The Importance Of Paternity Leave To Avoid Insecure Attachments

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Paternity leave is a period of time when a father leaves work because he is expecting a new child into his family. Some companies may or may not have an official paternity leave policy. Typically, new dads do not receive paid time off after the birth of adoption of a new child. This has impacted my cousin Michael when he had the birth of his new child back in December of 2017. Due to the fact it was his first born, he wanted time off, but was worried about if he would get paid or even replaced. However, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) stated that new fathers are protected for up to 12 weeks after birth or adoption. This means that once they return to their position after their absence, there will be no penalty in pay or position. Only 3 of the 50 states in the U.S. provide paid paternity and maternity leave; California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Although Michael doesn’t live in one of those states, he still got benefits from FMLA. When he went on his leave he had more time to bond with his newborn son, Trent. He became more involved in caring for Trent right from the start.

A study of working fathers in the U.S. found that those who take leaves of even 2 weeks are more likely to be actively involved in their child’s care 9 months after birth (feeding, changing diapers, getting up when the child cries, etc.). When fathers help care for their child, it helps with better developmental outcomes. Studies found that there are fewer behavioral problems and improved cognitive and mental health outcomes. Not only did Michael learn how to care for Trent and help him develop, but he also started helping with more chores around the house. When it was his wife’s turn to feed, change diaper, or go check on their child, he would go and find household chores to do. With Michael taking this leave he grew closer to his newborn and an attachment bond started between the two. The Attachment theory states that a strong emotional and physical attachment to at least one primary caregiver is critical to personal development. There are 4 phases involved with this theory.

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Phase 1 includes children 0-10 weeks old. At this age they don’t care who their caregiver is, they just seek any attention. Phase 2 starts after and can go up to 6 months old. Infants will develop higher order in social-cognitive capacities. This meaning they will start to notice more physical features of the caregiver. However, Phase 3 comes shortly after between 6 and 7 months, then they can point out their caregiver’s physical features. This is when the attachment bond really starts to form. Lastly, we have Phase 4 which begins at 30 months. The infant begins learning how to cope with the separation of their caregiver (First Bonding Experience). Although these positive effects and benefits from both the theory and policy seem effective, there are also negative effects involved. In some cases, many parents can’t afford to take time off if they aren’t getting paid. More than three in ten individuals who received partial or no pay reported cutting their leave short, and more fathers would have taken longer leaves if they had received more pay. When parents can’t be there to care for their children and develop the attachment bond with them, they their child can establish an insecurity. Under the circumstances that a parent can’t get time off, their children don’t form that bond with them and tend to think that parents are not reliable. Insecurely attached children are likely to struggle with social/ communication skills and may become anxious in simple situations.

There are three types of insecure attachments; disorganized/ disoriented, anxious- ambivalent, anxious- avoidance. Disorganized/disoriented theory is caused by children being left alone and without support when they need it most. Typically, this happens when a child’s caregiver uses physical punishment to intimidate them. However, if Michael couldn’t get time off from his profession then it is likely that his child would develop one of the next two attachments rather than this one. Children, who suffer from anxious- ambivalent attachment from not having a secure relationship with their parents, show a strong need for affection. This causes any relationships they do build to be very intense. Children look for approval and are often over sensitive to rejection. When they form a relationship, they think something is going to go wrong rather than thinking of the positive aspects. Thus, causing anxiety which can lead to behaviors such as avoidance, substance abuse, or self- harm.

Lastly, there’s the anxious- avoidance attachment which causes children to have difficulty establishing close relationships. These individuals are often independent but get extreme anxiety when they feel someone becoming emotionally close to them. For example, the individual will say they are interested in someone or something, then indicate the exact opposite. They do this because they struggle with their emotions from not receiving proper care when they needed it. Although these are very common situations, not always will a child develop an insecure attachment if their parent isn’t there. It is possible for an individual to exit the insecure attachment by becoming aware of their own behavior and fixing their relationship issues. Paternity leave is extremely necessary for not only the father, but their newborn or adopted child’s psychological needs. This policy improves children’s outcome and success and has an advantage on families as well.

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