Effects of a secure attachment relationship on right brain development, affect regulation, and infant mental health


  • Allan N. Schore

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine
    • Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA School of Medicine, 9817 Sylvia Avenue, Northridge, CA 91324; fax: (818) 349-4404
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Over the last ten years the basic knowledge of brain structure and function has vastly expanded, and its incorporation into the developmental sciences is now allowing for more complex and heuristic models of human infancy. In a continuation of this effort, in this two-part work I integrate current interdisciplinary data from attachment studies on dyadic affective communications, neuroscience on the early developing right brain, psychophysiology on stress systems, and psychiatry on psychopathogenesis to provide a deeper understanding of the psychoneurobiological mechanisms that underlie infant mental health. In this article I detail the neurobiology of a secure attachment, an exemplar of adaptive infant mental health, and focus upon the primary caregiver's psychobiological regulation of the infant's maturing limbic system, the brain areas specialized for adapting to a rapidly changing environment. The infant's early developing right hemisphere has deep connections into the limbic and autonomic nervous systems and is dominant for the human stress response, and in this manner the attachment relationship facilitates the expansion of the child's coping capcities. This model suggests that adaptive infant mental health can be fundamentally defined as the earliest expression of flexible strategies for coping with the novelty and stress that is inherent in human interactions. This efficient right brain function is a resilience factor for optimal development over the later stages of the life cycle. ©2001 Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health.