Indicators of impaired bonding

Developmental delays

The bonding between the young child and their caregivers provides the experiences required to develop physically, emotionally, and cognitively. Lack of consistent and enriched experiences in early childhood can result in delays in motor, language, social, and cognitive development.


Children may hoard food, hide food in their rooms, or gorge at meals even if they have had years of consistent available foods. They may have rumination (throwing up food) and swallowing problems.

Soothing behaviour

In order to self-soothe, infants may have learned primitive soothing behaviours. They may bite themselves, head bang, rock, chant, scratch, or cut themselves. These symptoms will increase during times of distress or threat.

Emotional functioning

A range of emotional problems is common, including depressive and anxiety symptoms. One common behaviour is "indiscriminate" attachment. All children seek safety – some may seek attachments for their safety.

Inappropriate modelling

Children model adult behaviour, children learn that the behaviour they have experienced is the "right" way to interact with others. This potentially causes problems in their social interactions with adults and other children.


The ability to emotionally "understand" the impact of your behaviour on others can be impaired. In more extreme cases, aggression is often accompanied by a detached, cold lack of empathy. They may show regret (an intellectual response) but not remorse (an emotional response) when confronted about their aggressive or cruel behaviours.
Professionals can help support bonding and attachment through:

  • Interacting with children based on emotional age
  • Being consistent, predictable and repetitive
  • Modelling and teaching appropriate social behaviours
  • Listening to and talking with these children
  • Having realistic expectations of these children
  • Being patient with the child's progress


Bedwetting or nocturnal enuresis is a common childhood condition.

Bedwetting is normal in children who are under five years old, and the majority of young children will wet the bed at some stage. It affects 15% of all children, 45% of children with a parent who has also had the condition, and 75% of children with two parents who have had the condition.

Bedwetting is often caused by an overactive bladder, but it can be the result of problems with the development of the bladder. It can also be due to a neurological disorder (disorders of the brain and nervous system).

There are two types of bedwetting:

  • Primary nocturnal enuresis: persistent, involuntary bedwetting during sleep in a child who aged five or over
  • Secondary nocturnal enuresis: where bedwetting comes back after a dry period of at least six months

Secondary nocturnal enuresis is often linked to a stressful event, such as bullying at school, or the divorce of a child’s parents.

Bedwetting usually stops when the child gets older, because:

  • Their bladder capacity increases
  • They produce less urine at night
  • They learn to wake up when their bladder is full

In time, almost all children stop wetting the bed, often without treatment. Approximately 1% will continue to wet the bed into adulthood.

You may also be interested in

  • External Resource

    Attachment: Kinship carers factsheet

    NHS Health Scotland and Children 1st have been working in partnership to provide kinship carers in Scotland with information and support on nurturing secure attachment relationships. The new factsheet provides kinship carers with information on the importance of their role in establishing secure attachment and gives practical guidance and tips on how to support the development of these relationships.

  • External Resource

    Autism spectrum disorders

    Includes a resource pack for school staff.

    • When was this published? 3/17/2011
  • External Resource

    Cleft Lip and Palate Association (CLAPA)

    This charity offers information and support to children with cleft lips and palates. It also provides information and resources for health professionals.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    Down’s syndrome Scotland

    Website aiming to support families with a Down's syndrome child

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    Grounds for learning

    Part of the UK charity Learning through Landscapes, Grounds for learning helps Scottish schools and early years settings make the most of their outdoor spaces for play and learning.

    • When was this published? 9/26/2010
  • External Resource

    I Can website

    To support children with speech and language difficulties.

    • When was this published? 3/17/2011
  • External Resource

    Literacy Trust

    The National Literacy Trust campaigns to reduce the number of illiterate adults in the UK.

    • When was this published? 9/26/2010
  • External Resource

    National Association of Toy and Leisure Libraries

    The national body for toy and leisure libraries in the UK.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    NHS Lothian: Additional support for learning website

    Including information on: preparing the child to listen supporting children sharing books nursery choice charts staying on task supporting the child’s understanding in the classroom strategies for the staff

    • When was this published? 5/7/2013
  • External Resource


    Based in Bristol and Edinburgh, National Playbus Association is the umbrella organisation supporting mobile community work across the United Kingdom.

    • When was this published? 9/26/2010
  • External Resource


    Playday is the annual celebration of the child's right to play.

    • When was this published? 9/26/2010
  • External Resource

    PlayTalkRead Bus

    Bus tour dates for 2105

    • When was this published? 6/18/2015
  • External Resource

    The Chartered Association of Physiotherapy

    A professional resource for Physiotherapists and other health care professionals.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    The pupil who stammers - information for teachers

    This leaflet gives advice to staff about how to support a child who stammers in the classroom. Liaison with parents and a speech and language therapist is always recommended.

    • When was this published? 3/17/2011
  • External Resource

    The right to play

    Presentation from the National Early Years Conference 2010: Looking at provisions for children's play in extraordinary circumstances