8. Trust is learned early.

8.1: Early childhood attachment styles can affect trust as an adult.

Our early childhood experiences can affect our later trust in others or even in the products we buy. How secure we felt with early caregivers can leave us more or less trusting as adults. 

     We learn to feel more or less secure as children, when we are dependent on adults for our food, safety, and emotional support, and it can be difficult to unlearn old patterns and relearn new ones. 

     A child who learned a more secure attachment style during their youth may as adults be more open to suggestions or to looking at things as mixtures of both good and bad. Accepting life as a mixture can make it easier to appreciate the good aspects and to accept and cope with bad aspects, instead of pretending that everything is perfect and ignoring or denying that there may be room for improvement in a situation or relationship.   

8.2: Attachment styles can be modified with therapy, but not easily.

Learning about attachment styles can help individuals with less secure styles to improve their skills in personal and business relationships but changing the core values and habits that were learned in childhood takes time and dedicated practice of the new skills.[1] How much we trust in others and or trust in the products we purchase as a customer may be related to how secure we felt with our childhood relationships.[2]  

      Cognitive therapy techniques such as "Dialectical Behavior Therapy " (DBT) may be helpful.  DBT is a strategy in the field of mental health care that was first developed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. in 1993 for working with patients with Borderline Personality Disorder. 

  • The goals for the therapy are to help individuals gain better understanding and acceptance of their non-verbal and verbal thoughts, motives, and behaviors; and to develop more effective strategies for coping  with strong emotions; and for improving communication with others & with oneself. 

It can be difficult to let others know what your concerns are if you aren't able to describe your own feelings.   

  • 1997: Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for  Borderline Personality Disorder. [3]
  • 2001: Dialectical Behavior Therapy in a Nutshell, by Linda Dimeff and Marsha Linehan, PhD.  [4]  
  • Workbooks are available based on the DBT techniques which can be used individually or with a trained clinician; one example is: "The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation & Distress Tolerance," by Matthew McKay, Ph.D, Jeffrey C. Wood, Psy. D, and Jeffrey Brantley, MD, (New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2007, Oakland, CA).  [5

Other resources about attachment styles and therapy are listed at the end of this page.

8.3: Types of attachment styles

How the caregivers in a child’s life respond to the child’s behavior and bids for attention from the caregiver has been observed to lead to three main types of attachment styles between the caregiver and child. Two scientists were involved in the theory’s development. The observation of parent/child pairs and description of the attachment styles was by Mary Ainsworth, who based her work on an ethological theory about attachment developed by John Bowlby, a psychoanalyst.  

     Mary Ainsworth observed pairs of young children, toddler age, and their caregivers in a play situation where the caregiver would temporarily leave the room. The children were then observed to see how fearful they became when they noticed the absence of their caregiver and how they would act upon the return of the caregiver (mothers). The pairs had already been observed during normal play and the children were found to behave consistently based on how the caregivers interacted and responded to the toddler’s attempts to gain comfort upon their return. [6

  • Children whose caregiver allowed them to explore somewhat freely but who were available for comfort if needed became more trusting as adults and open to experiences. In the research study this attachment style was called secure.
  • Children whose caregiver reacted fearfully and controlling of the child’s attempts to explore rather than giving comfort and encouragement that the situation was safe for exploration became less likely to explore and were more worried when their caregiver left the room. This attachment style was called anxious-resistant
  • Children with this attachment style tend to become less trusting and open to experiences as adults.  · Children whose caregivers ignored the child’s attempt to gain their attention for comfort would tend to stop trying to attract the caregiver’s attention and were more indifferent at their caregiver’s absence from the room. This group also tends to become less trusting and open to experiences as adults. This attachment style was called avoidant. [6

  1. Secure attachment typically occurs when the caregiver is available when the child is fearful but who isn't overly protective or controlling when the child is happily playing or exploring. 
  2. Anxious attachment may occur when a main caregiver allows little freedom for the child to explore without being stopped or cautioned in some way.
  3. Avoidant attachment may occur when a main caregiver doesn't respond to the child's verbal cues or body language - smiles are ignored instead of being returned. [6

8.4: Consistency helps build trust at home or in the workplace.

Emotional security as a child can lead to being more trusting as an adult and emotional security for employees can lead to being more trusting as employees. Are employees allowed some freedom to explore? And if they are met with some setback and look for help do they receive it or do they receive fearful and controlling messages or indifference?  

