So far the emphasis has been on attachment behaviour and the regulation of the emotions in attachment theory. This is right and proper because from an evolutionary point of view, the survival advantages conferred by attachment behaviour and affect regulation are fundamentally important. But children grow, mature and accumulate more and more experience of the world. They learn how it treats them and the part they play in it. As the brain develops, it seeks to make sense of these experiences. It finds patterns. It sees cause and apparent effect. It sees links between one behaviour and another. The world, and our passage through it, is not entirely arbitrary. Children begin to realize that, to an extent, the environment, particularly the social environment, is predictable. ‘When I do this, she does that.’ ‘When he behaves in that way, I respond in this manner.’ ‘When she does that, it makes me feel this.’ This early ability to make sense of the world at a more conscious, reflective level represents the beginning of cognitive understanding. And with cognition comes the possibility of intention, choice, and options.
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