Some notes on Attachment and “Childhood Fears”, compiled by Moira Eastman

A response to our previous post on “The Fear of the Dark” in children… see the following link…


I must admit that I have a different understanding of children’s fear of the dark.

When I was a child–I was born in 1940 in Australia–the Second World War had started, and one of my earliest memories is that I KNEW that, after dark, Japanese soldiers–the enemy– were behind the garage. We had an outside toilet, built on to the end of the garage. I was terrified to go outside to the toilet at night. I’m amazed that no-one ever asked me what I was afraid of or why I was afraid. they thought my fear was irrational

But my understanding of these ‘irrational fears’ of childhood has been altered by my understanding of attachment theory.

I am posting some notes on my current understanding of children’s fear of the dark.

Bowlby on the attachment behavioural system

‘Once we postulate the presence within the organism of an attachment behavioural system regarded as the product of evolution and having protection as its biological function, many of the puzzles that have perplexed students of human relationships are found to be soluble. . . An urge to keep proximity or accessibility to someone seen as stronger and wiser, and who if responsive is deeply loved, comes to be recognised as an integral part of human nature and as having a vital role to play in life. Not only does its effective operation bring with it a strong feeling of security and contentment, but its temporary or long-term frustration causes acute or chronic anxiety and discontent. When seen in this light, the urge to keep proximity is to be respected, valued, and nurtured as making for potential strength, instead of being looked down upon, as so often hitherto, as a sign of inherent weakness. (Bowlby, 1991, p. 293 of postscript to Attachment Across the Life Cycle)

Attachment involves four distinct but interrelated classes of behaviour

[57] ‘Bowlby (1982) defined attachment in terms of four distinct but interrelated classes of behaviour: proximity maintenance, safe haven, separation distress, and secure base. These behaviours are readily observable in 1-year-old infants in relation to their primary caregivers (usually mothers). The infant continuously monitors the caregiver’s wherabouts and makes any adjustments necessary for maintaining the desired degree of proximity, retreats to her as a haven of safety in the event of a perceived threat, is actively resistant to and distressed by separations from her, and uses her as a base of security from which to explore the environment. Infants often direct one of more of these behaviours toward individuals to whom they are not attached. Importantly, it is the selective orientation of all these behaviours toward a specific individual that defines attachment. (From Hazan et al. 2004) .

Infant attachment behaviours: behaviours that maintain proximity to the mother

Bowlby noted that infants all around the globe manifest five behaviours that help keep the mother and infant together. They are: crying, sucking, clinging, following and smiling. The first four are also common to other primates. Only chimpanzee infants also smile.

What turns on attachment behaviours? Clues to an increase in danger

There are natural clues to an increase in danger. Infants have evolved to recognise these clues. They do not have to learn them from experience. They are:

  • darkness,
  • being alone,
  • separation from the mother,
  • sudden loud noises,
  • looming figures,
  • unfamiliar environment,
  • the presence of strangers,
  • change in temperature,
  • being sick.

In the past, children’s responses to some of these clues (or cues) to danger—such as fear of the dark—have been considered to be the ‘irrational fears of childhood’. But in hunter-gatherer societies they were clues to increased danger and this increased danger provokes attachment behaviour in the infant and therefore the need to be close to the mother or mothering person.

  • Function. ‘Many aspects of infant and child behaviour and mother-infant interaction seem irrelevant to the modern world, and can only be understood in terms of the evolution of humans in an environment very different from the modern city.’

These fears used to be seen as ‘the irrational fears of childhood’. They make sense only when seen as functional in the environments in which humans evolved.

The environment of evolutionary adaptedness

‘The environment of evolutionary adaptedness’ refers to the environment to which the human species has become adapted through evolution: that is an environment similar to that in which current day hunter-gatherer societies live.

The solution to fear of the dark

Bowlby discovered that the only thing that can ‘terminate’ attachment behaviour such as fear of the dark is closeness to the attachment figure.  So what is required is not explanations to a young child about how there is nothing to fear, but be close, be available.  This is what removes his/her fear.



Moira Eastman has her own website,  and is particularly interested in attachment.    Moira works at Mothering Business and studied Sociology of education at Monash University, Melbourne.

