This page is a continuation from


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)


I can’t help but wonder, as I work my way through this Collins article, how those of us with such insecure attachment patterns from our own early childhoods of malevolent treatment manage to get our secure attachment needs for the care we need given to us as adults.  According to these attachment experts, it is only when our own needs for receiving care ourselves are met that our attachment system can be turned off and deactivated so that we can offer secure-base and safe-haven caregiving not only to our own children, but also to our mates and other adults in our lives.

Where does self-caregiving fit into this picture?  If we can’t, as adults, find ways to get our own needs met and satisfied, how do we manage, and manage as well as we do?

When I apply these ideas to my own parents I don’t see that my mother had any way of asking reasonably for her needs to be met.  I don’t think reasonably had much of a clue what they were.  How did she meet the needs of my father?  Back in those ‘olden days’ nobody talked about any of this ‘stuff’.  Yet people who grew up with their own attachment needs securely met as children probably automatically had the ability to naturally both have far better relationships with their children than my parents did, and far better relationships with their mates.


This Collins article next asks this question:  “What Are the Key Features of, and Necessary Ingredients for, Effective Caregiving?”  The skills the authors are describing here are exactly the same ones that are known to be most beneficial for an infant to grow the best emotional, social right brain from the beginning as a result of these same interactional patterns with its mother.

If these same abilities were not exercised in the mother-infant brain building interactions at the beginning of life, they will not be a part of the brain later on.  The absence of these abilities will affect all social relationships a person has, including adult relationships and parent-child relationships.  In other words, if we see ineffective and inadequate interactions between the parents themselves, we will be able to know that these same inadequate response patterns ALSO exist between parents and their children.

“Regardless of the specific form of support being offered, we suggest that effective caregiving is characterized by two key features:  (1) sensitivity to the partner’s signals, and (2) interpersonal responsivenessSensitivity reflects the degree to which the caregiver’s behavior is in synchrony with, and appropriately contingent on, the partner’s needs….  A sensitive caregiver takes his or her cues from and allows his or her interventions to be paced by the care seeker, is attuned to the care seeker’s signals, interprets them correctly, and responds promptly and appropriately (providing the type and amount of support that is wanted and needed).  Sensitive caregivers recognize the times when they should wait and not interfere or step in and provide guidance or assistance.  An insensitive caregiver, on the other hand, may not notice the care seeker’s signals, may misinterpret or ignore them when they are noticed, may interfere with activities in an arbitrary way, and may respond late, inappropriately, or not at all to a need for support.  Thus insensitive caregivers may be neglectful, overinvolved, intrusive, or otherwise out of synch with their partner’s needs.”  (Collins et al, 2006, p 159)


If we read the above words and think mother-infant communication rather than think about adult to adult communication, we are still talking about exactly the same thing.  Attachment research demonstrates that we need the same kind of quality interactions these authors are describing throughout our entire lifespan.

The HUGE difference I want to point out is that these same kinds of interactions when they occur between an infant and its early caregiver (mother) actually form the infant’s brain.  Once an infant’s brain builds into itself either patterns of connection and therefore of emotional regulation  — or the opposite which results in emotional dysregulation from a failure of the above described interactions — these patterns then form the basic structure and operation of the right emotional social brain and become hard wired into it.

When we learn what we are watching for, we can literally watch adult faces and body language, listen to tone of voice, etc. and we can see either the regulation or dysregulation that was built into their infant brains.  The earliest face-to-face interactions between an infant and its mother create the emotional social right brain that infant will have and use for the rest of its life.  We should, therefore, not be remotely surprised when that same brain cannot accomplish the miracles of synchronized, balanced communication these authors are describing — in relationships between adults or in relationships between adults and their children.

When particularly mothers of young infants cannot follow the ‘rules’ of excellent sensitivity and responsiveness when interacting with their infants, they are building a less than optimal brain within their child.  People who suffered early traumas and who developed insecure attachment patterns will not be able to follow these ‘rules’ themselves — and do not even know it.

It is one of the main points of my writing that these kinds of dysregulated communication patterns between mothers and infants CAN begin to be corrected through education of the mother that means she must consciously learn to do what securely attached people with healthy brains do absolutely unconsciously — with skill, ease, and perfection.  Because the brain formation we are talking about happens before the age of one year old, there is very little time to intervene once a child has been born.  I believe we need to elevate the importance of these brain formation interactions so that they are introduced into our children’s education long before they are old enough to begin to have their own children.


