Human brains are wired to connect. The need to be attached (to love and be loved) to other humans is a basic survival need (as essential as the need for food!). When children’s early experiences occur in the context of unavailable, unreliable, unpredictable, and/or frightening caregivers, and changing caregivers, children learn that they cannot trust others or the environment to meet their needs. They adapt to this environment by developing ways of behaving aimed at getting their needs for connection met. This takes different forms depending on the child. Some children adapt by being controlling and demanding, others by being indiscriminately affectionate and submissive, while still others will be distant and withdrawn and avoid human connections. Each of these is a survival response. Children do what they feel they have to get their needs met.
A physically and psychologically safe environment with available, reliable caregivers helps to rewire these children’s brains and helps them to develop new ways of interacting. Patience is required, however. These ways of behaving developed over time and they will take time to decrease.
For more information on attachment check out Daniel Siegel’s videos below: