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Relationship Between Mother and Child: Importance of Bonding

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Words: 1577 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Aug 4, 2023

Words: 1577|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Aug 4, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Defining Bonding
  2. Bonding Between Mother and Child
  3. Changes in the Birthing Process
  4. Improving Bonding Between Mother and Child
  5. Attachment Theory in Mother and Child Relationship
  6. References

Defining Bonding

Bonding is a term that is commonly used to describe the overall relationship between mother and child. Several authors have suggested that bonding can be described by two related aspects: the mother’s concerns and actions for the safety and well-being of the child (Winnicott, 1957; Klaus and Kennel 1976; Kennell, Trause, & Klaus, 1975), as well as the affectional tie that the child holds in the functional world for the mother (Stern, 1995). Bonding can begin as soon as a woman finds out that she is pregnant (Clift-Matthews, 2010). For woman who are experiencing this for the first time the feeling of bonding can be intensified by scans that show the progress of the fetus, the sound of the heartbeat for the first time, or feeling fetal movements (Clift-Matthews). Behaviors from the child give the mother cues to help bond with the child more effectively. Cues may include, eye contact, smiling, giggling, or facial expressions facilitate mutual emotional involvement from the child to the mother (Figueiredo, Costa, & Pacheco, 2009). Mother bonding and child attachment are interdependent. One is determined and is developed by the establishment of the other (Figueiredo, Costa, & Pacheco). The extent that a child is able to communicate their attachment to their mother, the more that the mother is cued into the bond with the child and the more the mother is willing to focus on the bonding (Figueiredo, Costa, & Pacheco).

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Bonding Between Mother and Child

Typically, bonding between the mother and child will intensify after birth. According to bonding theory, the first few hours and days after birth is a crucial period during which interaction between mother and child facilitates a strong bond (Clift-Matthews). This bond does not always occur right away, there are mothers that do not feel as though they bond with their children at all during pregnancy and have a hard time doing so after birth. Changes in the mother’s hormonal levels integrated with the behaviors related to delivery and childbearing, evoke the emotional involvement from the mother to her newborn (Neumann, 2003). Bonding with an infant is crucial to that infant feeling an attachment to the parent later in life.

Changes in the Birthing Process

The birthing process has drastically changed in the past few decades. Processes lead to a greater opportunity for mothers to bond with their children. Hospitals are now more common than they were in the early 1900s, doctors know how to thoroughly wash their hands and have much better equipment to help with giving birth (Haire, 1999). Mothers would be put in a twilight state and doctors and midwives would force cervical dilation, labor and would use forceps to pull the baby out of its mother (Haire). Due to mothers being in a twilight state or completely unconscious, they were not able to instantly bond with their child. They would have to be woken up and baby needed to be examined before the bonding after delivery could be implemented. Births were done mostly at home since hospitals were expensive and not very common until about 1940-1950 (Haire). If a woman had a home birth with a midwife, it was common that she could bond with her child sooner than when the birth was done at a hospital, however it was not an instant connection.

Natural births became more popular after a book written by Dr. Grantly Dick-Read was published in 1944. He wrote, 'Drugs were put under the skin, into the stomach, into veins, deep into muscles, into the rectum, into the spinal cord, into the sacral nerves -- in fact, anywhere that things can be put into the human body' (Dick-Read, 1944). Dr. Dick-Read showed just how horrible women were treated during birth. The publication shed light on how fearful women were to give birth. Hospitals started to offer childbirth education classes after Dr. Dick-Read was invited to come to New York by the Maternity Center Association to speak about natural childbirth (Haire). This started a movement that gave women an idea of how natural childbirth can be. They realized the importance of the physiology of childbirth and how to relax and breathe while giving birth (Haire). Women were more comfortable during the birth of their children and were less fearful. This gave them a higher chance of bonding with their child early on.

Regarding the delivery choice, mothers who birth vaginally tend to have a greater connection right at birth when compared to mothers who had a caesarean or emergency cesarean birth (Robson and Kumar, 1980). Emotional involvement seems to be dependent on the delay in holding and seeing the child after delivery and mothers who were able to instantly hold or look at their child following delivery, have a better bonding than mothers who had delayed contact (Huckabay, 1999). As medicine progressed, and research was more commonly known, studies showed that instant skin to skin contacts were crucial to the bonding process. This led to women being able to help with care of their child immediately following delivery.

