Attachment is not a measure of how long the child spent with their mother, but the encouragement and validation that they received while in her company. It has been posited by researchers that the way you look at your mother when you are a toddler operates in relationships all through life. Your working model of your mother gets used when dealing with siblings, friends and even in your intimate relationships.
If your mum was your harshest critic, you may learn to view yourself negatively, and to possibly expect criticism and judgement from others. Similarly, if you were loved, felt understood and praised for your good efforts, you’re more likely to develop a healthy self-esteem. This is not to blame one’s parenting as the cause of life circumstances, but to understand that these early experiences have an impact on the way we view the world.
Hence the question relentlessly stereotyped by the media: “What is your relationship with your mother like?” This question is relevant to a person’s current life to help understand their relationships with others. It has been well established in the psychological literature that relationship bonds are crucial in maintaining happiness and meaning in life. This begins with the relationship between mother and child.
Among the myriad how-to books on motherhood and parenting, the world of psychology would espouse that taking an interest, encouraging and validating your children’s experiences, is one of the key factors in successful parenting. Accepting that neither you nor they will be perfect is part of this.
People who are interested in finding out more about their attachment style can go to www.authentichappiness.com and take the 10-minute close-relationship questionnaire.