The attachment bond has four main features. First, it provides the child with a sense of security. A child does not experience this security when their caregiver is not there. Ideally, children trust their caregiver. They behave as if the caregiver is a secure base. This means when the caregiver is present, the child has confidence to explore their environment. Imagine a toddler in a playgroup. This toddler knows her mother will be there for support and protection. She feels safe to explore the playroom, new toys, and children. Children who are confident in their secure base have more opportunities for new experiences.
A second aspect of attachment is that children see their caregiver as a safe haven. This means the child turns to the caregiver for comfort and safety, especially if they feel unsure. For instance, in a playgroup, a toddler may run and hide behind her mother if a toy makes a startling noise.
Another feature of the attachment bond is proximity maintenance. Children rely on their caregiver for comfort when they feel unsure or threatened. They try to remain close to them. Staying close maximizes the caregiver’s availability to respond to them at all times.
Finally, attachments are characterized by separation distress. This means that toddlers often experience distress and anxiety when an attachment figure leaves.
Each of these characteristics keeps children and caregivers close to each other over time. But, attachment relationships take time to develop. There are four different phases of attachment development.