What is the attachment domain
This domain explores the nature, quality, depth and patterns of relationships that te tamaiti or rangatahi have with family/whānau, such as:
- siblings and cousins
- aunties and uncles
- grand uncles and aunties
- hapū and iwi
- other significant people.
Healthy attachment happens when the parent, caregiver or family/whānau provide comfort, affection and basic needs with consistency on a regular basis.
Research has shown that trauma involving parents, caregivers or family/whānau may significantly disrupt attachment. This could lead to insecure or disorganised attachment. Early-life traumatic events, such as maltreatment by parents or caregivers, can disrupt the development of a secure attachment.
Te tamaiti or rangatahi could have a traumatic attachment experience when there’s:
- poor attachment
- regular inappropriate responses
- some disruption in the formation of a healthy bond
- a lack of affection
- abusive behaviours
- an absence of the parent, caregiver or family/whānau
- lack of connection to whenua and significant people and places.
Assessing attachment needs
In completing the assessment of any attachment needs for te tamaiti or rangatahi, it's important to:
- seek the views of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family/whānau, hapū and iwi
- engage with the school, health professionals or other professionals involved with te tamaiti or rangatahi to seek their views and identify opportunities to work together, especially if te tamaiti or rangatahi is in care
- review any specialist assessments including gateway or youth justice assessments and screens that have been completed, or ensure these are undertaken if required
- consider how the cultural perspectives of the family/whānau may influence the experience of te tamaiti or rangatahi and seek cultural support if required
- seek the views of the caregiver if te tamaiti or rangatahi is in care
- consider the relevant Tuituia domains to draw together your assessment.
Te Ao Māori and attachment
Te Ao Māori or a Māori worldview refers broadly to a Māori way of being and engaging in the world. In its simplest form, it has a set of values, principles and beliefs and uses kawa (cultural practices) and tikanga (cultural principles) to critique, examine, analyse and understand the world. A Te Ao Māori worldview is based on traditional values that guide behaviours and brings a very different approach to understanding attachment compared to western approaches.
A Māori worldview seeks to understand the connections and relationships between all things human and non-human first, such as whakapapa and the social structures of whānau, hapū and iwi. Within these systems the role of the parent is central but attachment would be considered by how well connected tamariki are within their whānau, hapū and iwi and the quality and strength of those relationships.
These connections traditionally provided tamariki Māori and their whānau with a protective framework around the parents who were well supported, not isolated in the day-to-day activities of raising tamariki. This exposure to a diversity of relationships and situations provides a binding or attachment to the whānau ensuring stability, loyalty and a commitment to one another.
Section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 promotes a Te Ao Māori worldview and highlights the three overarching and interconnected wellbeing principles of mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga that guide our approach and activities when assessing the attachment of tamariki and rangatahi.
The physical and emotional needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi must be met so they can feel safe, secure and loved. For this to happen, parents, caregivers or whānau need to be pro-active and responsive in building and developing mana tamaiti through:
- strong connection to whakapapa to build identity
- active, quality whanaungatanga relationships (belonging and connectedness) that promote and nurture a sense of pride in being Māori.
The principles of mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga enable us to explore attachment, and the whakamana te tamaiti practice standard provides activities by which to apply the principles within this context.
Ideally te tamaiti or rangatahi should have access to and feel comfortable engaging in tikanga Māori. However in today’s society as a result of colonisation and disconnection from culture many whānau are isolated and require support to begin this journey.
For example, when connected they may understand and practise:
- whānau hui
- hui ā-whānau
- marae kawa.
This will strengthen te tamaiti or rangatahi attachment through:
- feeling value in being Māori or having Māori heritage and seeking to learn more — they are proud of who they are and participate in everyday activities, sharing their views and being appropriately involved in decision-making
- understanding the physical environment of Te Ao Tūroa that they live in
- knowing the history of their whānau, papakāinga, wāhi tapu, marae and urupā and being connected to whenua and significant people and places
- being positively exposed to te reo Māori and using that learning in everyday life — having direct access to those who know their waka, their maunga, their hapū and their iwi.
