1) Define some various relationship patterns between boys and their dad’s.
* Healthy Attachment – Dad is interested and well-engaged with his son. When Dad gazes at his son his eyes beam adoringly.
* Detached Father – Father is not there. Either Dad and Mom have archaic assigned roles that Dad is the breadwinner while Mom is the primary custodial parent, or Dad’s personality is limited by an inability to emotionally connect.
* Unavailable Father – Dad is there but focused on other things. He is not readily available to warmly respond consistently to his son’s needs.
* Sports Dad – Father is intensely into sports and can only relate to his son on an athletic level, both as spectator and active participant.
* Disciplinarian Father – This dad has entered into a usually unspoken agreement that Mom is the nurturer while Dad is positioned in the family as the disciplinarian. This family dynamic causes serious problems in the kids when they go through adolescence.
2) Our focus is on attachment in how it relates to child development. Can you provide examples/insight on the attachment levels between boys and dads? We would like to look at both healthy attachments and unhealthy attachments.
From birth to 12 months of age, the primary psychological goal for every boy (and girl) is bonding or developing a strong, secure, healthy attachment to Mommy. Daddy takes a backseat to Mommy during this first important phase of developing Trust and Security within the newborn infant. At age 12 months, most infants begin to stand and take their first steps. This begins and lifelong Separation Process. Age 18 months kickstarts the crucial toddler phase of development. From 18 months to 4 years of age toddlers are in Rapprochement. I believe this is the most critical stage of human development. The following crucial goals including Self-Declaration (I am “me” – not you); self-feeding; self-soothing; toilet-training; delayed gratification; frustration tolerance; language and motor skills; and sexual identification – all must be practiced and established by every child by age 4 years. Little boys are facilitated and help in both potty training and sexual/gender identification by showering/bathing with Daddy, wrestling, tossing a ball back-and-forth, and playing running, chase, and tag games. If Daddy is absent or unavailable, a warm empathic and fun uncle, grandfather, or Mom’s buddy can step into this needed role. During Latency Phase (7-12 years of age), boys need their dads to rough-house, wrestle, do sports, and talk with. Teens need more of the same. Also key is that sons are carefully observing their fathers with laser-sharp radar. Dads need to know they are the model for how and what their sons will become.
3) How does over-attachment affect a child’s development? (Boys, specifically)
Over-attachment to Daddy in boys (and girls) is highly unusual. It is more common for boys to become overly-attached to their mothers. An over-attachment is unhealthy because both parent and child become too inter-dependent on each other. In worst case scenarios a Symbiotic Relationship develops in which neither child nor parent can function without the other. Parents need to understand and adopt the belief that separation, self-reliance, and independence are the goals for every child. You must praise every increment in your sons and daughters toward moving out into the world independently. If you need to hold tight to your son or daughter this is worthy of self-examination to raise your awareness and not put this onto your kids.
4) How is a child’s child development affected if there is no attachment (boys specifically)?
If there is no attachment to the father sons can find the necessary traits required for clear self-identification in another warm, empathic male who can buddy-up or mentor the boy child. If, however, there is no, or limited, attachment to the mother very serious personality/characterological problems may develop. The child is at risk of becoming a sociopath because in the early months and years he had no warmly attuned parent to consistently respond to his cries and needs. The child learns the world is not a safe place and grows to emerge without a conscience or guilt. He feels entitled to things he was gypped out of during childhood.
Many boys are raised by a single mom and turn out just fine. Moms can parent effectively and well without a male partner or spouse. The key is to find the right men who will be present in the growing son’s life on a consistent basis over a long period of time. Continuity is crucial to imprint the child’s identity.