This podcast is brought to you by Michael J Perrotti, Ph.D., forensic and clinical neuropsychologist, and Olivia Barkley, MSMU graduate and research assistant to Dr. Perrotti.
And the title of today's podcast is conducting and use of bonding studies. What's that all about? And today we're going to tell you everything you want to know about bonding studies.
So the first question I have is what made you interested in the area of bonding studies?
Okay, well, a psychologist, several years ago, I was at a conference and said, Hey, many psychologists don't know how to do bonding studies. And I have been lecturing and giving talks on the psychologist on how to conduct a bonding study. So my interests in that area started there. they told me I should write a book on it. So I wrote a chapter methodology prime on it for conducting bonding studies in child custody, evaluations, integration, or ignore science and the handbook of child custody. And part of it had to do with the bonding studies procedure for bionic studies. And part of it has to do with, studies of mothers who were in MRI, MRI tubes, looking at pictorial tests of children and different scenarios, and how to give responses such as if a child was alone in a picture and the mother became anxious because the child was alone.
Men have a transmit through the MRI and the brainwave activity, G unique areas of the brain, which could be enhanced. That'd be a specific brainwave pattern, such as an important personality disorder. And so, how the talk I gave with the American Association of College of the American College of Forensic Psychology in San Diego, I gave the talk by Miller Science Challenge.
And what are the practical uses of bonding studies?
Well, the first uses, to show the type of bond and the type of attachment and the depth of attachment between the child and the parent. it also can be used. I've done sibling studies, where I studied the bonds between siblings, as well as dynamics and settling ponies that as you can see. As children who have been separated, they may have different placements. They do much better together. And there's role modeling. There are outliers in the group. Pretended they come work at forming an older siblings group. So that produces pro-social behavior. Also uses says, you know, maybe I have a father who, he doesn't want his child to move and the mother wants to chop out the stage stay, but the child, so you have to show, you can study the bond at times from the father. And is there damage to the channel disruption, the bond with the father and the child Yeah, right across the US or something? And, I've also conducted these studies in custodial facilities. These are mothers who are trying to get their children, and I've actually conducted the Barney studies in the facility. and, You know, caretakers bring the childcare facility such as grandparents or whatever.
And then you see you, you take very careful notes of the interaction with the grandparents, how the child behaves, leaving the caretakers, going to the mother, going back to the caretakers. And you do a study on that. You, you know, you want to present to the court that there are some. The substantial bond between mother and child and the child should separate from other and California under welfare illness to code three 66.26
I believe if there is a demonstration. Of a significant bond and attachment between the child and caregiver. I don't believe they can proceed to a permanency plan. Well, the adoption, I think it has to have a court hearing. And are they useful when a parent disagrees with the other parents who relationship with the child or extremely, for example, you, you may have a parent who says the other parent doesn't care about the child, you know, there?
The child is fearful of them, all sorts of negative things. And then when you see the child, you have generally my body. So these are 90 minutes. And then, you know, you'd have a baseline where you observe the interaction of the child with the father playing different games, interacting with each other
Then you go into the structure, Stanford, structured Sage, or such as the Marsha interaction structure, interaction protocol, where you have toys and objects that are specific to a challenge, age, and development. And then you see how the parent interacts with the parents nurturing how the child being inserted to the parents.
And it really gets away from the said, she said stuff and helps to get them to the facts. Can there be a sibling bonding study? And if so, how is that useful? Well, it's definitely a bond. His studies are very useful because you're wanting to see, what is the effect of separating the children, you know, sending them out to different.
Facilities or different adoptions or whatever, generally siblings know you're going to study save what the depth of the bond is, how they interact with each other in a group.
There's how the communication is you know, how the group. So-called group cohesion is with all the members of that group. And then it's like they say the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
And so is it going to be in the best interest of the children to be broken up or is it going to invest in each other to stay together?
Studies of siblings and with attachment shows, they have better self-esteem. They, they have role models with other siblings. They have a sense of belonging. They have a sense of security. They have improved self-esteem. On the other hand, when they're separated and the bonds are broken, then that correlates in later life.
I think aggression, defiance, negative thing. Is there a neuro-psychological model of the connection between a child and their mother? No, there is, there, there were MRI studies that, you know, that were done where the parents were there, they would take, you know, they would see, you know, pictures of children, different scenarios. One of them is called the adult pattern. Projected pictures are that the parent has to provide a narrative description, you know, fake years, and the pictures respond to individuals alone in the pictures. and, you know, you give them this test and then they're hooked up to a, through an MRI.
