This page is a continuation from *COLLINS ON RESPONDING TO NEED – Part Four

as it deals with information contained in the following writings:

Nancy Collins of the Department of Psychology, University of California, University of California in Santa Barbara is one such expert.

Her homepage can be found at:  http://nancy.collins.socialpsychology.org/


I will be working in my writing today with information that can be located at:

Collins, N. L., Ford, M. B., Guichard, A. C., & Feeney, B. C. (2006). Responding to need in intimate relationships: Normative processes and individual differences. In M. Mikulincer & G. Goodman (Eds.), Dynamics of romantic love: Attachment, caregiving, and sex. New York: Guilford.  (pages 149-189)


This Collins article continues with a description of how caregiving is triggered in adult to adult relationships either by an outright expression of distress by one partner to the other, or by one of the partner’s being able to proactively anticipate a situation that might create distress for the other partner.

Only when attachment needs are satisfied can a partner give care to the other in need. We can also read the description of caregiving (below) with an eye toward how parents might respond to a child in distress who needs caregiving:

“The specific type of care provided in any situation will, of course, depend on the nature of the stressful event and may include a variety of emotional and instrumental support efforts aimed at providing comfort, assistance, or protection.  Safe-haven support in adulthood may include (1) encouraging open communication of thoughts and feelings; (2) showing interest in the partner’s problems and validating his or her concerns, worries, and fears; (3) conveying a sense of confidence in a partner’s ability to handle the stressful situation; (4) affirming the partner’s worth and reassuring the partner that he or she is loved and valued; (5) providing physical closeness and affection; (6) providing instrumental assistance as needed (information, advice, problem solving, task assistance, and direct intervention aimed at providing protection or removing sources of danger or threat); and (7) conveying continued availability.  Thus effective safe-haven caregiving behaviors are those that restore an attached partner’s felt security by soothing emotional distress and supporting his or her own coping efforts, as well as behaviors that convey (and provide) availability and assistance if needed.”  (Collins et al, 2006, p 157)


In looking at our own adulthood relationship experiences, how often have we been able to access this kind of caregiving from our mates?  From our adult family members?  From our friends?  People need these kinds of relationships in order to restore their balance during the ongoing difficulties that life brings.  Not having these kinds of needs met makes distress much harder to handle and to recover from.  When parents do not have access to this kind of support, it can be much harder for them to deal with the caregiving demands that raising children adds to the other ongoing difficulties of their lives.


Adults also greatly benefit from having adults in their lives who can provide secure-base caregiving.    According to this Collins article,

“…the secure-base function of caregiving, which is set into motion when an individual (Partner A) experiences an exploratory opportunity, which activates the exploration system and motivates the individual to seek support from or share his or her experiences with a caregiver (Partner B)….  Caregivers provide a secure base for their relationship partners when they respond sensitively and appropriately to their partners’ exploratory behavior and to their need for encouragement in their exploratory activity.  The provision of secure-base support includes a variety of behaviors that support a relationship partner’s goal strivings, personal growth, and exploration.  Secure-base support may include (1) encouraging the partner to accept challenges and try new things; (2) showing interest in and validation of the partner’s personal goals, plans, and desires for the future; (3) conveying a sense of confidence in a partner’s ability to handle challenges and to succeed; (4) providing instrumental assistance as needed (information, advice, assistance in removing obstacles); (5) not interfering with or intruding in the partner’s explorations; (6) celebrating the partner’s successes and responding sensitively to his or her failures; and (7) balancing an acceptance of the partner’s need for self-growth with the conveyance of continued availability if needed….Thus effective secure-base caregiving behaviors are those that encourage and facilitate a partner’s exploratory behavior and personal growth, as well as behaviors that convey (and provide) availability and assistance if needed.”  (Collins et al, 2006, pp 157-158


My guess would be that if a person grows up in a home with parents who give this kind of caregiving to one another, the same kind and quality of caregiving would also be given to these parents’ children.  Even if there are not two parents in the home, if the single parent caring for the children is able to find this kind of caregiving for themselves through other adult relationships, their children will greatly benefit from having a securely attached parent.