She is a member of the group “Mothers at Home Matter”, a UK based group.  “Mothers at Home Matter”  – PO Box 43690 London SE22 9WN – is about redefining values, re-honouring the name “mother” and highlighting children’s developmental needs. It is about understanding the impact of economic forces on the family – mothers and fathers – and campaigning for change. The full aims of the organisation are on their website (see address above). “Mother at Home Matter” are not affiliated to any political party or faith group.


Iceland knows how to stop teen substance abuse but the rest of the world isn’t listening, by Emma Young

In Iceland, teenage smoking, drinking and drug use have been radically cut in the past 20 years. Emma Young finds out how they did it, and why other countries won’t follow suit.


It’s a little before three on a sunny Friday afternoon and Laugardalur Park, near central Reykjavik, looks practically deserted. There’s an occasional adult with a pushchair, but the park’s surrounded by apartment blocks and houses, and school’s out – so where are all the kids?

Walking with me are Gudberg Jónsson, a local psychologist, and Harvey Milkman, an American psychology professor who teaches for part of the year at Reykjavik University. Twenty years ago, says Gudberg, Icelandic teens were among the heaviest-drinking youths in Europe. “You couldn’t walk the streets in downtown Reykjavik on a Friday night because it felt unsafe,” adds Milkman. “There were hordes of teenagers getting in-your-face drunk.”

We approach a large building. “And here we have the indoor skating,” says Gudberg.

A couple of minutes ago, we passed two halls dedicated to badminton and ping pong. Here in the park, there’s also an athletics track, a geothermally heated swimming pool and – at last – some visible kids, excitedly playing football on an artificial pitch.

Young people aren’t hanging out in the park right now, Gudberg explains, because they’re in after-school classes in these facilities, or in clubs for music, dance or art. Or they might be on outings with their parents.

Today, Iceland tops the European table for the cleanest-living teens. The percentage of 15- and 16-year-olds who had been drunk in the previous month plummeted from 42 per cent in 1998 to 5 per cent in 2016. The percentage who have ever used cannabis is down from 17 per cent to 7 per cent. Those smoking cigarettes every day fell from 23 per cent to just 3 per cent.

© Dave Imms

The way the country has achieved this turnaround has been both radical and evidence-based, but it has relied a lot on what might be termed enforced common sense. “This is the most remarkably intense and profound study of stress in the lives of teenagers that I have ever seen,” says Milkman. “I’m just so impressed by how well it is working.”

If it was adopted in other countries, Milkman argues, the Icelandic model could benefit the general psychological and physical wellbeing of millions of  kids, not to mention the coffers of healthcare agencies and broader society. It’s a big if.

“I was in the eye of the storm of the drug revolution,” Milkman explains over tea in his apartment in Reykjavik. In the early 1970s, when he was doing an internship at the Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital in New York City, “LSD was already in, and a lot of people were smoking marijuana. And there was a lot of interest in why people took certain drugs.”

Milkman’s doctoral dissertation concluded that people would choose either heroin or amphetamines depending on how they liked to deal with stress. Heroin users wanted to numb themselves; amphetamine users wanted to actively confront it. After this work was published, he was among a group of researchers drafted by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse to answer questions such as: why do people start using drugs? Why do they continue? When do they reach a threshold to abuse? When do they stop? And when do they relapse?

“Any college kid could say: why do they start? Well, there’s availability, they’re risk-takers, alienation, maybe some depression,” he says. “But why do they continue? So I got to the question about the threshold for abuse and the lights went on – that’s when I had my version of the ‘aha’ experience: they could be on the threshold for abuse before they even took the drug, because it was their style of coping that they were abusing.”

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

Sonny Bill Williams gives Rugby World Cup medal to stunned 14-year-old fan


What a wonderful example and role model Sonny Bill Williams has been in looking out for 14 year old fan, Charlie Lines… even giving him his medal.  As we kiwis enjoy the All Blacks’ World Cup Victory, we should also feel proud of Sonny Bill, who changed what could have been a negative lifetime memory of being handled roughly by security guards into a positive, affirming moment where the 14 year old got to share in his favourite star’s victory.  Public figures and sports stars such as Sonny Bill Williams have such an important role to play in advocating for our children everywhere.  — Editor, Kirsteen McLay-Knopp.

The following article is from the UK Guardian.

A 14-year-old New Zealand fan Charlie Lines is now the proud owner of a Rugby World Cup winner’s medal – after an extraordinary act of generosity from Sonny Bill Williams.