Improving Bonding Between Mother and Child

Close skin to skin contacts between mother and child allows for improved bonding as well as subsequently more adequate development of the child (Klaus, Kennell & Klaus, 1995). Women wanted to be more involved with the care of their child immediately following delivery (Klaus, Kennell & Klaus). Women who had higher interests in participating in interactions and caring for their child became more emotionally involved which led to a greater bond between mother and child (Klaus, Kennell & Klaus). Proximity of the child to mother improves while separation interrupts the bonding process, especially when related to prematurity, medical complications or low birth weight (Feldman, Weller, Leckman, Kuint, & Eidelman, 1999). Seeing an infant for the first time is very significant for the mother and her bonding experience (Lee, 1995). During the first hours following delivery the baby is attentive, awake, and available for interaction from their mothers (Field, 1990). Mothers have an increase in hormones that stimulate a mother’s reactivity, receptivity and sensitivity to their newborn making it a significant time for bonding with the child (Simpson, 1999). Ultimately, spending time with a newborn drastically improves bonding and leads to an increase of attachment for the child.

Attachment Theory in Mother and Child Relationship

John Bowlby. Attachment Theory is generally credited to John Bowlby, a British child Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. According to attachment theory, human infants need constant and consistent nurturing from the relationship they have with their primary caregiver. (van Rosmalen, van der Horst, van der Veer, 2016). This caregiver must be sensitive to develop a healthy relationship. Paternal unresponsiveness or unavailability can contribute to abnormal behavior or in extreme cases with other risk factors, psychopathology (van Rosmalen, van der Horst, van der Veer). Many aspects of attachment behavior in infancy and early childhood have received significant attention (Grady & Grady, 2013).

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Bowlby observed that many infants became emotionally attached to their primary caregivers and they would look to them for support and comfort in unfamiliar situations (Shaver & Mikulincer, 2007). Infants looked for emotional support when they were in times of stress, need, pain, or were threatened (Shaver & Mikulincer). These same infants displayed a greater amount of curiosity and sociability when they were in close proximity to the attachment figures (Shaver & Mikulincer). Bowlby also detected this in nonhuman primates and determined that these behaviors were a part of a distinctive attachment behavioral system (Shaver & Mikulincer). Bowlby’s initiation of studying attachment spark the interest of fellow colleagues and resulted in further research of the topic. 

References

  1. Clift-Matthews, Victoria. (2010). The Nature of Bonding and Attachment in Pregnancy. British Journal of Midwifery, 18(5), 310-315.
  2. Feldman, R., Weller, A., Leckman, J. F., Kuint, J., & Eidelman, A. I. (1999). The Nature of the Mother's Tie to Her Infant: Maternal Bonding under Conditions of Proximity, Separation, and Potential Loss. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 40(6), 929-939.
  3. Figueiredo, B., Costa, R., & Pacheco, A. (2009). Mother-Child Interaction, Maternal Emotional States, and the Development of Child-Mother Attachment Security. Child Development, 80(3), 859-874.
  4. Grady, M. D., & Grady, M. L. (2013). The Impact of Attachment Theory in Early Childhood on Emotional Development and the Creation of Secure Attachments. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 5(1), 43-59.
  5. Haire, D. (1999). Natural Childbirth: Mothers, Midwives, and Doctors in the Twentieth Century. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group.
  6. Klaus, M. H., Kennell, J. H., & Klaus, P. H. (1995). Bonding: Building the Foundations of Secure Attachment and Independence. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.
  7. Klaus, M. H., Kennell, J. H., & Klaus, P. H. (1976). The Doula Book: How a Trained Labor Companion Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier, and Healthier Birth. Reading, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press.
  8. Lee, D. T. (1995). The Experience of Motherhood in the Early Postnatal Period: A Comparison between Beijing and Hong Kong. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 21(1), 105-111.
  9. Neumann, I. D. (2003). Brain Oxytocin: A Key Regulator of Emotional and Social Behaviours in Both Females and Males. Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 15(4), 344-349.
  10. Robson, K. M., & Kumar, R. (1980). Delayed Emotional Attachment in Women with Prenatal Diagnosed Fetal Abnormality. British Medical Journal, 281(6252), 346-348.
  11. Simpson, D. M. (1999). Understanding Attachment and Attachment Disorders: Theory, Evidence, and Practice. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
  12. Stern, D. N. (1995). The Motherhood Constellation: A Unified View of Parent-Infant Psychotherapy. New York, NY: Basic Books.
  13. van Rosmalen, L., van der Horst, F., & van der Veer, R. (2016). The Nature of Attachment Behavior throughout the Lifespan: Meta-Analytic Evidence for Two Dimensions. Developmental Psychology, 52(5), 881-889.
  14. Winnicott, D. W. (1957). Babies and Their Mothers. London: Free Association Books.
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Relationship Between Mother and Child: Importance of Bonding. (2023, August 04). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/relationship-between-mother-and-child-importance-of-bonding/
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