The authors continue in their description of optimal (human) communication:

“The second key feature of effective caregiving is interpersonal responsiveness, which reflects not the type or amount of support that is provided but the manner in which it is provided.  Specifically, responsive care is provided in a way that leads the recipient to feel understood, validated, and cared for [my comment:  infants need exactly the same thing in order to build a self!]….  To accomplish this, caregivers must offer support in a way that expresses generous intentions, protects their partner’s esteem [read infant, also], and validates their partner’s feelings and needs, respects their partner’s point of view, and conveys love, acceptance, and understanding.”  (Collins et al, 2006, p 159)


(You can refer to the actual full article for a description the authors offer on the ways that caregiving between adults can go awry.   I am not including that information here, but it would also be useful to consider when interacting with children older than the age of one, as well.)


The authors make some excellent points under the categories they call skills and abilities, resources, and motivation.  Because those of us who grew up in severely abusive homes never experienced any safe and secure attachment ourselves, much of this information (that can be taken for granted by securely attached people) is far, far from what we ever experienced when we grew up.  It is for this reason that I am taking the time to include this information in these posts because I think it’s helpful for us to know — as people and especially as parents!

It is also helpful information for us to use as we weigh the quality of care we received, or didn’t receive from our own parents.


Skills and Abilities

“In order for caregivers to provide sensitive and responsive care, they must possess a variety of skills and abilities that enable them to accurately discern the needs of others and respond flexibly to a wide range of needs as they arise.  For example, they must have the ability to empathize with and take the perspective of others and the ability to accurately decode verbal and nonverbal signals.”  (Collins et al, 2006, p 160)

Stop a minute and read the above over again.  This is a MAJOR developmental ability that forms or does not form correctly within the early forming right emotional social brain of an infant before the age of one year old.

Humans are uniquely able to decode both facial and sound-language (without words in the beginning) signals.  We have finely neurons within our brains that are designed to ‘read’ these signals.  If the incoming information is out of sync, out of tune, and does not ‘mesh’ with the infant’s inner reality, all manner of chaos is encoded into the brain’ structure and operation at the basis of these face and tone recognition brain areas.

Inadequate communication between mother and infant results from a mother’s own mis-formed brain regions and which will be directly built into her own infant’s brain.  The mother thus downloads her own brain into the forming brain of her infant.  Dr. Allan Schore clearly states that anything less than optimal interactions that result in insecure infant attachment patterns AT THE SAME TIME is creating an empathy disorder in the infant.  We have to understand the full ramifications of poor mother-infant communications because they lie at the center of a malevolently formed brain.

When early communications with an infant are inadequate, these interactions are signaling to the infant that the world is NOT a safe place to be in.  If the world WAS safe, safety and security would be directly communicated to an infant’s brain starting at birth through the good quality communication the infant has with its mother.  The skills being described here by these authors are the ‘good quality’ skills mothers MUST use when interacting with their infants so that these same skills can be built into their infant’s brain.


“Effective emotion regulation skills are also necessary for responsive caregiving.  Individuals who have difficulty regulating their own emotions [my note:  because their early experiences with an early caregiver who themselves had a dysregulated emotional brain that somebody gave to them before they were a year old] (especially distress-related emotions) are likely to have difficulty responding to the needs of others, either because they tend to focus on their own distress or because they tend to direct their attention away from distress, which may lead them to distance themselves from the person in need.”  (Collins et al, 2006, p. 160)

What the authors described in these words also describes how insecure attachment patterns originate in the first place — and these patterns actually physically exist in the brain.  Please see for more on this the link I provided to **Attachment Styles from Collin’s Article.



