In the early years, brain connections are created according to a child’s experience. From birth, new synapses are particularly influenced by the human faces that they see; smiles, frowns and eye contact. A study from Stanford University confirms that babies can process faces long before they recognize any other object.
As Dr. Clyde Hertzman explains in this video, it is in this critical window of developmental opportunity that we can begin to build a secure attachment with a caregiver. This early connection is the foundation for how young children develop future relationships with others. Dr. Hertzman focuses specifically on the connection between the development of vision - and the development of secure attachments.
Is there hope for healthy attachment later in life?
Early interactions in which caregivers are either responsive or unresponsive to an infant’s needs, influence feelings of being worthy or unworthy of love. Babies who have caregivers who are nurturing and sensitive can relax, revel in this affection and feel that others want to care for him or her. This infant seeks out the caregiver when distressed because they know from repeated experiences that the caregiver has the capacity to soothe them emotionally and or physically. The relationship becomes like a dance – each baby and caregiver striving to be connected by following each other’s steps and being in sync with one another. This is the foundation for the development of a secure attachment style.
It used to be thought that attachment style is fixed, based solely on these early experiences. The good news is that we now know that even if a child has a difficult start in life and develops an insecure attachment style, positive experiences in caring and consistent relationships can shift the attachment style and open up a whole new world of relational possibilities for a child, youth or even adult.
In a study of 4-6 month old infants, researchers measured cortical responses to both objects and faces. They found that within this window of time, infants develop higher levels of facial recognition over object recognition.