Williams acted after seeing a security guard rugby tackle the boy, who had run on the pitch during the All Blacks’ lap of honour following their 34-17 Rugby World Cup final victory over Australia.

Williams, who was photographed intervening then handing the dumbfounded youngster his medal, told New Zealand’s One News afterwards: “I was walking around doing a lap of honour with the boys and a young fella came running out and he got smoked by the security guard, like full-on tackled him. I felt sorry for the little fella”.

(To read more, follow the link below…)

How to raise an overactive child The joys and challenges of raising a kid who is more intense, more energetic and more persistent than average, by Lisa Bendall


When Jennifer Weiss of Airdrie, Alta., put a dish of parsnips on the family dinner table for the first time, eight-year-old Mackenzie went from calmly chatting to a total meltdown. “He was adamant, arms crossed, tears rolling down his face,” Weiss says. Mackenzie’s mood swings, she says, are typically intense: “from happy as can be to a pile on the floor — screaming that life is unfair and we hate him — in seconds.”

Like 10 percent of all children, Mackenzie, a sweet, loving boy, is what is known as a “spirited child.” These are the kids we refer to as “challenging,” “strong-willed” or worse — traditionally they’ve been slapped with labels like “difficult” or “problem child.” Spirited children may be more intense, more persistent and more energetic than average. “These kids live life bigger and bolder than other kids,” says Michael Popkin, author of Taming the Spirited Child. This can mean they’re enthusiastic and determined. But when they’re little, this temperament often translates into behaviour that’s frustrating for parents — for example, a baby who screams when you don’t hold him, a toddler who never sits still, or a preschooler who falls to pieces because her sandwich was cut into triangles instead of diamonds.

“It’s natural for a parent to wonder: ‘Did I do something to make him act that way?’ But parents need to know it’s not their fault that their child is spirited,” says Sara King, a child psychologist at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax. “It’s just the way that genetics and environment mix up in that particular child.”

Parents of spirited kids can learn how to manage this temperament. And as your child gets more independent, he’ll start doing these tricks to help himself. “Right now it’s driving you crazy,” says Popkin. “But if that child learns to use those traits constructively, they’ll be real assets for the child in the future.”


Spirited kids seem to have extra batteries. They’re hands-on involved with what’s going on around them. When my spirited daughter was younger, it was a Herculean effort to get her to sit for long at the dinner table, and even as she tried to settle in bed, her legs kept moving.

Why it’s a good thing This is a child who’s brimming with energy, is curious about the world and may be driven to excel in sports.

What to do “I’m a great believer in letting your kids play outside in the backyard,” says King. “Let them go to a space where it’s OK to be running around and burning off that energy.” Make sure it’s safe. You can also enrol your child in soccer, karate or hockey, providing him with a positive outlet for his high activity level.

Of course, there are times when even busy children are going to have to sit still. Calgary parent educator Celia Osenton says it helps to give your kid frequent breaks to move about. “Do things in small blocks,” she says. Suggest that the teacher give your child excuses to be mobile, picking him to hand out papers or collect the crayons. At the supper table, he can be the designated gofer if someone wants more milk or needs something from the kitchen.

What not to do Don’t set your child up for failure. If you know his energy is off the charts, don’t expect him to sit through a four-hour car trip without frequent stops, or walk sedately by your side in the grocery store. It just ain’t gonna happen.

(To read more, follow the link below…)

We need to keep girls playing sport so they can reap the benefits in other areas of life!

Sporty Girls Collage FYReblogged from the Swiss based International School Parent


In 2012, for the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, all 205 participating nations entered female athletes and women competed in every sport. Female athletes were thrust into the public eye, and many people hoped this would create a legacy at a grassroots level, spurring more girls to get involved in sport. However, the record turnout of female sportswomen at elite levels has not yet trickled down into schools and wider society. Across the world, the figures show that almost without exception that women and girls are less likely to participate regularly in sport than men, and are missing out on numerous health benefits and acquiring vital life skills. According to the United Nations, girls who play sport are more likely to participate in school and society. When women and girls get used to winning on the playing field, they are more likely to step up in the classroom, the boardroom, and as leaders in society.

