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Social Research Assignment: Attachment Relationships & Circle of Security in Early Childhood


Task: Your task is to prepare a social research assignment based on the below case scenario:

Relationships in Practice
The Circle of Security and Attachment Relationships

Briefly define attachment relationships and the Circle of Security. Then, explain why attachment relationships and knowledge of the Circle of Security are important in early childhood settings. All, while demonstrating familiarity with terms of attachment relationships and application of the Circle of Security by referencing readings.

Contextual Details and Observation
Child’s background

Choose a child (whose behaviour you will observe, document and analyse using the Circle of Security). Describe the child in the context of their family. Include details such as their age, family dynamics and other characteristics relevant to the observation (remember you’re observing emotions and relationships, so provide a background for this).

Context of the setting
Provide general information to make the setting clear, e.g., type of setting etc... but more importantly offer context for the observation, such as, is the educator observed the child's Key educator/primary caregiver, are Playspaces enacted at the service, were the children involved close friends etc... (again, you’re about to analyse emotions and relationships so, set the scene).

Circle moment
Write an observation of the child interacting with an educator and peers. A relational moment that represents their movement around the Circle of Security, encourages analysis and allows you to develop a plan to enhance connections with educators and peers. Describe the ‘Circle’ moment by considering the following

Lead up: What happened before the child came in or went out from the adult?
Circle Moment: What did the child do in the ‘Circle’ moment (i.e., try to explain where/how the child moved on the map during the observation you describe)

Educator’s Actions: What did the adult do
Result: How did the scenario end (i.e., was the child’s emotional cup filled to the brim, partially or left empty) Analysis

See and Guess
Use the 'Circle of Security' roadmap, as well as other readings, to interpret your ‘Circle’ moment (i.e., the child coming into the educator as a safe haven for comfort or going out from the educator’s secure base to explore their world). Consider, what specific emotional need on the ‘Circle’ did the child have? (Support my exploration - watch over, delight in, help or enjoy with me: or Welcome my coming back for – protection, comfort, delight or to help organize my feelings). And, how do you imagine the child was feeling? (Ok or not ok) Why?

Practical plan

What strategies might you employ to maintain relationships/ build connections between the child and educators / peers? Write what the educator can do to build or enhance their connection with the child as well as support interactions with peers while making connections with your analysis of the observation. Remember to consider enactment of power by the child. Examples of plans with support strategies can be found in Dolby (2017, pp.12 -14) [note, a table should not be used, nor the sub-headings in Dolby’s example, it merely offers content stimulus].

Provide a rationale for the plan that makes connections with subject readings.

Write two short imagined dialogues: One that communicates your plan to the child’s parent(s) and, one that communicates your plan to a fellow educator.
Dialogue with parent(s)/caregivers
Create an imagined dialogue (e.g., as if you were speaking with the child’s parent/s, then a colleague under the next sub-heading)
Dialogue with a fellow educator
Justify both conversations with links to literature.


Attachment Relationship
As per the investigation conducted on social research assignment, attachment relationships are the patterns in which a child may respond to the adults or anyone else around him/her. It refers to the way the children perceive the image of the outer world through certain behavioural patterns of their surroundings and the individual around them, to be precise. The early childhood stage shapes the foundation of children's emotional response to any action or situation. The parent figures are the primary source of emotional perception to the children, which form their relationship with the world. There are four common categories of the results of attachment relationships based on their reflection on the children. These categories are – Secure, Anxious-Preoccupied, Dismissive-Preoccupied, and Fearful Avoidant (Dolby, 2012). A child grows confident, reciprocal, non-reactive, and resilient in a secure environment of the attachment relationship. An unstable attachment pattern will lead to the children's emotional hunger, turbulence, the imagination of fantasy bonds and lack of proper nurturing. Dismissive Avoidant behaviour is common among children prone to isolation, ambiguity, ambivalence and emotional distance. An insecure circle of childhood environment is the reason behind these emotional shortcomings. Fearful-avoidant nature results in internal conflicts, dramatic perception of events, unpredictable decision-making capacities, and ambivalence.

