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The following blog submission has been approved by the Board of the Attachment Network of Manitoba

The Relational Economy and Creating a Community That Equips More Kids and Adults to Thrive in Life

Charlie Slaughter, MPH

I was thinking the other day about the need in our culture to highlight other economies besides the fiscal economy. For example, it is just as important for a culture to highlight the relational economy. Attachment theory and the extensive research about secure and insecure attachment over many decades tell us the quality of relationships we have in infancy and early childhood have a profound impact on each of us. It impacts educational success, health, career success, and the richness and quality of relationships we have as adults with other people in the community where we live, work, play, and grow. 

Thus, the quality of relationships in a culture, from an attachment perspective, reflect the relational wealth of a community as well as where a community needs to improve the quality of relationships. In turn, a focus on a community’s relational economy can help set a community’s focus on creating and strengthening a community culture that equips more kids and adults to thrive in life. In particular, a community can focus on helping parents, teachers, caregivers, and other adults who have relationships with kids acquire attachment-based relationship tools and reflective capacity that help them build relationships more supportive of secure attachment. The same is true for adult-adult relationships in a community. The key piece is these better quality relationships then help build and strengthen the various capacities needed to thrive in life, such as self-regulation, curiosity, trust, perseverance, joy of learning, and kindness.

With the invention of Circle of Security Parenting (COSP), there is now a possibility to bring the attachment-based relationship to a large number of parents, teachers, caregivers, and other adults in a community. While COSP is not the only available attachment-based intervention that can be used, it does have the uniqueness of providing a good variety of attachment-based relationship tools and allows a large number of people in a community to be trained so they can provide these relationship tools to a wide variety of community members. 

Any effort to change the culture of a community needs to have a force of attraction to it and must be able to spread and become widely ingrained in a community. COSP holds that potential. In particular, I’ve been intrigued with the phrase, the democratization of attachment, that COSP is allowing. The heart of democracy is creating a system that gives power and a supportive environment to people to create better lives for themselves. My sense is the attachment-based, relationship tools provided by COSP do that. At its heart, COSP is about generously sharing these relationship tools and coming to trust that there will be more and more parents, teachers, caregivers, pediatricians, and people from many other disciplines who want them. At its heart, this is authentic and lasting culture change, which is truly quite profound, and, I believe, democracy at its finest. Additionally, the tools work, and once someone has these relationship tools, no one can take them away from the user.  

I’ve come to see that we are already creating a change in community cultures with our work with COSP and other attachment-based interventions. We can certainly cite examples of organizations that have “tipped” into being attachment-valuing and attachment-promoting organizations. It seems like it is still too early to identify communities that have “tipped,” but the work in a number of communities is heading in that direction. Clearly, the work of the Attachment Network of Manitoba has placed Winnipeg in that list. Of course, my dream is to begin to see states and regional governments “tip” to being  attachment-valuing and attachment-promoting organizations. Imagine having a coherent and well-financed plan to support secure attachment in a state or a region.

As with any economy is helpful to have meaningful and agreed upon indicators for measuring the health of the economy and to track the trend of the economy. The relational economy will likely have unique indicators. For example, one payoff we have been observing in Connecticut from the widespread use of COSP is an increase in joy. Providers are experiencing joy from seeing relationships be transformed. Parents and kids are having more joy in their relationships. Teachers and caregivers are having more joy in their relationships with kids. Additionally, we are seeing more authentic connection, more trust, and more coherence about kids and adults’ behavior. That truly is a relational economy that is a growing and healthy economy.   Who knows, maybe someday we will have a Consumer Attachment Index that is used to guide community planning efforts.

Charlie Slaughter is an early childhood coordinator for the Connection Department of Children and Families and is the program lead for the Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) and the Early Childhood Consultation Partnership (ECCP) program. Charlie is interested in utilizing COSP to create a community-wide approach to foster secure attachments in children and is the author of Hungry for Love: Creating Mealtime Environments that Build Connection, Life Skills, and Eating Capabilities.


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