The Collins article continues:

“Regardless of the specific type of support being offered, effective caregiving should promote the overall health and welfare of a relationship partner and should lead to better relationship quality (e.g., greater satisfaction, trust, commitment, and intimacy).  However, because safe-haven and secure-base caregiving serve different functions, we expect each form of caregiving to have some important unique consequences (immediate and long term) for the support recipient….For example, some unique consequences of safe-haven care include reduced stress (both psychological and physiological), improved coping capacity, perceived (and actual) safety, and problem resolution.  Therefore, long-term improvements in the support recipient’s emotional well-being are likely to be an important consequence of safe-haven caregiving.  Another important consequence of safe-haven caregiving should be a general sense of relationship-specific felt security….  Some unique consequences of secure-base care for the support recipient include higher levels of self0-esteem, perceived (and actual) competency, self-confidence, and self-efficacy and greater willingness and effort to pursue personal goals, accept challenges, take risks, and learn new things.  Therefore, long-term improvements in the self (personal growth) are likely to be important consequences of secure-base caregiving.”  (Collins et al, 2006, p 158)


When we intervene on behalf of maltreated children, we will no doubt find that parents and caregivers of these maltreated children will not have relationships of the quality just described.  That is because they are passing similar insecure attachment patterns down to their children as the ones that were given to them by their own early caregivers.  I do not see any hope of improving caregiving to children unless great improvements in attachment and caregiving can be made for the children’s caregivers, as well.

When severe mental illness, including active addictions, are present in parents, the chances of those parents having quality attachments themselves are extremely slim.  Mental illness nearly always grows from early childhood insecure attachment patterns that were built into these parents when they were children themselves.  A consideration of attachment disorders is, in my opinion, key and central to the healing of any early trauma, both in adults and in their children.


Children are not designed to meet adult needs.  We can, as members of our society, begin to recognize the kinds of needs other adults appear to have around us.  Can we find better ways to help and support one another as adults, thus creating happier, healthier parents in our communities, who will be better able to take better care of their children?  Do we recognize the signs of a need for receiving adult caregiving within ourselves and in others outside of our families?  To whom do we turn to get our attachment needs met?

“…it is important to note that care-seeking situations in adulthood often involve aspects of both attachment (in which the care seeker faces a personal threat) and exploration (in which the care seeker faces a personal challenge); hence the resulting caregiving response often requires a combination of safe-haven and secure-base support behaviors.  Furthermore, although the specific support behaviors may differ across the two forms of caregiving, effective caregiving of either type shares a core set of featuers and is likely to involve a common set of skills, resources, and adaptive motivations….”  (Collins et al, 2006, p 158)


All the links are contained together here:  +CAREGIVING IN ADULT ATTACHMENT RELATIONSHIPS

Links in the series separately:







**Attachment Styles and Caregiving from Collins Article


3 thoughts on “*COLLINS ON RESPONDING TO NEED – Part Five

  1. Nice all these ideas of how to heal. But it feels she is not living in the real world. Personally i believe more in Bruce Lipton’s research how our subconscious, the inprints given/formed before the age of 5 or 6, determine our reality for up to 95%. The events in my life seem to follow a pattern of continuous repetition. With this repetition comes a very small window to learn to better react and even to integrate the initial core experience. It also breeds a lot of compassion for this tiny innocent being, who in no way could have done what we now as adults can/are capable of. Progress is slow though and in my case too slow for my adult children.

  2. When you see a child with ‘problems’ that need support.
    you can try and help…
    But what you see is the symptom of the culture surrounding the child.(?!)
    you’ll need a large scale multifaceted intervention.
    – how valid is this statement – do you think?

    • Oh I agree absolutely!!!! Perfectly valid!!!! Very wise, we are a social species – we are designed for the truth you state. We are both created by and for life by social interactions – and when they fail it is the larger body of the people that must pay attention and respond with help!

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