, existing studies that have been carried out which look at children’s communication abilities and their link with parent-infant relationships were examined, in which connections between a child’s communication and attachment style have been made. Studies of children with Reactive Attachment Disorder [RAD] and Autism Spectrum Disorder [ASD] were also discussed, and similarities between both conditions were apparent. Early childhood relationships impact upon the way in which we learn to communicate, both verbally and non-verbally, as these skills are dependent upon an interaction with another person. Where this interaction, or attachment, is not present in a secure state, the impact of this on communication was explored, and consequences on communication skills were uncovered. From a psychotherapeutic perspective, early interventions on children exhibiting communication difficulties, such as parent-infant psychotherapy, were found to have positive results. The way in which attachment can be worked on in psychotherapy in adulthood was focused upon, as a therapist can become a corrective figure of attachment in adulthood. Further studies on the impact of parent-infant psychotherapy on infants exhibiting early signs of autism was suggested, as was a longitudinal study of children with diagnoses of both RAD and ASD to determine if there is a long-term link between both conditions. A longitudinal study of adults working through attachment issues in psychotherapy was also recommended in order to measure the corrective experience of psychotherapy on attachment. Author Keywords: Psychotherapy, communication, attachment