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Bonds Formed in Infancy Have a Tremendous Impact

Ask the Experts by Evon N. Foster, LMSW, IMH-E®

Q: Is a healthy attachment relationship necessary for the development of infant/toddlers?

A: Optimal development (physical, cognitive, social and emotional) of infants/and toddlers through nurturing, protective, secure and stable relationships with parents promotes readiness to learn.

You may wonder how? Parental nurturing styles and response to young children is impacted by life stressors, lack of support, parent’s history, mental illness and substance abuse. Without a secure relationship, children can become insecure, anxious and disorganized. These are children who become an overwhelming part of the mental health and juvenile system.

Children who have been exposed to unhealthy attachments during the first three years of life present with symptoms of depression, hyper-vigilant, inability to relate to others, are confused, distrustful, insensitive and emotionally unavailable. John Bowlby describes attachment as an emotional bond. He believes that the earliest bonds formed in children with their parents have a tremendous impact that continues throughout life. Parents who are available and responsive to their child allow them to develop a sense of security. This creates a secure base for the child to explore the world.

Early intervention for parents and young children with multiple risks such as poverty, domestic violence, neglect, abuse, trauma, mental illness and substance is critical. Northeast Guidance Center provides Infant and Early Childhood mental health services for parents and children, as well as pregnant women, to develop healthy relationships with their infants/toddlers. Infant Mental Health includes homebased services to pregnant women and children 0-3 years. Early Childhood Mental includes home-based, school observations and office visits for children 4-6 years.

Infant Mental Health services pay attention to the social-emotional development of infants and toddlers. Infant Mental Health services incorporate a relationship perspective that is nurturing, supportive and protective. If you want to learn more about Infant Mental Health services and how it can benefit at-risk infant/toddlers, check out or contact Northeast Guidance Center’s ACCESS department to inquire about our Infant and Early Childhood Mental health program at 877-242-4120 or

Evon Foster is Supervisor of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) program at Northeast Guidance Center, Detroit. Mrs. Foster earned her MSW degree from Wayne State University (2003), BA Sociology Degree at University of Detroit Mercy (1994) and is endorsed as an Infant Mental Health Family Specialist (2014) currently serving as President of MI-AIMH Detroit Chapter.

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The Family Center is a nonprofit organization that provides resources and preventative education to empower families to successfully navigate life’s social, emotional and physical challenges. The Family Center is completely supported by community donations. To learn more, visit, call 313.447.1374 or email

Written March 2019

The Family Center does not endorse or recommend the individuals or businesses who have provided the information contained on this page and the individuals and businesses who have provided this information are solely responsible for the content of the information provided. The Family Center provides this information "as is" without any warranties of any kind and disclaims liability for damages of any kind resulting from the use of this information.