Attachment security: influences on social and emotional competence, executive functioning and readiness for school

Sarah Mares*, Catherine McMahon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


A primary task for parents and infants in the early years is the development of attachment relationships. Parents are first teachers for a child in the very broadest sense. The child learns, through early experiences in the family, about the safety of the world; about relationships; about how to manage themselves with others, in both safe and in challenging interactions; and about the risks associated with play and exploration. School readiness involves considerably more than an interest in letters and numbers. It includes social and emotional competence, curiosity and flexibility and a capacity to engage and use the support of other children and adults in the learning process. All of this is supported by security in early care giving relationships. This chapter will review the evidence that the quality of early relationships shapes neuro-biological development which in turn influences social and psychological functioning throughout life; that early attachment security and self-regulation, executive functioning, information processing, cognitive and language development lay the foundation for engagement and success at school; and that attachment style influences help seeking behaviours, in medical as well as educational settings. This evidence indicates that those infants and children most at risk of adverse developmental and educational outcomes are those who experience an accumulation of risk factors, including insecurity in their early relationships.The chapter will also consider evidence from longitudinal studies of attachment and development and studies of atrisk groups, including children of parents with mental illness and children exposed to maltreatment. Here the intention is to assess the impact of early experiences on development across the life span. The chapter concludes by outlining the importance of this information for early intervention and support for caregivers with infants and young children, and for workers in child-care and preschool settings.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHealth and education interdependence
Subtitle of host publicationthriving from birth to adulthood
EditorsRichard Midford, Georgie Nutton, Brendon Hyndman, Sven Silburn
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherSpringer, Springer Nature
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9789811539596
ISBN (Print)9789811539589
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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