Music Therapy and Parent-Child Attachment Becky Wellman, Ph.D., MT-BC/L, DT Wellman Therapy Services Itasca, Illinois
Most professionals are familiar with the attachment research of Bowlby and Ainsworth (Bretherton, 1992) who determined that attachment can be considered secure, ambivalent, avoidant, or disorganized. Within this model, children preferably build a secure attachment with their parents. To attain this, children need to be able to separate easily from their parents when in a safe environment, find their parents when frightened, and greet them when they see them again (Wallach & Caulfield, 1998; Waters, Crowell, Elliott, Corcoran, & Treboux, 2002). Attaining these skills can be diﬃcult for children with special needs or for those who are ill. The theory of Parental Acceptance or Rejection, an alternative view of attachment, is presented by Ronald Rohner (Rohner, Khaleque, & Cournoyer, 2012). In this theory, rejection is defined as being unaﬀectionate, hostile, neglectful, or “undiﬀerentiated rejecting” (p. 2). Undiﬀerentiated rejecting is when the child feels rejected even if there is no other behavior indicating rejection from the parent. There are several sub-theories within Rohner’s theory; these examine how parental acceptance or rejection impact a child's personality and ability to cope, and how the family's sociocultural system impacts the attachment process. Diﬀerent family situations can impact how parents and children form attachment. Frequent medical treatments, work commitments, responsibility for other children, and
imagine 5(1), 2014
anxiety about the future can impede eﬀorts to build attachment. Even after a child comes home from the hospital, attachment may be diﬃcult due to continued medical concerns, home medical equipment, increased travel to and from medical appointments and time spent at these appointments, or possible conflicts with other caregivers regarding care (Korja, Latva, & Lehtonen, 2012). Families with children who have cognitive and physical involvement may struggle with how to engage with their children (Wheeler & Stultz, 2008). Parents and caregivers can be overwhelmed by questions about what the child can understand, what the child can do, and what the future holds . Possible feelings of guilt also can delay or halt attachment development. Families with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) also may find building attachment diﬃcult. Diminished eye contact, limited social engagement, perseveration, and sensory issues can slow or stop the reciprocation of parental or caregiver approaches for attachment, or reject their bids for acceptance (Thompson, 2012). Similar to parents of those with cognitive and physical issues, parents of children with ASD may feel guilty or overwhelmed when engaging with their children.
The focus of imagine 2014 is on family-centered practice – a trend taking hold in music therapy circles worldwide. While many practitioners...