Understanding attachment patterns among orphans in residential care homes in New Delhi, India

Thakkar, Aarti and Mepukori, Daisy and Henschel, Kathryn and Tran, Tra (2015) Understanding attachment patterns among orphans in residential care homes in New Delhi, India. Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care, 14 (3). ISSN 1478-1840

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When it comes to the care and wellbeing of orphaned children, attachment is an important construct to consider. Not only may it help influence how an orphan child will integrate, or fail to, within the setting of a group foster care home, attachment patterns may also have a bearing in the nature of relationships they will have as an adult, after leaving the care of the home. Attachment is doubly important in the context of orphan children due to their histories of often having experienced loss or abandonment or witnessed significant trauma, including loss of loved ones. These factors have been described as leading to orphans having attachment challenges, with many being unnaturally avoidant or overly trusting. And yet, attachment theory as we know it is deeply rooted in a Euro-American understanding of child development. Specifically, attachment in the Western context is idealised and romanticised, built upon a pair-bond between one primary caregiver and one child. This paper, using data from research conducted among orphans in New Delhi, India, explores attachment relationships among 89 children across 11 group foster care homes in collaboration with the organisation Udayan Care. The study aims to shed light on the relationships that Udayan orphans have formed with non-parental figures, and in many cases, non-adults. This study is based on two questionnaires: The Inventory of Peer and Parent Attachment-Revised (IPPA) administered for children 9 to 18 years old, and the Randolph test of attachment for children ages 4 to 8 in the sample. Our findings indicate that this sample tends to display a stronger sense of attachment to their peers than to their mentor mothers or caregivers. In addition, greater attachment is seen to mentor mothers than to caregivers. These results raise important questions, notably, what does attachment to peers rather than to caregivers mean for later functioning? And are these children more vulnerable because they are not closely attached to caregivers?

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