This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Books and Methods Review - Adult - Adoptees and Adult Attachment

Secure Attachment: 
Only 55% of us have “secure attachment”– a number which would worry us all if we knew what it meant (according to research on over 2,000 infant-parent pairs during 1970-1996), and the level of attachment we get as infants continues all our lives in our relationships.
Insecure Attachment:
The math says the other 45% of us suffer “insecure attachment.”  That means 45% of us can’t handle a committed, stable relationship with anyone, from childhood to the rest of our lives (as of 1996).  We also pass this emotional pain to our children, who turn out similarly.  
A National Institute of Health article summarizes the secure rate:  “Infants with secure attachment greet and/or approach the caregiver and maintain contact but are able to return to play, which occurs in 55% of the general population.”

Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) So in 1982 [Main] created the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) to study the adults. 
50% of adults out there can’t carry on a secure, committed, loving relationship. 
And if 45% of us were “insecurely attached” in 1996, what’s the percent in 2014?In almost 20 years since, email, texting, and so on have further trashed our ability to relate in person. Several psychotherapists have said that a round number of “about 50%” is a  conservative estimate for how many Americans lack secure attachment today. Many believe it’s much higher.
 Adult Attachment Interview (AAI): Mary Main in a Strange Situation by Kathy Brous

{Marythemom: At the time of this writing, there is not a lot of information available about adult attachment disorders. There is a "test" (Adult Attachment Interview - AAI), but it has to be given by a psychologist trained in the administration and interpreted by specialists, making it difficult to access for the average adult.}

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study
The 1998 Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study showed that two-thirds (64-67%) of  17,421 middle class subjects had one or more types of childhood trauma, and 38-42% had two or more types.  In less privileged populations, these numbers are far higher. A national average of all economic groups would likely show 50% or more suffer severe trauma from ACEs [find out your own ACE score].

 “Contrary to conventional belief," Director Vincent Felitti MD says, "time does not heal all wounds, since humans convert traumatic emotional experiences in childhood into organic disease later in life.

The ACE Study lists physical and sexual abuse and 8 other types, including traumas that happen even to newborns like physical and emotional neglect. Such trauma by definition puts children into technical “fight-flight,” a chronic state biologically proven to shut down the organism’s capacity for feelings of attachment and love. Think soldier in a  battle ramped up in “fight-flight”– he can’t really feel much love for the other side. 
And it doesn’t go away. Continued fight-flight puts the nervous system into freeze: our vagus nerve starts shutting down bodily functions, Dr. Stephen Porges shows. So ACEs create the conditions underlying the top 10 medical causes of death in the U.S

  If we didn’t get securely attached as kids, we can develop “earned secure attachment.”  
“It’s possible to change attachment patterns,” Dr. Main

Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) 
Parents were studied not just on facts they gave, but on how coherent a narrative they could produce quickly. That’s easy for folks who had a secure childhood, but difficult for folks who did not. The AAI questions are designed to “surprise the unconscious” to yield information about the “state of mind with regard to attachment” that might not otherwise show up. Each AAI was taped and transcribed verbatim. Then transcripts were classified by specific patterns by independent, trained specialists. 
Dr Main’s first 1983 results were so astonishing that “attachment researchers” have been buzzing since.  However, her results were also so important it’s frankly outrageous that your family doctor never learned about this in medical school; your therapist (and mine) never heard of this; you’ve never heard of it; and so you have to read about it here since the media never reports it. 
Four Categories of Attachment in Adults
Main’s four categories:
  • Avoidant 23%
  • Ambivalent 8%
  • Disorganized, 14-15%
  • Secure 54-55% 
This is true globally. “Researchers worldwide have replicated the relation originally uncovered in the Bay Area study between a parent’s status in the Adult Attachment Interview and an infant’s Strange Situation response to that same parent. Studies in four countries… have indicated the same average parent-to-child, secure/insecure match of 75% holds even when the interview is conducted before birth of the first child…

Earned Secure Attachment
Earned secure attachment occurs when we experience harmful parenting, so we start with insecure attachment, but find ways to “rise above” childhood trauma and “are now securely attached… What’s more important than what happened to us, is how we’ve made sense of our own childhood,” Dr. Dan Siegel

When we make sense of our past… we become free to construct a new future for ourselves and for how we parent our children. Research is clear: If we make sense of our lives, we free ourselves from the prison of the past.” ~Dan Siegel

Mindfulness has been shown to be effective in healing insecure attachment,” say Siegel’s recent writings. “The purpose of both psychotherapy and mindfulness practice is to provide this internalized secure base. Attunement, whether it is internal in mindfulness, or interpersonal in attachment, is what leads to a sense of secure base.” 
The regular exercise of mindful awareness seems to promote the same benefits–bodily and affective self-regulation, attuned communication with others, insight, empathy, and the like–that research has found to be associated with childhood histories of secure attachment,” ~Dan Siegel

Siegel wrote earlier:

Mindfulness and secure attachment alike are capable of generating… the same invaluable psychological resource: an internalized secure base.

Siegel defined “earned secure/autonomous attachment” as a pattern noticed by therapists doing the Adult Attachment Interview:  “individuals whose experiences of childhood… [were] likely to produce insecure attachment (avoidant, ambivalent, or disorganized),” but their AAI interview responses instead show “a fluidity in their narratives and a flexibility in their reflective capacity, such that their present state of mind with respect to attachment is rated as secure/autonomous. These individuals often appear… to have had a significant emotional relationship with a close friend, romantic partner, or therapist, which allowed them to develop out of  insecure…into a secure/autonomous AAI status.”

How many parents have found themselves thinking: I can't believe I just said to my child the very thing my parents used to say to me! Am I just destined to repeat the mistakes of my parents? In Parenting from the Inside Out, child psychiatrist Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and early childhood expert Mary Hartzell, M.Ed., explore the extent to which our childhood experiences actually do shape the way we parent. 

Drawing upon stunning new findings in neurobiology and attachment research, they explain how interpersonal relationships directly impact the development of the brain and offer parents a step-by-step approach to forming a deeper understanding of their own life stories, which will help them raise compassionate and resilient children.
{Marythemom:  This book had some exercises in it that helped me access and address my own childhood trauma – which helped me become a better parent to my traumatized children.}

Marythemom: A series of blog posts I did on Adult Attachment Disorders:
Fearful/ Unresolved (Child: Disorganized attachment)
Dismissive (Child: Anxious/ Avoidant attachment)

Preoccupied (Child: Anxious Ambivalent attachment)

Stop Walking on Eggshells by Mason and Kreger
I found this book particularly helpful for someone living with older teens and adults with an attachment disorder. 

It's written for family members of people with Borderline Personality Disorder (attachment issues are a big part of BPD), but I've found it helpful when dealing with older teens and adult children with attachment issues (and even those without!). It has helped me a lot with setting healthy boundaries. 

More Books and Studies about Adult Attachment:

Adult Adoption
The Primal Wound  Nancy Verrier's Site

Adult Attachment
“DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder by Kathy Brous
How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview. 
Adult Attachment Disorder Cognitive Therapy with Attachment Challenged Adults  by Margaret Meinecke, LCSW, CAC III
Scared Sick: The Role of Childhood Trauma in Adult Disease by  Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S. Wiley

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