Parents whose caregiving is uncertain, inconsistent and a little unpredictable pose young babies with a problem. Sometimes when the child has needs and displays attachment behaviour, the parent responds appropriately with both protective and comforting responses. But at other times, the baby’s attachment behaviour leads to anxious or flustered responses, irrelevant responses, or even no response at all. This kind of inconsistency and unpredictability is not the same as that occasionally shown by all parents who are sometimes busy or preoccupied with other demands. Secure children receive good enough parenting, which is to say that in principle the caregiver would want to be responsive even though in practice their availability never reaches anything near 100 per cent. But for children whose parents are less predictable, there is no reliable connection between infant displays of attachment and the availability of the caregiver. The caregiver’s responses are neither contingent nor congruent. The behavioural challenge for the infant is how to maximize the availability of the caregiver in such a relationship.
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