     Our childhood experiences can leave us with different expectations of others – are they likely to be comforting; or fearful and controlling; or neglectful and indifferent? These different expectations learned as children can leave the adult expecting that they will receive the same type of treatment from everyone that they had received from their caregivers. What was normal for a child will seem like it is just normal, normal for everyone, even though it may have been a very different home-life and not at all like what a “typical” child might experience or how an adult would be treated later in life.  

     The reactions the child developed in an unstable or dangerous home may have protected them then but can leave them overly defensive and quick to anger and over-react, or to freeze up and isolate. An inconsistent parenting style was found to be more likely to negatively affect a child than either the overly fearful or overly indifferent style of caregiving. 

     Children can be quite resilient even in tough situations and even one concerned adult in their life can help show them what normal can be like; the concerned adult could be a teacher or minister or the caring parent of a childhood friend.   

8.5: Work environments also benefit from consistency & role models.

The childhood attachment styles can affect adult personal and business relationships if lack of trust leads to too many conflicts or avoidance of any situation that might involve conflict. Cognitive therapy can help if personality conflicts or avoidance become problems by reconsidering those childhood experiences that may have led to increased fearfulness or avoidance from an adult perspective and rewriting the messages that may have helped protect the child but no longer help the adult. [6

     What can seem like common sense to some people might seem like a suspicious idea to others because they are viewing it from two very different sets of childhood experiences. People are different, so it can be an advantage to have a diverse group of team members because they can provide a variety of viewpoints. However they need to feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts and trust that they will be listened to while sharing their ideas without being mocked or harassed for having a different point of view.   

8.6: Humor can help reduce stress & boost creativity but trust helps.

Joking itself is not necessarily a negative. Humor can help reduce stress [7] and sarcasm may have some benefits for increasing creativity which can have value in the modern business world; however sarcastic joking may be best shared with trusted coworkers or friends to reduce risk that someone misunderstands the meaning or humorous intent. [8

     Or skip the joke and just smile for a better mood. The muscle movements that occur when we smile have been found to lead to a happier mood without having to think a happy thought. The physical action alone, lifting the corners of the mouth in a smile, also tended to lift the mood. [9] And it is difficult to misinterpret a smile -- in any language.  

"Normal" is different for everyone.

"Normal" is whatever you got used to as a child.

To return to the topic of primitive camping on a canoe trip, with young children, from Chapter 2. Effective Care Resources - how could my parents have traveled with five young children safely for hundreds of miles on a river, camping in a tent and cooking meals over an open fire? Answer:  They were skilled and prepared for the trip carefully. 

     My mother had been raised on a farm when bread was baked from scratch and produce was picked fresh and canned or frozen for winter meals. When she was a child raising farm animals and doing chores was "normal." As an adult she got a college degree in math but worked as a housewife once she married my father. She also made pottery and sculpture and did volunteer work for a library reading literacy program and other organizations. A photo of one of my children as a toddler with one of her garden sculptures is included in a photo gallery later in this section.    

     My father was an adventurer and mechanical when he was young and continued in that line of work as an adult with his career as an inventor, a mechanical engineer.  He helped develop national defense equipment for government contracts for the company for whom he worked. 

    Actually, I told you that story to tell you another. And to support the claim that I make next - that what we were used to as children seems normal to us even though it may be different from most people’s idea of normal. The concept of “normal” is also discussed in later sections. A book I read as a young adult helped me feel a little more “normal” - there were children with a family that seemed more unusual than mine.

Efficiency Experts and "Cheaper by the Dozen"

The book Cheaper by the Dozen was written by two adult children about their own upbringing as the son and daughter of a pair of time and motion experts who helped develop the efficiency of the assembly line style of factory work. It is a fascinating look at life in the 1920s, life with a large family, - and life with an eccentric inventor as your parent. It made me feel more like a normal kid than anything else I had ever read then or since.

    A funny synopsis of the book is available online. It appears to be a grade school lesson plan and it includes vocabulary terms for things like assembly line and efficiency expert. So you can find out if you are smarter than a grade-schooler by reading about the Gilbreth family - and you may learn that heroes sometimes wear a funny disguise: (8.19

    The organization that posted the synopsis is a nonprofit educational group that hosts a collaborative repository of educational materials designed for use with students with cognitive disabilities. So the synopsis is apparently not designed for standard classrooms - are you smarter than the average student with cognitive disabilities? National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC), NCSC Wiki, ncscpartners.org: (8.20)

    The original book Cheaper by the Dozen was published in 1963, (8.21), just in time for my birth a few years later, thanks Frank and Ernestine for sharing your family’s story. Regrettably for historical accuracy and gender diversity, only the Frank Gilbreth is listed as the author on the NCSC Wiki lesson, but maybe that is because it is synopsized for a cognitively disabled reader. However accurate attribution of authorship is important for both male and female authors.