And then you get results such as what is found as there was neuroimaging correlates of, attachment, just problems such as unresolved attachment. They found increased activation, right? The inferior frontal cortex and left a separate little cortex left superior temporal gyrus, the head of the left called a nucleus and bilateral.
Medial temporal lobe areas, more activation of limbic areas, which is the emotional system versus organized subjects. the main effect was increased activation of the attachment system, right in fear, frontal and left the separate areas, a piece similar stimulus pictures, and a pizza fast. That's all the tasks, projective picture system.
That activates, attachment distress. For example, some mothers become very distressed seeing the child alone in the picture because of borderline personality disorders, they can't tolerate well. They feel abandonment. so this is triggered by the pictures and as measured in the,
And the aloneness, and certain pictorial, similarly triggers, what is called dysregulated attachment activation, and dysregulation that, that reflects the distress of individuals or borderline personality disorder, concerning themes of syrup, severe abuse. Trapman so asylum. thoughts, retail insights into a better understanding of the bond between the mother and the child.
The themes are captured by the AAP pictorial STEM view crime also conducted fMRI research examine, attachment-related grain activation pattern. The pawnshop. Was it the mother-infant relationship that regulates the neurological systems in the hand? Do you climb? And George noted that in particular, the orbitofrontal cortex is crucial for the regulation of the emotions, revelation, emotions, dysfunction in that area.
As related to doing terminal planning, organizing, and impulse control lampshade. He noted that neuro research and attachment security is related to the reaction time difference. It's between neutral and stressful conditions in conceptual priming tasks. So the neutral prime conditions as paired nonsense state and us will sell for other-directed same distress, prime pair, relationship connects itself, or other directors, same, and then, and Eddie described attachment style studies assessing. Neurological is associated with real or imagined separation and loss of attachment. He found a higher relationship between higher gray matter volume loss and avoidance ratings to attachment figures. So there was some interaction between avoidant, attachment, and gray matter volume in the left cerebellum.
Research on North science also discusses the labeling of the mother's response to the babies and maternal attachment. George and Solomon that a research paradigm of mothers with visual images of their children and MRI mothering was found to be associated with specific hypothalamic, midbrain, limbic, Paralympic cortical, circuit, circuit, activation patterns.
The AI, the AI was administered during pregnancy subjects were classified into secure, dismissing, and preoccupied groups. The mother's judge was secured bond share greater activation of brand new reward systems of ventral stray and on oxygen. See chosen associated and hypothalamus-pituitary region oxytocin response level seven months after physical context with infants.
Was significantly higher in secure versus insecure. Mothers were positively correlated with brain activation patterns, missions, and MRI scans, and then a frayed rich had examined the relationship between adult attachment States. neural face processes and the brain is a cemetery. women judge showed stronger reactions to the infant’s faces versus mothers.
The judge sends security and then the study. So our, our salad do barbell and Bayless and Tammy demonstrated activation and prefrontal and singular, singular genres consistent with them for keto rates of mother and filling interactions. Personal familiarity and emotional itself process. George demonstrated a correlation between neural Carla of emotional States related to specific brain areas.
So, these studies substantially expand the horizon of domains assessed and bonding studies. So the data now shows that unresolved and preoccupied attachment groups are subject. To instability. These studies are conducted and in real-time. And the MRI scan point to the strong emergence of the neurobiological domain and attachment studies is a focus of assessments for psychologists.
Those and these subjects are placed in the scanner with goggles, enabling presentation of a pictorial to stimulate brain activation patterns or measuring, And the subjects can speak in a scan or verbalize AAP stories. And then you measure FMR eye, brain activation pattern. And can you objectively score a bonding study?
Yeah. there are different types of things that I score. I look at kinesthetic visual-tactile eye contact. There's something called M printing. You might have, a little, a little child and a father, and the child is following the father around on the floor. Or the father is, may move away from the child and work on a task and the child follows the phone or the imprinting on the phone.
So that's, that's something that you see. and you know, insecurity, there are different types of scoring systems. there is, there is, scorings for preschool children. there is, the Cassidy Mark Marvin system. that looks at six shore bonds, which is the parent is used as a secure base open Warren interactive mutually sounds fine.
Or it could be avoidant to tach avoiding the physical or emotional closeness. I believe that children who are, are taken from homes, you know, wherein situations with social services, No, of course, it's tough decisions they have to make. Sometimes I think that that would be better served by having psychological evaluations done first unless there's imminent danger to the child, but avoidance can happen if there's a detachment from the caregiver and brought to touch.