Our Māori cultural framework and Te Toka Tumoana provide a Te Ao Māori principled wellbeing framework from which to explore and apply principles such as whakapapa in practice.
The practice principles of Te Toka Tumoana mean attachment must be viewed in light of the potential for support or placement using whakapapa and whanaungatanga of te tamaiti or rangatahi that gives them knowledge of the depth and breadth of their connections to people, places, Māori values and beliefs. From this worldview attachment refers to multiple not singular connections.
Kairaranga ā-whānau have a unique role in Oranga Tamariki through working closely with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau who have experienced levels of historical, intergenerational and present-day trauma. The kairaranga ā-whānau will assist in assessing attachment of tamariki and rangatahi to their whānau, hapū and iwi social structures often through the process of hui ā-whānau.
The aim of hui ā-whānau is to support and enhance the participation and decision-making of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau, hapū and iwi.
There is no generic ‘Pacific community’ but rather Pacific peoples who align themselves variously, and at different times, along a variety of lines — ethnic, geographic, church, family, school, age/gender-based, youth/elders, island-born or New Zealand-born, occupational, or a mix of these. Connections to villages and churches are important.
Care partners (s396 providers) and their caregivers: Assessing attachment needs
When a tamaiti or rangatahi is placed with care partners and their caregivers, the allocated social worker for te tamaiti or rangatahi, in the same way that they work with an Oranga Tamariki caregiver, will work closely with the care partner and their caregiver to:
- assess the attachment needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi
- agree on and document in the All About Me plan the attachment support required (including who will undertake the agreed actions).
Reflect on the whakamana te tamaiti practice standard that reinforces the section 7AA principles of mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga.
You may also wish to consider the Te Toka Tumoana practice principles and our Māori Cultural Framework.
When working with Pacific families reflect on Va'aifetū, which guides how we work and enhance oranga for Pacific children and young people, and their whānau.
- accessing local expertise, for example the site kairaranga ā-whānau for working with tamariki and rangatahi and whānau Māori — involve the kairaranga ā-whānau as early as possible in the assessment process
- involving wider whānau and te tamaiti or rangatahi in early discussions and decision-making using tikanga and recognising rangatiratanga
- understanding what the whānau connection to and involvement with their marae is
- being mindful of the use of te reo and tikanga — but don’t assume a whānau is actively linked in to Te Ao Māori
- respectfully asking questions and exploring further to build knowledge and depth of understanding about te tamaiti or rangatahi and whānau
- using genograms to explore connections and roles within the whānau — but remember whakapapa knowledge is sacred and care and cultural advice can be required before recording this information
- what the relationships are like between te tamaiti or rangatahi and the caregiver and other adults in the whānau
- which adults live in the home, who comes and goes and what role do they have in caring for te tamaiti or rangatahi
- what the relationship is like between te tamaiti or rangatahi and significant māreikura (wāhine) Māori in their lives
- the significant role that grandparents often take in providing support for te tamaiti or rangatahi
- if the family is Pacific and connected to their church or village or other groups that give a sense of belonging and identity
- if te tamaiti comes from another cultural background, seek advice to ensure you understand the relationships of significance within their culture context.
Assessing connectedness and belonging
- Be aware that not all whānau will place the same value on, have the same understanding of, or be involved in the same way with Te Ao Māori.
- Consider if te tamaiti or rangatahi is connected and understands their whakapapa and whanaungatanga connections.
- Consider what the parents or caregivers do to make te tamaiti or rangatahi feel proud of being Māori (or their cultural group). Do they ensure they know the stories and have knowledge of their history?
- Find out if te tamaiti or te rangatahi has someone they seek out when they’re distressed or upset. Be aware of wider kinship ties and connections that might provide this support — this may be a kaitiaki role in the whānau.