“Effective caregiving requires adequate cognitive, emotional, and material resources….adequate time and a relaxed atmosphere are necessary….For example, if individuals are stressed, overwhelmed with work or personal responsibilities [my note:  or mental or physical illness], and experiencing time constraints, it is likely that their caregiving behavior will suffer because they will be self-focused [my note:  preoccupied, even preoccupied with past unresolved traumas] and may temporarily [my note:  or permanently] lack the energy and cognitive resources necessary to discern and attend to the needs of others.  In addition, if self-regulatory resources are depleted, caregivers may be less able to inhibit unhelpful support behaviors (e.g. criticism) and may lack the patience needed to be cooperative and nonintrusive in their caregiving efforts.  It is important to note that this lack of resources can be either chronic (e.g. chronic self-focus or chronic stress, which deplete mental and self-regulatory resources) or situational (e.g., situation-specific self-focus or anxiety).”  (Collins et al, 2006, pp 160-161)


(One of the most important facts that I learned early in my own research about insecure attachment disorders and how emotional dysregulation is built into an infant’s brain through malevolent interactions with caregivers, was the fact that one of the consequences of having an emotionally dysregulated brain is that we chronically feel distress in situations where others would feel stressed.  In situations where others would experience distress, we feel extreme anxiety very near to a state of panic.  This is also related to the fact that we do not have calm at our center point, either.)



“First, because caregiving often involves a good deal of responsibility, as well as a substantial amount of resources (and sometimes personal sacrifice), caregivers must be motivated to accept that responsibility and expend the time and effort required to provide effective support.  Thus individuals may differ in the degree to which they experience a sense of felt responsibility for the welfare of others….  If caregivers are not sufficiently motivated, they may either provide low levels of care or ineffective forms of care that are out of synch with their partner’s needs.”

“Second, even if individuals are equally motivated to care for another in terms of overall felt responsibility, they may differ in the degree to which that motivation is generated by altruistic concerns (the desire to relieve the other’s suffering and promote his or her welfare) or egoistic conerns (the desire to gain explicit benefits for the self or to avoid sanctions).  Caregivers who are motivated by relatively altruistic concerns will be more likely to provide sensitive and responsive care because their caregiving efforts will be guided by their partner’s needs rather than by their own needs.  As a result, they should be more attuned to their partner’s signals, more willing to expend the effort needed to respond appropriately to these signals, and more likely to provide support in a manner that expresses their benevolent motives.  In contrast, caregivers who are motivated by egoistic conerns will be less effective caregivers because they will be focused on their own needs rather than on the needs of their partners.  For example, a caregiver who is motivated to provide care in order to reduce his or her own distress or out of a sense of obligation is likely to be controlling rather than cooperative and may provide support in a manner that expresses annoyance or a sense of burden.  A caregiver who is motivated to provide care in order to be loved or to satisfy his or her own needs for intimacy is likely to become overinvolved or intrusive in his or her caregiving efforts and may express dissatisfaction if his or her partner fails to show adequate gratitude or appreciation.”  (Collins et al, 2006, pp 161-162


The authors also state “secure individuals are better caregivers than insecure individuals” and “attachment security enhances one’s ability to be truly responsive to the needs of others and to serve as an effective safe haven and secure base for relationship partners.”  (Collins et al, 2006, p 162)

“…[A]lthough caregiving behavior, like attachment behavior, is to some degree preprogrammed (meaning that it is ready to develop along certain lines when certain conditions elicit it),  Bowlby (1969/1982, 1988) emphasized that all the detail is learned.  These details of caregiving are undoubtedly learned from many different sources, but it is likely that individuals learn a great deal about caregiving from the significant people in their lives who have been responsible for their care….  Thus, although the caregiving system is theoretically distinct from the attachment system, the two systems are thought [to] be linked both developmentally and behaviorally….the caregiving behavior of insecure individuals is likely to be ineffective because the caregiver’s own attachment needs will impede his or her ability to do what is in the best interest of the partner.”  (Collins et al, 2006, pp 162-164)


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

Links in the series separately:







**Attachment Styles and Caregiving from Collins Article


10 thoughts on “*COLLINS ON RESPONDING TO NEED – Part Six

  1. I did not see the date, as they were links you sent to me. But i did notice you writing you were 55 and homeless, so i guessed as much.

