B A B I E S H A V E F E E L I N G S
A bit of history/psychology geekery tonight. Until 60-odd years ago, the parent-child relationship just wasn’t a thing. Babies were seen more like small animals. In need of food and warmth, but certainly not much else. This was in a context where our emotional worlds were not really recognised. Behaviourism was popular, we were creatures driven by association not emotion.
Of course Freud and the field of psychoanalysis through the early 1900s started to introduce the idea that perhaps children needed their mothers and internalised their experiences with them- but this was seen more as meeting a physiological need than an emotional one. Then came a number of key studies. In 1953, the Robertsons (swipe!) followed a 2 year old girl in hospital, and took footage of how distressed she was to be away from her mother. Through the 50s, Harry Harlow (swipe again!) conducted studies on monkeys which demonstrated that babies prioritise comforting over food. And John Bowlby (swipe!), the ‘father of attachment theory’, caused controversy by claiming that the attachment of a child to its mother was as important as food and water. (Of course now we recognise that the love doesn’t need to come from a mother but from a trusted caregiver, but this was in the 50s and 60s). All of a sudden we realised that parenting matters. That babies have feelings and we have some control over what those feelings are.
Since then, we’ve had a surge in studies about the details of that relationship and what really matters. Theorists have taken earlier work and grounded it in scientific evidence. But what this has led to now is an oversimplification. If we’re not attending to our babies all the time, then are we neglecting them? We now know what a good bond looks like (take a look at the last video for an example). But what about the 99% of the time when our babies are too tired, unsettled, uncomfortable to engage with us? What about when we ourselves are tired, preoccupied, sad or irritated? How much do those moments matter? If we’re not getting it right all the time, does that mean we’re getting it wrong? More tomorrow...