Background to Attachment



“Employee Attachment” is all about creating a strong emotional bond between a new employee and the organisation within their first 120 days. Employee Attachment theory comes from 2 research streams; Filial Bonding and Attachment Theory.


(1) Filial Bonding (or filial imprinting) refers to the survival instinct that is hardcoded into a species which needs the care and protection of a parent in order to survive. This is a process which occurs soon after birth whereby an infant animal learns who its parents are. Where filial bonding fails to occur, most young animals would not survive in the wild as they would not have the protection of a parent if a predator were to approach. (Interestingly enough, ducks and geese will follow and “attach” to anyone or anything they have bonded to e.g. a mother duck, a human or a gumboot!).


(2) Attachment Theory has its roots in developmental psychology and refers to the strength of the bond between a human child and parent (i.e. the primary carer). The father of Attachment Theory, Dr. John Bowlby considered Attachment and bonding to be an innate biological need of the infant, driven by their survival instinct. The core principle of Attachment Theory is that an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary carer in order for social and emotional development to occur. Infants use Attachment figures (i.e. the primary carer) as a “secure base” in which to explore from and return to. Parental responses lead to the development of patterns of Attachment, which in turn guide the individual’s perceptions, emotions, thoughts and expectations in later relationships. If a child does not attach to their parent i.e. they do not feel a sense of security, trust & value, acceptance & belonging from the very beginning, the child can have difficulty forming and sustaining healthy relationships throughout adult life.