Circle of security is the parenting or guiding practice in childcare that helps in developing confident and emotionally mature adults from the children. The children expect protection, comfort, recognition, and validation of their feelings from the parents or guardian figures. They need to be heard in their need, supported in their small endeavours of growing up, and accepted when they come for shelter to the parent figures (Dolby, 2012). Watching over the children, helping them in need, taking delight in their existence, and enjoying their company each time when the situation demands, are the keys to a fulfilling circle of security.

Understanding the attachment relationship pattern and the circle of security is crucial for the adults dealing with the children to help in their emotional growth. In the early childhood setting, the children accept the behaviours from their parents and care-giver that create the base of their self-recognition (Dolby, 2014). An insecure circle and negative attachment signs will lead to emotional unavailability among the children. Understanding the patterns in anxious, dismissive and fearful children will help the caregivers to undo the emotional damage by re-establishing the sense of self-worth in them, thereby developing efficient adults from the troubled children.

Contextual Details and Observation
Child’s Background

The child named Emily is a 9-year-old female child. She belongs to a humble financial background. Both of her parents work regular jobs. Emily stays with her nanny for the largest period in a day. The family is nuclear and hence, Emily does not get her grandparents to be with her for her emotional needs. The child shows signs of passive-aggressive behaviour common in anxious pre-occupied children. She fails to respond properly during interaction with her family, friends and in her school (Dolby, 2014). Sometimes she bursts into anger for no apparent reason. She is the only child of her parents and her parents try their best to provide her with all she needs. The child's emotional behaviour says that she does not feel secure in her familial cycle. The parents often disagree about different matters and do not seem to be reconciling publicly. The father expresses dominating energy in the family often, while the mother shows signs of resignation from a discourse when countered forcefully.

Context of the Setting
The educator of the child in her playschool first observed the behaviour of aggression and silence two years back. They communicated about the same with the parents. However, the parents did not take it seriously back then. After two years, recently the child started showing the symptoms in a family gathering. In a recent incident, Emily threw a flower vase at another child in a family get together and did not respond to any of her relative’s advances for a conversation. Seeing this unusual outburst of the child, one of her relatives who works as a caregiver in a playschool suggested to her parents the need for emotional care to the child (Dolby, 2014). After communicating with her school teachers and classmates, the mother came to know that Emily does not respond to the classes like other children and she does not want to participate in games with her friends. Once she has thrown her water bottle to one of her classmates for pestering her to play with them.

Circle Moment
Lead Up: Emily was brought for interaction with a child-care coach for psychological help. The coach asked her everything starting from her name to educational details, her parents' details and family functioning according to her. Initially, she was completely reluctant to answer the questions but later started opening up gradually under repeated attempts of the counsellor to make her believe in the present setting as a non-violent and secure circle. While before coming in, she was shy and expressed disgust over everything present in her surrounding, while leaving she seemed joyful and content with the environment.

Circle Moment: During the circle moment, the child started responding in one-word answers in the beginning. Even before the answers, she was nodding heads to the conversation with the counsellor. The counsellor started praising her after she replied in simple yes or no to her queries. In the due course of the session, she was given more compliments about her capabilities. The educator tried to open her up about her creative interests by praising a simple paper-boat she was trying to make during the conversation (Dolby, 2017). When she lost her candy given to her by her father, the educator consoled her by giving chocolates and promising to talk to her father about her innocence in the matter. She started from the Nadir or the lowest point of the circle of security and came out on the Zenith or the highest point of it. The challenge was to make her believe in the Zenith for the rest of her life. Educator’s Actions: The educator first started talking to her politely and asking about very basic things like her name, the standard she is reading now and the subjects she like etc. Seeing her reluctant to answer, the educator went into the playing mode of conversation to engage her actively in it (Dolby, 2017). At first, a word puzzle was used to engage her in the conversation, and then the educator talked about her relationship with her parents through simple questions within the word puzzle game. Emily started responding to hints provided by the educator through the game.

