I think I've mentioned before on here that children with attachment disorders often have problems with cause and effect. This usually starts with the caregiver not meeting the child's physical needs (changing them when they're wet, feeding when they're hungry). The child doesn't learn that if I cry then someone will come make it better. Instead they might learn that if I cry then someone will hit me, or if I cry then no one will come anyway... this makes behavior management difficult - both self-regulation and parent discipline. If I steal a cell phone, then I will get in trouble. If I yell at my sister now, then she will be scared of me - even 5 minutes (or 5 years) from now.
I don't know anything about Bear and Kitty's infancy and childhood (although I can make many educated guesses), but I do know they have very little impulse control and do not always understand the consequences of their actions.
At the seminar I started to zone a little on the infant development stuff. I was a psychology major (waaaay back) in college and I've read tons of books in the last few years about child development so I figured I knew all this, and some of it I had heard before. I did learn something new about object permanence that really was significant though!
We all know that young infants have no ability to understand object permanence. For example, if you hide a rattle under a blanket they don't look for it, it's gone. For them, out of sight out of mind is really true. At about 8-9 months though they "get it." They start to look under the blanket. We often help them develop this ability by playing peekaboo with them. "Wheeere's Mommy? Here I am!"
Now imagine the child who's infancy is not the norm. Who never "gets" this concept. So what? Maybe they never put their toys away because if you can't see them they don't exist. Might not even be so bad because when they are put into foster care they "forget" about all the things left behind... but it's not just things the child doesn't remember. It's people.
You can't attach to someone who isn't there the second they step out of sight. Mommy doesn't exist anymore.
There's a weird movie with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore called 50 First Dates. Because of a car accident that damaged her short term memory Drew's character is unable to remember anything that's happened in her life the day before. Adam meets her and courts her anew every single day. They introduce a character called "10 Second Tom." He can only rememember things for 10 seconds. Drew is able to fall in love with Adam because she has the ability to create attachments. Tom would be unable to attach to anyone.
Even though I'm here and not going anywhere, my kids' ability to attach is severely damage, and for Bear, maybe permanently. Katharine assures us that even a child/person older than 8 who's brain is pretty much hardwired now, can learn these skills and abilities (or approximations of them), but just like learning a foreign language, the older you are the less perfectly you'll be able to learn it and the the more effort it takes (think of people who learn to speak English as a second language as a child versus as an adult).
A second huge issue for children lacking object permanence is a sense of self. Infants and young children under the age of 3 do not have the ability to distinguish themself from their caregiver. One of my sister's earliest memories is of being told she is fat, lazy and stupid while staring at the knees of a man's uniform pants. My sister could not have been more than 2 years old and apparently she was standing in front of our mother while this was being said to our mother... her memory of it as being said to her shows that a young child cannot distinguish themselves from their parent. Now children under 3 are also not supposed to have autobiographical memories before age 3 either (partly for this reason) so the fact that my sister had this dream/memory shows that she is a little unusual (she has a freakishly amazing memory!).
The reason infants are wired this way is that they are unable to access the thinking part of the brain yet. They are unable to self-regulate. The caregiver does this for them. If the caregiver is calm, the baby is calm. If the caregiver is laughing, making eye contact, playing with the baby and happy, the baby responds the same way. The baby instinctually responds with attaching behaviors designed to make the caregiver fall in love with the baby, and the baby continues to provide attaching behaviors creating a cycle. If the caregiver is stressed and distant, the baby becomes disregulated and doesn't learn how to respond with attaching behaviors. The child does not learn how to self-regulate and respond appropriately to his/her environment, and often tries to recreate the chaotic environment to which they have grown accustomed. Eventually the child decides there is something horribly wrong with them and that is why they are unwanted and unloveable.
Slowly as the infant's brain develops they learn to access the cognitive parts of their brain, but before this they are totally dependent on the caregiver for everything. So if a child has no trust of the primary caregiver, no belief that she exists when out of sight so is unable to attach to that caregiver, while at the same time is actually genetically programmed to feel part of the caregiver, and the child doesn't learn how to provide attaching behaviors or develop the instinctual want for attaching behaviors (needing the caregive to attach to them)... well you do the math.
- Bear doesn't understand cause and effect very well.
- Bear doesn't trust others to be there or take care of him.
- Bear doesn't feel the strong urge to attach to others.
- Bear doesn't know how to connect to others or give them what they need to like him.
- Bear feels love and attachment are not safe.
- Bear believes that he is unworthy of love and attachment.
- Bear has difficulty with self-regulation, coping skills and impulse control.
- Bear tries to recreate the environment he feels most comfortable in - chaos, high stress, and disregulation.
- Bear doesn't have a strong self-esteem or trust in his own abilities.
- Bear's world revolves around him because there is no one else!
This is true of Kitty too to some extent, but every child is different. They were raised differently of course because Biomom was older, in a different situation, had Bear who was 1 1/2, were different genders, had different biofathers, Biomom got treatment for drugs (cocaine and meth) when Kitty was under 3 years old, the kids were left with different people... The kids also have different temperaments, genetics and personalities.