Playing sport develops strategic thinking, teamwork, self-confidence, and a sense of etiquette, as well as decreasing the Soccerrisk of mental illness and use of drugs and alcohol, among other benefits. Girls need be nurturing these life skills through sport, just as boys do. So why is it often so difficult to get them to join in? While lots of girls are naturally sporty and love games, others admit to feeling hampered by insecurities such as a fear of being judged, which prevents them from exercising. Being the wrong size, the wrong shape, or not being fit enough, or skilled enough. Fear of becoming too muscular and looking unattractive to boys are all things that teenage girls worry too much about. We need to teach them to stop thinking like this, and to overcome these fears, so they too can reap the benefits of regular exercise from a young age and into adulthood. With renewed confidence in their abilities in sport, they can take on life’s challenges with more energy and reduce the risk of falling behind their male counterparts.

tennis1Sport provides girls with role models promoting valuable life lessons on and off the court. Compared to some of the vacuous celebrity images we see in today’s media, these strong women offer refreshing alternatives for young girls making sense of the world around them. The tennis players Maria Sharapova, Serena and Venus Williams (and Billie Jean King before them) all campaign for equal prize money for women in the game. Serena Williams, who has netted the highest amount of prize money in women’s tennis of all time, is refreshingly vocal about these issues, saying “I don’t deserve less because I have boobs” – a valuable statement for girls in all areas of life to hear. Female football (soccer) players such as Abby Wambach, two-time Olympic gold medalist and star player of the US Women’s National Soccer Team, have been debating with FIFA over whether the women’s World Cup will be played on turf like the men’s or on the less suitable AstroTurf, which they argue hampers the quality of their game. FIFA continues to act unreasonably on the issue, but the debate has drawn attention to sexism in sport at the highest levels, with politicians, lawyers and players demanding equal playing rights for men and women.

Girls involved in sport at lower levels are more likely to look up to these women and see examples of fighting spirit and real passion, talent and commitment.  As a result they are more likely to tackle their own issues with more self-assurance and less timidity.

Creating strong role models for girls is important in the face of the image of the ‘perfect’ image of femininity that it makes 2011-Junior-Girls-Netball-1-800x600them feel insecure about their own appearance. Girls who aspire to be stick thin with pretty makeup and hair, rather than exhibiting defined muscles and a red face, are unlikely to be turning up for field hockey practice. With appearance being one of the main reasons cited as to why teenage girls are slacking in sport, some campaigns are tackling these issues head on, debunking the traditional ideas about femininity that often hold girls back. The UK Lottery-funded“This Girl Can” campaign, showing girls working up a sweat cycling, dancing, running, spinning, climbing, orienteering, swimming and playing a whole array of sports with captions such as “Hot and not bothered”, and “I swim because I love my body, not because I hate it”, has been incredibly popular with young women, and is a refreshing new development. Another campaign, LikeAGirl from a feminine hygiene brand tackles similar issues about female self-confidence and women as traditionally weak. Some female celebrities are peddling the Twitter hashtag #FitNotThin to try and encourage girls to change their desire to be skinny to being healthy.

art-athleticsWhile all these battles around equality and appearance are being fought in the public eye, there are some great opportunities for girls to get involved in sport here in Switzerland. Holiday camps are a fantastic way to get girls running around in the sunshine with their friends. Often camps also employ older girls to help the professional coaches teach the younger girls, providing a good opportunity to mingle with different age groups. Girl-only sports camps can also be a good environment for girls to feel uninhibited and to work on their sports skills. At the same time, schools have a role to play. Often it is all too easy for girls to make their excuses and sit out P.E. lessons. There needs to be less tolerance for this at school, at the same time as offering a range of activities to suit girls at all levels of activity, so that they are not deterred from joining in. While we should be encouraging girls to get stuck into traditional field games, it may also be useful for schools to provide other options such as dance, cycling, or aerobics, so that they can try lots of different types of exercise and actively choose what works for them.

The earlier girls get involved in sport and the more enjoyment they gain from it, the more likely they are to keep up the habit later on. It is important to build physical activity into their lifestyles, both at school and in the holidays, as well as to tackle the potentially negative insecurities that can prevent them from playing. There is really no need to choose between being girly and attractive or powerful and ambitious – girls can be both. After all, in their spare time, Serena Williams is a qualified nail technician and Maria Sharapova designs Sugarpova sweets.