Clyde Hertzman: Early Attachment & Emotional Awareness



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[1] 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.

  • Secure and Calm

    Secure and calm describes the ability to take part in daily activities and approach new situations without being overwhelmed with worries, sadness or anxiety. To be secure and calm also means being able to cope with stress and pressure, and to bounce back from difficulties.
  • Gets Along with Others

    Getting along with others is the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults. Children with better abilities to regulate their emotions and behaviours have more friends and experience more positive playtime with their peers.
  • Alert and Engaged

    Being alert and engaged is the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions. In general, the ability to be 'present' and to exercise self-control.
  • Compassionate and Kind

    Being compassionate and kind is closely related to empathy. While empathy refers more generally to the ability to take the perspective of and to feel the emotions of another person, compassion goes one step further.
  • Solves Problems Peacefully

    Managing conflict effectively is about creating an atmosphere where violence and aggression are not likely. To resolve conflict means using empathy, problem-solving skills, understanding other points of view and coming up with ways to make things right in a fair way.