Ambivalence Devlin bond as there, a Nash neighbor says separation. You see this with overprotective mothers, who are controlling, controlling, disorganized bonds, that's related to punitive caregiving, and then they're sense cure there's defended, which is. Avoiding closeness interaction, coercive bonds, maximizing emotional involvement with the parent, not surmising conflicts and problems, and that's just depressed, and secure other, and then the secure again, Honduras, Marvin Cassidy is. Open confident in that. So there are specific types of bonds that you know, that you can, or you can, yeah, I would say also with, parent parental alienation behaviors, you tend to see controlled, organized, behave, attachments for the mother.
Attachments are insecure, they're ambivalent. and, those are some of the different types of bonds you can score or say actually objective scoring systems. Great. And what is the difference between a well-conducted and poorly conducted bonding study? Well, there are many psychologists that are, who drew upon the studies and they, they basically how the child in the waiting room for a few minutes and, call it a bonding study.
That's not a bonding study, you know, you know, and you know, a bonding study, you have to have a standardized protocol, where you're half task. Toys objects, games that are specific to the child's age and her standard, that you do with the parent and the child. common errors in bonding studies, positive interaction is not evidence of a touch, a child enjoying contact with a parent and a psychologist’s office is not evidence of a touch.
But you see that in reports all the time. That's not, it's misleading to say. dire recommends that Bonnie studies should include an interview with the parents or caretaker of the child to obtain background information. The attachment history interview is very helpful because of the parent's own binding and attachment background.
It's very determinant. Like you're going to see attachment bonding. And then there's the observation of the child. You don't see an interview with a child, a thorough review of all information available regarding the history of the child than the baseline study that.
Are the bondings studies that you conduct standardized? Yeah, they're standardized. There's a manual for the, for the more shock interaction, structured interaction protocol. So, another psychologist can replicate the study because there are this it's the Mim as it's called. Structured assessment of attachment or more shotgun rush method, assesses a more comprehensive wide spectrum construct, which is the overall quality of nature of the relationship between a parent-child.
The Mim has oriented to children of all ages, not just toddlers, toddlers. Therefore the Mim is not used to determine that attachment category, but it contributes to a much more dynamic bond and stuff. The parent and the child give each other snacks at the end, your study limits setting, whether the parent has lacks or the parent was a disciplinarian.
Well, if a parent is nurturing, whether the parents uplifting lots of dynamics, that's what you need. and the Marshall center interaction model, where the adult and child are observed as performed a series of tasks together. And actually, it was borrowed from observational tech. If it fits in small children, Melts off and more work on early imitation of facial gestures, Mim items, sort of minister to children one month through toddler, select it from protocols, such as the cell developmental schedules.
The Mim in contrast to the other protocols focuses not on the individual, but on aspects of the adult child. that's been found useful in the clinical assessment of parent-child relationships, the checklist step-parent’s step-child relationships, as well as placement of a foster or adoptive parents, rally valuable information about the manner of which two parents interact or relating to their child, as well as how two or more siblings can affect different responses on the same set of parents.
There have been beneficial results with parents and adult children, which happens Hans relationships through the application of the facts that have been started. The Mim, the Marshawn cause also proved useful with teachers and childcare workers and addressing problems with children in our care, the Mim, evaluates partners in a Diane on the dimensions of promoting attachment alertness to the environment.
Guiding goal-directed behavior and assisting and overcoming tensions. Many psychologists wrongly do a simple good observation of the child and the typical attention scenario and the child custody evaluations, structured bonding assessments, such as the Mim are a remedy to this problem by way of structured development tasks and evaluation.
Parent-child interaction. so the structure is you're providing a structured environment. Do they, this, the parent providing limit setting, did they co-regulate the child's experience that they promote a healthy interaction? Does the parent provide soothing behaviors for the children? Do they provide appropriate limits and co-regulate for children's experience?
Do they provide challenges to promote competence, pleasure, mastery? Unsettling attachment is of the particular importance of dependency court matters where decisions are panning is concerned there. So keeping the circling as together, this is the ever-present issue of object loss and depression. That's the siblings are separated.
there's something called anaclitic depression, which is infants, who are separated from the mother in the early days after birth. this was studied by Renee spends way back. the children become helpless. They have feelings of despair. They're frequently moved to hospitals, but they're depressed. But I say a gracious effect on the developmental cycle as called anaclitic depression. And how is data collected in a bonding study? Well, you know, the psychology of what, the way I do, I don't say you're really not saying anything. We do a lot of observation, a lot of note-taking. So, you know, you're doing notes on behavior, on what kind of content, whether it's avoidant, engaging, icon time testings from each other, engagement with each other tactical content official account kinesthetic content.