Result: In the end, Emily not only started to respond but also expressed interest to know about the educator as she found her as a friend with whom she can gel well.
Seeing and Guessing: The circle reflected on the emotional needs of the child generated from her experience with her parent figures. Though her parents try to provide her best possible emotional support, she fails to accommodate those because of the unhealthy family dynamic among her parents. She sees violence and severe disagreements to the point of argument between them and feels unsafe in her existential circle (Dolby, 2017). She is not praised for anything she attempts in her family as both the parents have their own dissatisfaction with their life. She is watched over sometimes by the caregivers, who cannot always cater to her emotional needs of being recognised and feeling valued.

Practical Plan

The educator needs to communicate with the child more frequently but in a positive manner. She/he must not pass any kind of judgemental comment or queries to her so that she can express herself properly. The educator also must apply appropriate times of transition to communicate with her family about any issue that largely connects to her familial background. It is also important to evaluate the child’s situation and responses based on the educator’s personal emotional map from a child’s viewpoint (Bayne, 2021). This reflection shows empathy in understanding. The child must be invited to participate in all co-curricular activities deliberately. Being a child of special needs, she would not be able to participate spontaneously always. The most important part of the plan is to admire her attempts in any activity she participates in.

As a child with a negative attachment relationship experience, Emily needs special attention to recover from the damage she faced due to uneasy family dynamics. The educator is more responsible for Emily's psychological growth. This growth should be a continuous and steady process in her security circle. Occasional communication and acknowledgement from the counsellor will not solve the internal confusion of the child (Bayne, 2021). The violence and the resignation are both trauma responses she adapted from her parents. Hence, the educator will need to build and believe in her self-worth.

Dialogue with the Parents

The educator: Hello I am Sara, Emily's educator. We are meeting today to discuss some specific behaviours of Emily as we have observed in the school.

The Mother: Has she done anything wrong?
The educator: Not at all, she is a child and it is not the right time to judge her on her actions. She has hit her fellow-mate with her bag for continuously asking her to play. This is common and we have seen other children do the same before as well. We need to talk about her psychological development here.

The Father: But teacher, none of our family members has any psychological problem.
The educator: It is not a problem but a common pattern of character that we adopt as children from our surroundings. All I want to say is that Emily needs more care and recognition from her family. We are trying our best to make her feel valued and secure, I request you to not indulge in violence in front of her, and to try to appreciate her small innovations and intellectual outputs, suppose a picture she has drawn.

The Parents: We understand, we will try our best from now onwards. The educator: Thank you for your time and attention.
Dialogue with Fellow Educator
Me: Hello Smith, I have something to discuss with you about the 3rd standard student Emily. Smith: Yes I see her quite inattentive in the class, and sometimes violent to her mates. Me: Yes actually she is a special child with more than usual need for emotional support. Her family dynamic fails to ensure her about the circle of security. She needs our support to express herself fully and adapt the society efficiently. I have made a plan to assist her. Smith: What kind of plan?

Me: We need to be especially cautious about her emotional shortcomings. It would be really good if we can praise her enough for all little achievements like a passing grade on a handwriting test or a failed attempt to prepare a paper boat. She does not find any self-worth because of emotional scarcity in her family. So, we can involve her more in co-curricular activities to explore her intellectual capacities and build her self-worth again. Smith: That’s a great idea. I would positively comply with your plan. Me: Thanks for your attention and cooperation Smith.

The roadmap for the security circle emphasises the need of the children to be valued and heard without being judged or laughed at. The plan will be effective only when both the school environment and familial setting follow the same. Hence, discussing the core concept of the plan to make the child confident and feel secure about her self-worth was necessary for the context (Bayne, 2021). The parents needed to realize the behaviour affecting their child's mental health. The fellow educator also needed to understand the reason behind her unusual response in the classroom.

Bayne, L. (2015a). The circle of security and reflective practitioners
Bayne, L. (2015b). MarteMeo - Following children in free play situations
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Bayne, L. (2015e). Playspaces facilitate transitions EMH302, Interact2
Bayne, L. (2015f). ACECQA National Quality Standard, quality area five: Relationships with children
Bayne, L. (2021). Professional love: Key educators and continuity in care
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