You just watched a mother be responsive to her baby’s cues. Now imagine that interaction if the mother wasn’t sensitive to her child’s cues. The mother could have ignored her baby. She could have looked away when her child looked at her. Or she could have frowned when her baby smiled. Research shows that caregiving behaviors may partly explain the relationship between quality of care and infant attachment.

There are different reasons why children may show avoidant attachment. The first is when a caregiver is over stimulating or intrusive to her infant’s signals. The second is when a caregiver is chronically unresponsive. This may occur, for example, if a caregiver is suffering from prolonged depression. When she does respond, it may be with anger or irritation. She may reject her baby’s attempts for physical closeness.

Children may show resistant attachment because their caregivers do not respond consistently to them. The caregiver meets the baby’s immediate needs on some occasions but not others. These caregivers may have high anxiety. They may feel overwhelmed by the demands of caring for a child.

Other factors may increase the chance that an infant will show disorganized attachment. One factor is a parent acting threatening or showing fear in front of their infant. Other factors include: abuse and neglect, parental anxiety disorders, extensive social and economic hardship, or experiencing a major separation such as divorce.

Children adapt their attachment behavior to the caregiving they receive.