Some seminal research in the area of child development has revealed that the attachment-trauma experienced by children is not confined to parental care alone. In other words, the role of parents in the healthy development of children can be substituted by other care-givers if they implement sound child-care principles. How well the child relates and accepts its new parents is a matter of therapeutic handling of the new bonding process. The Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy is one such technique available to all care-givers. To understand the workings of this approach one has to understand the psychological dynamics of the relationship between the parent (mother) and child (Webster, 1998).
The significance of the primary care-giver (usually the mother) in determining the attachment style of the child is well known. Hence, how efficacious the foster parent would be in fulfilling the psychological needs of the growing child is a crucial question. When the primary caregiver-child attachment is sub-standard then the child’s disposition toward the world, other adults, future relationships and their conception of themselves – all of them will be influenced. For example, the following paragraph makes clear the profound impact the child’s birth mother can have.
Children subject to abusive treatment are prone to suffer neurobiological dysfunction, which includes its ability to cope with the daily stresses of life as well as its conception of it self as an individual worthy of love and attention. Normally, the parent acts as the pattern setter for the child’s emotional regulatory mechanism. In other words, the child mimics its parent’s cues in order to adjust its own mental states as well as to developing a corresponding sense of self-worth. Also,
“The best predictor of a child’s attachment classification is the state of mind with respect to attachment of the birth mother. A birth mother’s attachment classification before the birth of her child can predict with 80% accuracy her child’s attachment classification at six years of age.” (Florian, Mikulincer, et. Al., 1995)
But fortunately, such a seemingly inimitable role of birth mother can be suitably substituted with the adoption of the right scientific approach by the foster parent. Usually, the child will go through a period of regress during its first interactions with the foster parent. But gradually, in a matter of three months or so, the child’s “attachment classification becomes similar to that of the foster mother” (Bowlby, 1998). This implies that the attachment pattern of a child is not genetically determined, which should come as a positive news for the ever growing pool of adopted babies. It also implies that transmission of attachment patterns is possible, subsequently leading to a psychologically healthy development (Bowlby, 1998).
It has been clearly established that foster parents can be as effective as biological parents. Nevertheless, it requires a systematic and scientific approach on part of the foster parents to provide the child the necessary security through by applying the right approach. One of the most prominent such scientific approaches that has gained popularity over the last decade or so is the Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy. This approach is employed in mitigating and negative symptoms of trauma-attachment disordered children. The therapy is founded on the principles of attachment theory and tries to rework the already established negative thought processes of the child by employing “experiential methods that have several important and overlapping dimensions: modeling the healthy attachment cycle, reducing shame, safe and nurturing physical contact that is containing, re-experiencing the affect associated with the trauma in order to integrate the experience and not dissociate, and the interpersonal regulation of affect” (Fraley, Niedenthal , et. Al., 2006).
The above mentioned dimensions are performed through the use of eye contact, by holding the child in regular intervals, using a soothing and gentle tone of voice while addressing the child, etc. Such techniques are meant to bring about a restructuring of the negative cognitive patterns that the child had erstwhile developed. Such “psycho-dramatic reenactments, and repeated implementations” of the needs of the child during its early years helps it overcome its unfulfilled needs as well as re-establish its self-esteem. While such techniques are best left to qualified psychotherapists to implement, foster parents can help in the process. A successful Dyadic therapeutic course will result in the child “effectively internalizing its adoptive or foster parent’s love, structuring, and nurturing, resulting in increased ability to tolerate affect without becoming dys-regulated or dissociated, a more coherent sense of autobiographical memory, increased trust, and increased self-esteem” (Aspelmeier, Elliot, et. al, 2007).