So you pay, do you place emphasis on meticulous records? verbal and nonverbal. How long and sustained or tactical content. The quality of context is assessed. For example, is this an avoidance of Verde and eye contact integrating behaviors? This entails taking detailed notes on parent-child behaviors provides useful shorthand symptoms or symbols to record behavioral interaction. No children with secure bonds, better adjusted. Oh, absolutely. Its children are secure long. They have better self-esteem they interact better with their peers. They have more confidence in their interaction with the environment and their competency.
On the other hand, you see insecure bonds as people develop certain groups. For example, there is no profile for sex offenders. It's a very complicated area. However, one thing that I have observed consistently is sex offenders have poor social skills and they have intimacy deficits, children who are, over-controlling parents who crave a mesh relationship.
The children grow up. They, they have trouble functioning in relationships divorces as an unfortunate consequence. The old research used to say, well, we'll get through this. It's tough. But the new research Kelly Wallersteins says the opposite. It says that divorce is life-changing for the children.
There. They have trouble giving love, receiving love. They have trouble in their relationships. So those are some of those aspects. And how can insecure attachments lead to poor outcomes? Well, insecure attachment is going to post all those relationships. That's fine to be contributed to things like social anxiety disorder.
There are great people that are saying, I think he's on. I believe he saw on, either the Dodgers or the Rays in the world series. There's a pitcher. When he spoke about his struggles with social anxiety, Egypt, great things. He's now a major league pitcher and kind of overcame his promise, but it's like anything it's like when you raise a child, are you going to grasp them?
And you put your claws in the norm. Where are you going to throw them in the I'm going to throw you in the swimming pool, but I'm going to be here right next to you, but you're going to get in the water, you know, and children learn by experience or they learn by challenges. They don't learn by being a helicopter parent today.
We have to helicopter parents. Therefore I say in the practice, many kids, don't want to be a student they don't want to be. Let’s say, under sports. They are, but they don't want to be that, but they're trying to be what the parents want them to be, which is creates an unsecured bond, not a secure bond, because again, there's the and the, then, you know, if you have inconsistent caregiving, like with a borderline personality, the child becomes avoidant. They have trouble with this year’s secure attachment.
What are some common observations in bonding studies?
Well, common observations are, you should do the study at least 90 minutes. That should be common observations are how well does the child interact with a parent and vice versa? How well does the parent engage with the child and vice versa? what does the parent do when the child is acting out?
Does the parent get down with the Charles Logan? or do they stay up in the adult? how does the child react to the parents? There's a study. There's a phase of the Bono study. It's called the separation phase. The parent leaves the room for about a couple of minutes and the child stays and the examiner.
And then you see observe the child when the parent has left. So if a child is really anxious and runs out of the room and for the parent, there's usually an immeshed attachment. The child is secure. They, they play the role around your chest. Then you have a parent who encourages what is called individuation.
As a child develops lifecycle. They become more dependent on the parent, you know, facilitates that that's especially important, a special needs child. No interviews and tests were used prior to a bonding study. Yeah, there's the attachment as there's the attachment history inventory. There's also a structured interview where you do an attachment interview or the parents as in life.
And I like to have interviewed the child and. Find out their favorite things and what they're doing in school and how their life is going then after the study's over, I like to have a child with a parent. How did you, how did you get the study that you'd want to get subject to my other things?
and what factors are used in assessing parent-child interaction? Engagement how well they engage together structure on that structure, patients with the child, limits settings, how that is done, nurturing truths, what things are as a parent to either enhance child development. Are they doing things to recharge?
I, I find these studies very helpful, especially with custody situations where parents say one thing about another parent. If you can relate, get a lot by observing the behavior over a long period. And can attachment disorders lead to problems later in a child's life? That's one of the most, understudied areas, underdiagnosed that you're seeing children, who have attachment disorders such as, and folks who are separated from their mother.
Siblings are broken up into different placements. children who are race and homes with domestic violence or high content. Excellent. they developed anxious attachments, disorganized attachments. Then they grow up. They have trouble with anger, intimacy. it's well known that if you have an attachment disorder in early life, that translates to personality disorders, later on, there are, for example, Donald Dutton, who was the domestic violence expert in the OJ trial.
I get some training. he talks about attachment range. these are. these are adults who, as children, the mother abandoned them for the mother. Maybe he had an affair and she was going from home alone. The child felt like 2 cents. And so then the child grows up and they get in a relationship. And then you have an intimate part of that's because.
