Seeking and then what? The intersubjective influence

Seeking may elicit a wide variety of responses from a caregiver. Each frequently repeated response will have a profound effect on immediate outcomes, the nature of attachment, and the development of expectations.

A child’s seeking may be recognized, supported, enhanced, and often shared. This response contributes to a secure attachment. When the child’s seeking is at times recognized and supported, and, at other times unpredictably not recognized, ignored, or rejected, the result is an ambivalent insecure attachment. Or, when the child’s seeking is not repetitively recognized, ignored, rejected, angrily opposed, or responded to with scolding and shaming, the result is avoidant attachment. Or, when the child’s seeking is repeatedly unrecognized or, if recognized, insensitively overridden by the parent in a fashion that sets up a persistent angry, frustrating relatedness, the result is an avoidant and/or disorganized attachment.

A factor that has received little investigation is the varied effect of the caregiver’s warning that a child’s seeking and moving forward with a particular intention and goal may place the child in danger. When the child is able to recognize the risk and danger intuitively, or when it is explained and understood, belief in the validity of the warning becomes a component of the child’s reality and the parent is regarded as a reliable source to look to for guidance. Alternatively, the child’s own experience or observations and the persuasion of others may lead the child to question the validity of the supposed danger. The child may conform in his behavior since maintaining his parent’s love and approval would seem to him a better resolution than testing the veracity of the warning. Or a child may safely challenge the proposed risk, which enhances or overvalues his judgment in comparison to authorities.

We are suggesting that a child grows up forced to draw conclusions about the validity of authorities, and the parent’s appraisals about risk are important in the effort to know what is “true.”

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