Tamariki and rangatahi in care
For a tamaiti or rangatahi in care you could also consider:
- how they can build and maintain whakapapa and whanaungatanga connections and have or develop their sense of belonging to whānau, hapū, iwi and marae
- their experiences of neglect, abuse, loss of attachments, lack of safety, security and unmet needs for love and belonging — these experiences may violate the tapu of te tamaiti or rangatahi (the personal sacredness of te tamaiti or rangatahi) and crush and diminish their personal mana, so consider what needs to be in place to respond to this and to heal and reconnect
- what tikanga or cultural practices are in place to build on and ensure safety and wellbeing, and who in the whānau can assist and support this — ask, don’t assume
- how can te tamaiti or rangatahi connections to the whānau, hapū and marae be developed
- whether these interactions provide and support belonging and connection to their whakapapa with people, places, cultural values and beliefs
- how you’ll ensure the views and wishes of te tamaiti or rangatahi are included when considering attachments, connections and belonging.
- Decide on your rationale if you do not believe it is safe or in the best interests of te tamaiti or rangatahi to have a relationship with a person.
- If that person is a parent, sibling or whānau member consider if safe contact is able to be established if te tamaiti or rangatahi and whānau consider this is important.
- Where safe contact cannot be maintained with a parent or whānau member important to te tamaiti, think creatively about how te tamaiti can be supported to maintain a positive view of that relationship.
Siblings, cousins, extended whānau and whangai
Siblings can include full brothers and sisters but in blended families these could also be half-siblings and step-siblings (who have different parents). These relationships can be based on shared genealogical or whakapapa connections.
A common practice (historically and current) for whānau Māori is whāngai or when a tamaiti (usually whakapapa related) is placed and cared for or raised within the extended whānau. The arrangement was usually informal although more commonly within today’s society formal arrangements or adoption sometimes occurs.
Any siblings who share a unique culture and family/whānau environment with te tamaiti or rangatahi have an enormous influence on their overall experience of the world. This is carried forward, often unconsciously, into adult lives.
The sibling relationship is likely to last longer than any other relationship in someone’s lifetime and plays an integral part in the lives of families/whānau.
Siblings can support each other emotionally and it’s important to understand the foundations of sibling relationship quality.
For tamariki and rangatahi entering care, being with siblings can enhance their sense of safety and wellbeing. They are not burdened with wondering where their siblings are and whether or not they are safe. Siblings in the same home can provide natural support to each other and some sense of stability and belonging.
Continuity of sibling relationships helps tamariki and rangatahi maintain a positive sense of identity and knowledge of their cultural, personal and family histories.
Siblings and cousins who are proud of being Māori could be positive role models for te tamaiti or rangatahi and they themselves may feel proud of their cultural heritage. This relationship could help te tamaiti or rangatahi feel connected to whānau and marae.
If te tamaiti or rangatahi has been abused or harmed in such a way that the impact has caused whānau separation and distress, extra care and support may be required to help te tamaiti or rangatahi deal with feelings of grief, loss, guilt and responsibility for what has happened.
Parentification is the process of role reversal where a tamaiti or rangatahi is obliged to act as parent to their own parent or sibling. In extreme cases, te tamaiti or rangatahi is used to fill a void in the parent's emotional life.
Two distinct types of parentification have been identified:
- Instrumental parentification involves te tamaiti or rangatahi completing physical tasks for the family/whānau, such as looking after and caring for younger siblings in ways that would normally be provided by a parent.
- Emotional parentification occurs when a tamaiti or rangatahi must take on the role of a confidant or mediator for (or between) parents or family/whānau
Cousins are an important part of family/whānau and hapū relationships.
In extended family/whānau settings cousins are as important as siblings especially if they have been brought up living close to each other.
Cousins share either just enough of a family narrative that they can serve as friendly sounding boards or enough common experience that they can behave as de facto siblings. The relationship is often flexible.
An aunt will always be an aunt and a grandfather will always be a grandfather, but cousins can be more or less whatever te tamaiti or rangatahi needs.
In Te Ao Māori there is a need for attachment to be considered in the broader whānau context. Effective tiakitanga or protection in the wider whānau ensures te tamaiti or rangatahi is kept safe and this is underscored by unconditional love and commitment that binds whānau together.
Through a commitment to and protection of one another the development and strengthening of wairua sensitivity reverberates across past, present and future generations of kinship networks.
Pets are part of the lives of many tamariki and rangatahi. Parental involvement, open discussion and planning are necessary to help make pet ownership a positive experience for everyone.