The child. for example, the girl might want to lay the guy and that, as we know, domestic violence is one of the points of greatest violence because the attachment rage is the underlying rage of the abandonment by the mother and the man, or the woman has it's unconscious. They're not aware of it. So.
Can abruptly removing a child from the home results in a disruption of the bond. And what are the effects on the child? Well, it kinda, you frequently see children many times who, for example, they're adopted, they're farmed out of placements and these children grow up and they have a big hole in something as depression because they have lost.
And they are, they're placed with someone else, but they're always looking for their biological parents. They're always searching for them. This is something I very frequently see. and, you know, and so, you know, the reality attachment, the bond or the mother is neuro violence, the feeding. The caring, breastfeeding of an infant.
Those things are images that are imprinted into the brain. and that's why separation from the mother at an early age. It's a very, very early age that is very damaging to an infant. pause, what does it tell the child? What is the result? The result is the world's not safe. I'm not safe. This is not a safe place for me.
And then all sorts of maladaptive behaviors roll out from that. The kid's life becomes very, very problematic, and very distressful. And what does the research say about abruptly removing children from the home? And is there an alternative to that? Well, the journal of family court services. basically, there was a great article that says the children are many times too abruptly removed from the home without a psychological evaluation with a mother.
For example, the CF of what is the risk of child abuse. What is the risk, that she's not protected? These things are measurable. An interview at the psychologist’s office and an intake and psychological testing. Great test, great tests. For example, there are tests that measure whether a mother or a father, whether their score on abuse, potential testing as above the cutoff for a population of mothers who are in a DCFS sample of mothers who were committed, moderate challenge.
Because if they're below the con offs, then that probably is not a Hybris. many of the parents are caught in high conflict situations, very difficult home situations, but that doesn't necessarily need to have the child has to be removed. So, the article goes into the fact that it's very, it's, it's more rare than frequent.
The DCFS, the psychological evaluations, and they more frequently check the child, I think because there's concern about that. Charles won't be harmed. If something happens, they don't want to be responsible. Mm. And are there recommendations for future research? Well, I think, I think, American, I think the association of family conciliation courts.
They should come up with a protocol such as what I talked about in my book, my book chapter, standardized conducting a bonding study, I think a California roll court, five, two, two, five. that's a great, great, section. It's all the mandatory sex things that need to be in your child custody evaluation.
I would love to see the courts, Expand on rural five, two, two, five, where it talks about measuring the depth of the tantra, measuring the interaction between the parent and the child. I'd like to say the court considers adding standardized evidence-based bonding, study instruments. No procedures. Okay. that's all I have for the questions today.
Is there anything that you would like to add about bonding studies? Yes. I think what I would like to add as, I think as parents, we need to be increasing our grandpa, our sensitivity to our kids. for example, if you have a child with depression or a child with losses, if you're in the shell with ADHD, you know, if you're patient, if you take things one at a time, if you structure the world for them, if you're supportive, I believe we should.
Kind of forget about ourselves and support our kids. And then I think, there's going to be a lot more secure bones produced also, there are all these funds and all this money being spent in society on domestic violence. Partner violence and all these different areas, but nobody looks at the front end.
Nobody looks at the early family interactions. I know there was one County that I know of and there was a department of probation, had the families very heavily involved with the probationers who were juveniles. And the violation rate dramatically declined until the politicians got involved in certifying money.
And then the program was disbanded and the violation rate quarterly went up again. So, you know, and I think that all there are many of the children who are placements. I think that things should be rethought placing away from their parents about terminating rights, just cutting things off. I think that the re-education going in the mornings or much too struck that was children realistic. I don't think parents had six months. Can remedy certain kinds of emotional free education. I think the courts need to be more liberal in line with child development and how long it takes families to remedy these types of things.
And it's not always, Donald was six month period. So, you know, I think, I think this is important because you see a lot of kids in the juvenile system. They were in foster homes. They go to the foster homes that as a psychologist, myself, what do I say? I see a child who has been abused. A child goes to the foster home and the foster parents abuse them.
They go to care for other caretakers and other caretakers’ abuse. So why aren't we working with the mothers and giving the mothers resources and uplifting the mothers and given support? Group psychotherapy and strengthening the biological parents and the biological nuclear family. Instead of being so quick to send children out to placements, terminate the rights of the parents.
I think that the worst situations I think are always, there are always remedies for it. Absolutely. Well, thank you very much.