Missing Out On Early Attachments: The Longterm Effects, Part 2

by LuAnn Pierce, MSW, CMSW

Link to Part 1


Stage Two: Independence/Autonomy
People with a balanced autonomy often display the following behaviors and are well-adjusted:

  • Self-control
  • Confident
  • Assertive
  • Responsible
  • Leadership
  • Independent

People with a distorted autonomy often display the following behaviors and are still trying:

  • Rebellious
  • Reckless/Macho
  • Sexual Prowess
  • Manipulates
  • Bullies
  • Victimizes
  • Overly controlled
  • Passive aggressive

People with absent autonomy often display the following behaviors and have given up:

  • Look Confident
  • Inferior
  • Learned helplessness
  • Easily misled
  • Lacks self control
  • Powerless
  • Impotent
  • Irresponsible

Everyone needs to have some control over their life, including kids. Giving kids choices within given parameters empowers them and builds their confidence and skills. Using external control instead of allowing them to develop internal control robs them of their confidence and prevents them from developing self control.

Empowering young people does not mean turning over the control to them. Adults can maintain control and still allow children and teens to make choices by outlining the choices and consequences of each, then allowing the child or teen to practice their decision making skills and exert their power by making a choice. It is ultimately the difference between independence and dependence. This sends the message that we trust them to use the tools we have given them. It promotes responsibility and instills a sense of personal power, pride and self esteem.

As adults we need to take control of our lives and choices to feel empowered. Those who often feel like victims feel helpless or hopeless. Most of the trials and tribulations we encounter are a result of choices we have made. Accept responsibility for those choices, including the horrible aftermath you may be experiencing. Decide what you did wrong and figure out how to prevent it from happening again. If you can't figure it out alone, ask for help from a friend or professional. If your choices include choosing unhealthy partners or getting into bad relationships consider attending AlAnon or Codependents Anonymous for support and self-help.

Stage Three: Mastery/Achievement
People with a sense of mastery often display the following and are well-adjusted:

  • Successful
  • Problem solver
  • Creative
  • Resilient
  • Persistent
  • Motivated

People with a distorted sense of mastery often display the following and are still trying:

  • Over Achiever
  • Workaholic
  • Delinquent skills
  • Cheating
  • Perserverative
  • Overly competitive
  • Risk seeking

People with an absent sense of mastery often display the following and have given up:

  • Under Achiever
  • Failure oriented
  • Unmotivated
  • Lazy
  • Gives up
  • Avoids risks
  • Fears change
  • Inadequate
  • Immature

We all need to succeed at something to feel good about ourselves and gain a sense of mastery. Not all of us are good in school, but each of us is good at something. Find a child's strengths and build on those. Many children who have learning difficulties are creative and expressive. Channel those abilities into positive activities. Art, music, sports, dance and others provide an outlet for creative self-expression and build confidence and mastery. Recreational and sporting activities can be used to build self-confidence, social skills, organization, time management and promote teamwork and sportsmanship. Challenge them to try new things, set up successes and teach them to look for positives within themselves.

If you are feeling bad about yourself as an adult, ask a friend or family member who loves you to point out the features they most appreciate about you. Ask them what traits and talents they see as being your best. Often we are surprised at how others perceive us. They can usually help remind us of things we know about ourselves, but have discounted or no longer believe due to outside forces sending us different messages.

Stage Four: Generosity/Altruism
People who have healthy altruism often display the following characteristics and are well-adjusted:

  • Caring
  • Compassion
  • Empathy

People who have distorted altruism often display the following characteristics and are still trying:

  • Selfish
  • Overly involved
  • Over Indulgent
  • Self-abasing
  • Co-dependent

People who have an absence of altruism often display the following characteristics and have given up:

  • Narcissistic
  • Hedonistic
  • Anti-social
  • Psychopathic
  • Exploitative

People who are unable to give of themselves or their belongings are often those whose emotional or physical needs have not been met consistently throughout their life. Some can't give, and go to any extreme to take what they want with little regard for the consequences to themselves or others. Others give of themselves to meet their own needs, often without realizing it. These people are usually codependent, give too much of themselves and often find themselves in the role of a martyr. People who are well adjusted show empathy and caring for others without sacrificing their own dignity and well being or that of the other person. Giving too much can be just as damaging as not giving at all.

Given this new information I challenge you to examine your own behaviors and the patterns that you are passing on to your children, intentionally or unintentionally. If you find that you or your child consistently display behaviors that are indicative of distorted or absent attachments, consider therapeutic assistance and seek out further information.



LuAnn Pierce is a licensed social worker and therapist, as well as an author and publisher. She has worked with hundreds of youths and families in the last 15 years. Ms. Pierce writes columns for several other publications and is the publisher/editor-in-chief of Person to Person.

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