Your child can form attachments with you as well as other caregivers.

Can Children Be Attached to Multiple Caregivers?

by Erica Loop

While you may be the star of your little one's own home movie, other caregivers can play supporting roles. When it comes down to your child's attachments, it's likely that you will keep the spotlight now and for quite some time into the future. That said, it isn't uncommon for young children to form attachments with multiple caregivers at the same time.

Kinds of Attachments

Not all attachments are equal. According to the research into early childhood and parental behaviors there are actually four different kinds. Secure attachments result from sensitive, caring parents who allow their children to explore their environment while responding quickly to their needs. These children are likely to create strong, positive secondary attachments to their caregivers. Insecure resistant attachments are often characterized by anxious children who may refuse to explore any environment or social situation away from the parent. Insecure avoidant attachments show up as children who avoid or ignore their parents. In the final attachment, insecure disorganized, kids have unpredictable behaviors, show emotional confusion and are typically difficult to comfort or console. While attachment theory typically revolves around the mommy-child dynamic, it is possible to apply it to other caregivers who figure prominently in a child's life.

Creating Attachments

Although you might take your attachment with your child for granted, not all forms of bonding begin at birth. Your little one knows that you are a special, and prime, figure in her life, but attachment isn't always just inborn. It can be created through consistent displays of love, affection, caring and nurturing behaviors. That means other caregivers who offer similar means of support can form attachments with your child as well.

Day Care Dilemmas

The scenario is one that many moms have mixed feelings about: You drop your toddler off at day care, expecting that she will throw the biggest fit that anyone has ever seen because you are leaving her, but that doesn't happen. Instead, she gleefully runs into the caring arms of her waiting teacher. While you wave goodbye, your little one barely seems to notice as she engages herself in a colorful crayon project with her daytime caregiver. While it's good to know that your child is well cared for and happy, you might feel a twinge of sadness or worry. Does this mean that your child isn't attached to you or that you aren't the primary adult in her life anymore? Not likely. Instead, she is simply experiencing a healthy secondary attachment to another adult who spends a significant amount of time caring for and nurturing your child.

Other Caregivers

Any other caregiver who spends a significant amount of time with your child is fair game for her eager attachment. This may include a nanny, a regular babysitter or even your own mother. It isn't uncommon for young children to create attachments with these non-mommy caregivers who also provide emotional support and caring. Don't worry about being replaced in her affections. While you are the apple of your little one's eye, it's perfectly normal and healthy for your child to find comfort in someone else's love, too, and is something to be happy about.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

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