Who is in a peer group?

What is a peer group - people who have had similar experiences and are at a similar stage of life? Or just people who are similar to you and at similar stages, etc? I’m not sure, I’ve had trouble fitting in throughout my life.      

     Group socialization theory studies the role that peers have in a child's personality development. Read more: How Peers  Make a Difference: The Role of Peer Groups and Peer Relationships in Personality Development. (8.22)

What is normal? Primitive camping - living hunter-gatherer style.

In later sections the lifestyle of hunter gatherer society is discussed - I am likely to be more familiar with what it is like to sleep in the woods and prepare meals over an open campfire than the average modern person. As a child though, it was a high-tech adventure because we also had some packets of “astronaut food” - packets of freeze dried meals that just needed to have water added and eaten if a cold dish, or heated if needed. At the time freeze dried food was a new invention that had been created for use by the space program. Now it is available for some products as a standard grocery item. 


What is normal? for my children and I - a pet garden dragon.

 

The slideshow includes screenshots of my fathers engineering designs and an image of my daughter with a sculpture of a fantasy creature named Alphonse. My mother handmade the critter from her imagination and skill with a pottery kiln, at some point when I was young. We had a kiln in our basement and a black and white photography studio and a machine & wood shop - doesn't everyone? The house has other sculpture and hand thrown pottery on most surfaces and packed in boxes so Alphonse lived in the garden during the summer.
    The garden sculpture Alphonse is like a family member for me, if families had pet dragons, or pet garden sculptures. Although, if mine does, then maybe others do too.

     What is normal? What you grew up with will seem normal to you, but later in life, whatever you get used to can seem more and more like it was always the norm the longer you are making it your new normal pattern of behavior.

     Our brains tend to develop habit nerve patterns that follow a certain order if the initial action is started. Elevated levels of dopamine may be involved in more extreme examples of behavior patterns being followed rigidly as in Tourette’s Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Syndrome and in grooming behavior. (8.23

     Grooming behavior and dopamine was mentioned in the last section, 7.When to report?. The behavior pattern of repetitive licking and stroking or scratching has been studied in animals to better understand the brain nerve pathways that may be involved and the dopamine signaling system that seems to be a primary control. Grooming behavior is a characteristic pattern of licking the backs of the paws and is easily observed in a lab or wild setting. 

8.7: Additional Resources regarding Attachment Styles

  • Cognitive Reframing, - a list of steps for recognizing and  reframing negative thought patterns on the website ryananswers.com: [10
  • Psychotherapy, John Bowlby, - a brief video about John Bowlby's theory: [11
  • To Be Resilient, Don’t Be Too Virtuous, I want to tell you what I think is missing from most graduation speeches., by Adam Grant, (May 12, 2017) - an article about the importance of moderation for success. Virtues are similar to the core values that form during childhood. Resilience, the ability to keep going after a setback, may be supported by having trust in oneself. A secure attachment style develops when the caregiver trusts the child to explore safely and the child trusts the caregiver to be nearby if needed. [12
  • Attachment styles at work: Measurement, collegial relationships, and burnout, by  Michael P. Leiter, Arla Day, and Lisa Price,  Burnout Research, Vol. 2, Issue 1, March 2015, pp 25-35, - this research supports the premise that moderation is important for resilience. Workers with an avoidant attachment style were more likely to have burnout and less positive interactions at work and those with an anxious attachment style had more negative issues at work and were likely to be overly invested. [13
  • Attachment Theory;  A Guide for Couple Therapy, by Susan M. Johnson , (2003), - a 21 page discussion of attachment theory and counseling techniques for working with couples. [14]
  • Adolescent-parent attachment: Bonds that support healthy development,  Marlene M Moretti, PhD and Maya Peled, MA   Paediatr Child Health. 2004.  [15]  


  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.
  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a service for locating a nutrition counselor near you at the website eatright.org: (eatright.org/find-an-expert


Instinct & Policy; Resources

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Table of Contents

  • Chapters and Glossary section summaries & links, and a link for the book version of this site, Instinct & Policy: Effective Care and Best Practices for Promoting Health and Preventing Harassment and Discrimination. 

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8. Links & References

 Links and Reference footnotes for

Chapter 8: Trust is learned early.  





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Glossary & Resources

  • Definitions of terms and the resources & therapy techniques from the various sections gathered in one location for convenience with some additional topics and material for background detail not covered elsewhere.