Affection and care in infancy is vital for psychological health.
British psychologist, John Bowlby, wrote a lot about pathologies that find their origin in the attachment between a child and its mother, and many writers have relied on Bowlby’s work as a basis of their own study of the topic.
One psychologist and researcher, Joel Paris, has said that the temperament of a child can predispose him or her to certain difficulties, but it’s a child’s experiences of loss, trauma, and neglect that can cause traits to become pathological. For example, most children with a shy temperament overcome shyness as they grow older, or learn how to manage it. However, if his or her family environment doesn’t provide the necessary support, the traits of introversion can be accentuated and develop into a pathological disorder.
Attachment problems are not the only cause of future personality problems in young people, but it’s one of the most significant causes.
How insecure attachment leads to borderline personality disorder in adults
We know from research that because of physical and psychological abuse, people with borderline personality disorder are incapable of recognizing that their own — and others’ –reactions are motivated by thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and desires.
A 2-year-old is convinced that everything in his mind is the same as what exists outside of himself, and that everything outside must then exist in his mind as well. He can not differentiate the two very well. The sensitivity of the parent to the mental state of the child intensely affects their attachment and the developing child’s capacity to “mentalize,” which is the ability to make sense of each other, as well as ourselves. This process helps us to be attentive to the mental states of those we are with, both physically and psychologically — which is very important in human relationships.
It’s easy to see how an unstable and unhealthy attachment between a mother and child can generate a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships. Unhealthy attachment can lead to dissociation — the separation of mental processes that are normally related.
People with borderline personality disorder need to have relationships because they are necessary to keep them stable. They are also the source of maximum vulnerability because in the absence of the other person — such as when a relationship breaks up, or if the other person shows independence — it can destabilize the person’s mental structure and sense of self.
Vulnerability is maximized in the context of relationships where there is healthy attachment. A previous trauma can disrupt a person’s mental state and another person can help to physically free the person from directing violence inward.
When a newborn receives healthy and genuine affection, it finds itself in the right context to develop in the most peaceful way possible. Many interruptions to a secure attachment can disconcert and destabilize the human being during the first weeks and months of life. The vocation to parenthood is inseparable from the vocation to love and nurture. This same vocation lived in intensity and balance is the best prevention to guarantee that children have the best foundation for healthy development and personal growth.
Since you are here…
…we’d like to have one more word with you. We are excited to report that Aleteia’s readership is growing at a rapid rate, world-wide! Our team proves its mission every day by providing high-quality content that informs and inspires a Christian life. But quality journalism has a cost and it’s more than ads can cover. We want our articles to be accessible to everyone, free of charge, but we need your help. To continue our efforts to nourish and inspire our Catholic family, your support is invaluable. Become an Aleteia Patron today for as little as $3 a month. May we count on you?