August 09, 2008

Nurturing a Parent-Child Relationship and types of Parent-Child Relationships

The following article is not solely written by me but is a summary of various articles I have read on the topic. When reading about things pertaining to child rearing I tend to take ‘notes’ and this is one of them.

Nurturing a Parent-Child Relationship and types of Parent-Child Relationships

While exploring the field of the ‘perfect’ parent-child relationship I came to realize that there really isn’t a clear set of rules that can be laid down in order to strike gold but it’s a cocktail of things that increases your chances of being ‘different’ and maintain a strong bond of togetherness and closeness over the years to come.

The type of relationship you have with your child from the time he is an infant plays a vital role in shaping his future and how he is going to be with people around him and with his family when he is older. What you have experienced over the years as a child is what you will impart to your child and if you intend on doing things differently then you need to put in that extra effort in order to break the cycle. Times change and so do parenting techniques. But there are certain fundamentals that remain intact and play a vital role in shaping a child’s future.

Let’s begin by first summarizing the different types of relationships/attachment a parent can have with a child and the characteristics of a child who is in that particular type of relationship. This will enable us to place ourselves in either one of the categories and can be a starting point for making a change if need be.

From an early age, the way a parent responds to his child’s needs leads to one of the four types of attachment categories. The strongest kind of attachment is called “secure”. In a secure relationship the child feels he can depend solely on his parents for his needs and expects to be supported and tended to. The child learns to be confident and independent. Adults can work towards developing this relationship by:

  • Being consistent while responding to their needs
  • Responding in a loving/caring manner when the child cries
  • Offer support and consolation when the child is afraid and help them overcome their fears.
  • Share in their feelings of excitement and accomplishment & making them feel worthwhile.


  • The child feels safe exploring the world
  • Does not always want to be right next to the care-giver
  • Knows that she can always return to the parent when she needs to

The next type of attachment is “avoidant”. Children belonging to this kind of parenting relationship have learned that depending on their parent for their needs won’t get them the secure feeling they yearn for and hence in the process learn to look after themselves. These children can appear to be overly independent. The following parenting behavior leads to this type of relationship:

  • Not responding immediately to their needs
  • Letting the child deal with their fears and insecurities and not offering support on a regular basis.
  • Not expressing happiness/excitement when the child exhibits the same and instead ignoring or brushing away as childish behavior


  • The child hesitates in asking for help and gets frustrated easily.
  • Can be aggressive at times
  • Fail to build strong relationships with their parents and loved ones
  • Try to care for themselves almost all the time.

The third type of attachment is called “ambivalent”. Children belonging to this kind of parenting relationship have learned that sometimes their needs are met while other times they are not. They notice what gets their parents attention and tend to use it over and over, always in search of that secure feeling that they get from time to time. The following type of parenting behavior leads to this kind of relationship:

  • Being inconsistent while responding to their needs.
  • When a child expresses fear, it is sometimes ignored whereas other times they are overly comforted.
  • When the child is excited they do not understand the child’s excitement or do not respond in an appropriate manner.


  • Child becomes very clingy
  • Tend to act younger than they are and are over-emotional
  • Often cry, get frustrated easily and love being the centre of attention
  • Have a hard time being independent and get upset if not given attention
  • Seem to latch on to everyone for short periods of time

The fourth type of attachment is called “disorganized”. Children belonging to this kind of parenting relationship do not know what to expect from their parents. This means that they have all learned ways of getting what they want, and it may not necessarily be the best way. This is because the child has learned to sometimes predict his parents’ reaction – whether negative or positive and is aware of responses that can be expected by certain types of behavior. The following type of parenting behavior leads to this kind of relationship:

  • Parents rarely respond to their needs, especially when the child is an infant.
  • If the parent does respond, it usually doesn’t fit
  • Prevalent in families where there is some kind of maltreatment or neglect
  • Is also common among families where any one or both the parents are suffering depression.


  • Child often does things that make no sense.
  • Speaks really fast and is hard to understand.
  • Have a hard time showing empathy towards others
  • Seem different from day to day.

Disorganized attachment can be of two types:

    1. Controlling – were the child tends to be extremely bossy
    2. Care-giving – treats others in a childish way – acting like a parent.

Having pointed out the basic differences in types of parent-child relationships it’s important to mention that every child is unique and different. They can have varying interests, needs and behaviors. These dissimilarities make different treatment appropriate on some occasions. Lastly, the quality of a parent child relationship appears to be much more affected by the child’s perception rather than the parent’s opinion.

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