Question: Angelina Jolie seems to have boundless energy, adopting and becoming pregnant, having babies one after the other while filming movies all at the same time. She seems devoted to her family and certainly has the resources to hire all the caretaker help she needs. Could her children be getting all the maternal attention they need for healthy emotional development? What about the adopted kids; will they need more attention? How could she possibly do it and meet all of her children’s needs?
Doctor Alisa: That is a great question! What you are addressing is the issue of early childhood attachment and how that can impact a child’s development. Cleary, Angelina Jolie has more resources than many parents do to hire help to care for her kids. She also seems quite busy and one would wonder how much time she has to be a mom.
Hiring nannies to help care for children is not necessarily a bad thing. When there is hired help involved the best case scenario is that the child is attached to the parents and the nanny. Care from a nanny does not have to take away from a child’s bond to their parent. If the parent is physically and emotionally available to the child, then the attachment to the nanny serves as bonus, not a replacement.
However, many parents are unavailable to form the needed connections to their children during their formative years. The parent or parents may be overly busy with work, may have issues of addiction, or may not be available to attend to the child’s needs for other reasons. Creating a healthy secure attachment with a child not only requires that the caretaker or parent be physically present with the child, they must also be intellectually and emotionally present. Being in the same room with a child but totally ignoring them doesn’t count as being present!
In the best case scenario both parents are available to bond and attend to all of their children. However, often having just one healthy attachment to any caregiver is enough to provide an important relationship for healthy development later on.
The difficulty arises when the child is attached to a nanny, for example, and the nanny leaves (quits, is fired, etc.). This can be a terrible source of loss for the child if the nanny has served as the primary caregiver and is their only source of secure attachment.
As for children who are adopted, they often need more attention and time in order to establish a healthy secure bond. However, much depends on the child, the parent and the situation. There is a great deal of variability in the needs of adopted children and how much time and effort it will take in order to establish a healthy connection.
Without knowing Angelina Jolie’s schedule and relationship with her children it is hard to say with certainty whether her children are getting the attention, affection and connection they need from her. It is not uncommon for children of celebrities to miss out on attention and bonding from their celebrity parent. Given the number of children she has and their varying developmental stages, there is likely a great demand for her time, her emotional presence, and her patience.