  2. I know what you mean. But i do not know whether that is necessarily true. Possibly for you. But as a general advice to others, fostercare can be detrimental. When i was an adult i had this conversation with a neighbour. There were several women, who often came for coffeebreaks with my mother. With her i stayed for a short while, while my parents were on a cruise to Norway. I was friends with her youngest son. I was about 6.. There i was nurtured, put in a bath, i felt happy and reluctant to leave. So when having this conversation, we talked about this. And she answered, if only she had known, she so much wanted a little girl, having only two sons. Noone really knew the truth, or when they did, they did nothing. Noone suspected how serious the abuse, my raging father was. Funny to read my own birthyear 1951, the year of the convention of Geneva.
    I was born in the bathroom of the hospital, There was no room elsewhere. It was so busy, they left my mother, scared to death, by herself, believing her to be an experienced mother. She almost bled to death with her second child. Nextdoor she could hear another woman giving birth, with all the help she needed given to her.

    • In today’s world, at least in USA, that would NEVER happen — how horrible for you and for your mother!!

      I hope the publication date for the posts you are reading here appears with the post — many of them were written several years ago — and as always, I move on — so…. just a note!

      I have ideas about what these kids need when pulled out of hell homes…… Won’t happen in my lifetime.

      Gotta go eat soup now…..

  3. Part of me wants to run and hide, LOL, HIDE FROM MYSELF??!!But my kids and their kids are relying on me to take the plunge.I know the consequences of hiding..my sister ( her kids are already in despair), (my brother) is in jail on drug charges).AND now as I silently observe my mother….she’s lost and will probably die alone just like you mother Linda.I don’t want that fate.Neurofeedback here I come, and then my kids will go if it works for me.I try to explain to them who mom is, I know I’m asking a lot out of them,but at least they’ll have insight into what I was thinking or why my behavior was odd.The first step is understanding that I have a neurological illness NOT an emotional one..emotions are only a small fraction of what is disordered.So, I told my husband, I’m really brain damaged.I’m not wired properly.I’d like to think, feel and act like everyone else, that’ll never happen.I know I shouldn’t have had kids.I know that I’m a disaster.But, they’re tough, and they know their mother really well.Sometimes my odd ball behavior makes them laugh,they know I’m creative and intelligent, lucky them….they get the best bedtime stories!!!I’ve tried everything in power to enhance their attachment to me.From the moment they were born I carried them in a carrier.I breastfed till they were 2.I even bathed with them when they were toddlers!!I’m aware of the devastating effects of lack of touch, stimulation, and eye contact…My kids are ok, but I’m running out of steam.They 11 and 12….they are building forts, sleeping in tents, and swimming in the pool, they’re active, gentle boys.During their infancy, I was terrified because of their colic.I know it was because of my malevolent brain that they weren’t regulated.What are the chances of two infants with 24hr colic???I had to do everything possible to help regulate their brains….we have highly reactive brains in our family so I had to act fast.So no bottle feeding, constant soothing, constant eye contact, continuous singing and always responding to my infant’s cries.

  4. WOW, excellent!!! I’ve never had my “secure attachment base” .It didn’t develop in infancy and as a result of that failure…I don’t have one now.I know my mother lacked that secure base as well.It makes parenting or care giving very difficult, if not impossible.And, yes I overreact or see situations that should not be threatening as threatening.I’m always in fight or flight.My malevolent brain doesn’t see the benefits of having any relationship, relationships are the too frightening and painful.My malevolent brain doesn’t help me deal with day to day living. People are frightening, little things are irritating, I’m physically and emotionally numb,I have the, “emotional runs” all the time ( I can’t stop raging and bawling).I don’t think I can’t parent properly as I’m not attune or sensitive enough to my children.Both of my children were extremely colic which I believe was caused by my lack of emotional regulation.I think they were were reacting to my fight or flight state.When my children were born I suffered severe anxiety as I suspected that I couldn’t be emotionally there for them..I also knew that because of my emotional issues people saw me as odd and they couldn’t or didn’t want to help.I couldn’t gather enough help to parent them, ( my mother dislikes children, my sister abandoned her children, I had no friends, my mother in law is mentally challenged, and my sister in law is hostile).I struggle, I often wonder why I picked my husband…his family is not really healthy or functioning.I know now it wasn’t my common sense that picked an abusive spouse, it was my maladaptive infant brain trying to help me survive, my parents abandoned me when I left high school.Although I have intellect, I lack the common sense and strength to have a healthy relationship.Disconnected from mom, disconnected from dad, not connected to siblings or the rest of the world, married an abusive older man and now trying to parent my two boys..I’ve been called, ” a nightmare” and supposedly I’m the one to blame for my marriage failing.I have to wonder about my husband’s attachment to his disabled mother?He was tossed between his neglectful parents and his aunt, I think my malevolent brain knew there wouldn’t be much adapting or I wouldn’t be expected to feel and think differently if I stayed with this guy.*Sigh*, it’s not helping my kids any….

