The Development of Attachment in Infants, part 1


happy curious child held by fatherAttachment refers to the special feeling of connection older infants come to have for a particular person who cares for them. The deep sense of love and commitment that parents feel for their infant is called a “bond.”

You may want to read our introductory article on attachment and how developmental scientists have come to understand it, which you will find in the section on General Development.



The Key Idea: ♥  The main insight about attachment is that the person a child is attached to becomes a “secure base,” from which an infant or child can venture into the world — or into an unfamiliar space — and begin to explore and interact with the people and things that are there. When a child is comfortably attached, she has a trusting sense that she can return to the person if she needs support, enjoys sharing things she discovers, and likes to check in from time-to-time. The secure base allows the child to become independent, while still feeling safe.

This sense of trusting support carries into childhood, adolescence and adulthood. It actually endures a lifetime.

The quality of attachment varies somewhat among children. The majority of children in the United States (about 60 – 65%) enjoy a secure attachment with at least one person. The remainder have somewhat less secure attachments. These different styes are explained in our second article on attachment.

The Development of Attachment

Attachment develops gradually over the course of the first year, following a fairly predictable course. The table below shows you what most parents experience and developmentalists observe.

Typical Sequence in Becoming Attached

Phase Age Description
Pre-Attachment 0 – 2 months Comfortable with most people, responds indiscriminately in social situations
Early development of attachment 2 – 7 months  

Recognizes familiar people, greets & engages with them.

Attachment 7 – 24 months  

Protests when separated, cautious or wary of strangers, intentional social interactions and communication

Partnership 24 months  

Child begins to understand needs of others and relationships becomes more reciprocal


Infant Attachment, part 2, describes the 4 different attachment styles children display.