A tamaiti or rangatahi who learns to care for an animal, and treat it kindly and patiently, may get invaluable training in learning to treat people the same way. Careless treatment of animals is unhealthy for both the pet and te tamaiti or rangatahi involved.
If te tamaiti or rangatahi cannot remain at home pets can be a cornerstone of emotional health, sharers of unconditional friendship and a constant presence in a world that seems to be changing all the time.
But they can also become the object of pent-up frustration and suppressed trauma for a tamaiti or rangatahi in care. Knowing whether a pet, like a dog or cat, will be helpful or hurtful to a tamaiti or rangatahi in care depends on a thorough knowledge of their past.
- what the relationship between siblings and cousins is like — are they close and supportive or do they fight and argue and are jealous of each other?
- who are the important aunts, uncles, grandparents and wider whānau connections who can build whakapapa knowledge and help with whanaungatanga responsibilities
- whānau dynamics in regards to mana of people (in Pacific culture — Matai), birth order and gender roles
- whether caring for younger tamariki is an expectation of the parent, caregiver or adults in the whānau
- how much time siblings and cousins spend together
- what are the roles in the sibling group — are older tamaiti or rangatahi caring for younger tamariki?
- if te tamaiti or rangatahi has pets they are attached to
- the impact when siblings and family/whānau are separated as a result of a care and protection intervention — this can be significant for a tamaiti or rangatahi who has made disclosures of abuse or neglect. Do they need extra support?
Tamariki in care
For a tamaiti or rangatahi in care you could also consider:
- whether or not te tamaiti or rangatahi in care is placed with siblings or cousins
- what plan is in place to maintain connections to siblings and cousins — this is especially important if siblings don’t live together (if they’re not together, when and how do they see each other, how do they share events and celebrations, visit whenua and significant places and know their whakapapa, marae and whanaungatanga responsibilities?)
- the relationship te tamaiti or rangatahi has with siblings and cousins
- how they’ll build and maintain whakapapa and whanaungatanga connections and have or develop a sense of belonging to whānau, hapū, iwi and marae
- how you’ll ensure the views and wishes of te tamaiti or rangatahi are included when considering attachments, connections and belonging.
Subdomain: Mother, father, caregivers, other significant adults
10 — Te tamaiti feels safe, secure and loved. Their physical and emotional needs are met and their carers are responsive and pro-active in building mana tamaiti through whakapapa and whanaungatanga (belonging and connectedness). Te tamaiti or rangatahi is proud of who they are and participates in everyday activities, shares their views and is appropriately involved in decision-making. Te tamaiti or rangatahi is well connected to whenua (lands) and significant people and places including marae.
5 — Te tamaiti or rangatahi feels safe, secure and loved most of the time and their relationships with those caring for them are positive and loving most of the time. Sometimes te tamaiti or rangatahi may become distressed or shut down in times of physical or emotional stress, and the whānau have limited resources to support and respond. Te tamaiti or rangatahi has some connections to whenua, significant people and places including marae.
1 — Te tamaiti or rangatahi does not have a safe, secure relationship with any loving adult. Te tamaiti or rangatahi is unresponsive or hyper-vigilant and anxious when interacting with the adults in their life. Te tamaiti or rangatahi has no knowledge of connections to whakapapa and whanaungatanga and so have no sense of belonging and connectedness to significant people, places and marae.
Subdomain: Siblings and non-adult family members
10 — Sibling and cousin relationships are warm and mostly harmonious and they enjoy spending time together. Tamariki and rangatahi support each other, spend regular positive time together and are well connected to whānau and marae.
5 — Interactions are mostly positive but can be inconsistent with some arguing. There are no concerns regarding abuse between the siblings. Siblings and cousins know each other, their whānau and marae.
1 — There is an abusive element in the relationship — such as violence between siblings or cousins, sexual abuse, exposure to alcohol and/or drugs. Te tamaiti or rangatahi does not know their siblings or cousins and does not have any interest in seeing them or spending time with them. Te tamaiti or rangatahi is providing day-to-day care of a sibling or whānau member at a level that interferes with their own development (for example, they may be missing school to care for a baby).