    • You sound like you have a brilliant mind. Most readers immediately give up on articles such as these by Dr. Allan Schore I provide links to below – but this is vitally important info:

      Attachment and regulation of the right brain

      Click to access SchoreAttachHumDev.pdf

      Effects of a secure attachment….

      Click to access SchoreIMHJAttachment.pdf

      There are many others by Schore

      Dr. Daniel Siegel has LOTS of important writings, as well


      We can compensate, and we HAVE, and we DO

      We have a very intricate and complex ‘combination lock’ on what we can accomplish, but I NEVER underestimate the resourcefulness, creativity, determination, and just plain desire to make SOMETHING RIGHT out of the complete mess of a card hand we have been dealt

      and then in turn
      deal to our children.


      In all the negative that you so clearly see, I don’t intend to be patronizing or……… in any way when I insist that you DO HAVE POSITIVES!!!!

      All is NOT hopeless.

      Many, many of us ‘should’ NEVER have had children, or been the ones to raise them once we did – and I include myself in this collection of so-wounded people

      But my children ARE FINE!! Very nearly so, anyway – but there WERE other people around when the help was needed – which is a huge detriment to you and to your children as you mention – the sickness has evidently come down the generations within the people you are connected to for a long, long time.

      I have no idea how old your children are — but it might well be to their best benefit to be in foster care until you feel stronger and clearer and more capable of raising them. This is NOT a condemnation. This is reality. From birth our human species has very specific needs that must be met or trouble will inevitably follow. None of what troubles us was or is ‘our fault’ – but the malevolent environment (as the Teicher article so clearly describes) that created us makes us different people —- who cannot necessarily provide for our offspring what they need so that they don’t, in turn, suffer like we have for their entire lifetime.


      There are a host of posts on this blog about the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) research. Online searching will direct to their findings which I have placed on this blog at various times.

      You are a miracle!! You have a will to survive that probably surpasses any I have heard thus far in comments to this blog.

      As you consider what you live with — you are also considering how what happened to you changed how you have been able to parent. That you are aware of this means, to me, that you are way ahead of the curve as so many are in such damaging denial……

      • Oh, and my stepson is with CAS…his mother is struggling,she’s a diagnosed BPD, she really lacks insight and motivation to see into her attachment issues.All of her children are detached, disturbed and violent.He came to live with us last year because I wanted him to escape foster care…but he was way too disturbed I had to send him back.Children’s Aid are only interested in children who are in immediate danger.They’ve been in my home several times and they felt my children were well adjusted.My biggest concerns were there were two RAD sufferers in the house…I can`t be his primary care giver.Although my intentions were good, the outcome would have been my family totally ripped apart.He was extremely covert with his manipulation.Lol, because I can be the same way I was the only one that catch him!!But because he wanted to control my household I had to release my custody back to CAS.HE DOESN’T HAVE OBJECT CONSTANCY, which kinda explains some of his indifference to his family!!He never calls…he doesn’t know I exist when I’m not with him! So, I play “peek a boo” with him…I text him daily, ( I hope this helps).It`s weird how his development just stop at 6 months!!Anyhow, I shouldn`t judge the poor boy, I`m a sufferer as well.

        • I do not agree with the advice to put your children in fostercare. When reading the statistics abuse is rampant and often children come out more damaged even then when they went in. That said maybe you have some connections to find a safe address, your children could stay occasionally, to have a break and give you a break. When confronted with a child in the household of a dysfunctional neighbour, my adult children reacted fiercely that i should never report her to childrenprotectionservice. So they too conclude, that staying at home is best. I also believe that the patterns passed on through generations cannot be escaped by growing up in a different family. Never give up is my motto.

    • I hear you Helen. I hope Neurofeedback works for you. When you will start to heal so will your surroundings. I am a fervent supporter of all biofeedback/brainwavemethods. It has helped me a lot. Mindfulness is also a lifesaver. Great to meet you here.

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