In his April Newsletter, Dr. Levy introduced a new column devoted to answering the most common questions he has received from professionals, child welfare agencies, caregivers and parents during three decades of pioneering work on attachment theory, treatment and training.

Q: What are the seven functions of secure attachment for children?


A: The principal developmental task of the first year of life is the establishment of a secure attachment between infant and primary caregiver. For this bond of emotional communication to develop, the caregiver must be psychologically and biologically attuned to the needs, emotions, and mental state of the child. Beyond the basic function of secure attachment – providing safety and protection for the vulnerable young child through closeness to a caregiver – there are several other important functions for children:

7 Functions of Attachment


  1. To learn basic trust and reciprocity that serve as a template for all future emotional relationships.


  1. To explore the environment with feelings of safety and security (“secure base”), which leads to healthy cognitive and social development.


  1. To develop the ability to self-regulate, which results in effective management of impulses and emotions.


  1. To create a foundation for the formation of an identity that includes a sense of competency, self-worth and a balance between dependence and autonomy.


  1. To establish a prosocial moral framework that involves empathy, compassion, and conscience.


  1. To generate a core belief system that comprises cognitive appraisals of self, caregivers, others and life in general.


  1. To provide a defense against stress and trauma, which incorporates resourcefulness and resilience.


These seven functions are the reasons why nurturing a close attachment early in life is so critical. Close attachment can only be established in the context of a relationship that includes nurturing touch, eye contact, smile, positive affect, need fulfillment and attunement.


If you have a burning question about attachment theory, treatment or research, please contact Dr. Levy at Your question and Dr. Levy’s answer may be featured in an upcoming newsletter. Or, visit for a wealth of information about attachment.