Review of “Hold on to Your Kids”

An Attachment Parenting Guide

In this 2004 book, Neufeld and Gabor Mate, M.D. discuss the importance of parental attachment and influence and the dangers of peer orientation.

Ensuring that children are surrounded by their peers has been standard practice in the modern world. There are many opportunities for this to happen, starting with the youngest children in daycare and continuing all the way through the school years. But, is allowing and even encouraging this peer attachment good for children? Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D., and Gabor Mate, M.D. claim that not only is this arrangement not natural, it is not healthy.

Parents are Important: Six Levels of Attachment

Neufeld and Mate thoroughly explain the six levels of attachment that a child needs to experience in order to grow and develop properly. Children attach to those around them through physical closeness. They express their attachment by imitation and loyalty. Children also need to feel they are significant to someone, deeply loved, and emotionally close. The deeper, emotional levels of attachment are not common in peer attachments but do exist in parental attachments.

The authors maintain that children who orient to their peers will never fully develop their attachment potential. They will attach at a superficial level only. But, children who have a healthy, strong attachment to their parents will be able to maintain that strong attachment, even during the times when they are separated.

Attachment Voids

It is natural for children to orient and attaches to someone. Neufeld calls the parent attachment figure the “compass point”. When a child’s attachment figure is not there or is otherwise unavailable, there is an attachment void. Very often, in our society, a child fills an attachment void with another child because that is who is available at daycare or in school. Unfortunately, children are not mature enough to serve as each other’s compass points.

Why Can’t Children be Peer Oriented?

Peer-oriented children will be more susceptible to peer pressure, drug use, promiscuity, conformity, and a host of other teen issues. They will feel the pressure of the need to fit in and be devastated if they don’t. Peer-oriented children will also have a difficult relationship with their parents. Neufeld and Mate claim that a child will feel loyalty towards the peer group, which sets the stage for a rocky parent and child relationship.

About the Authors

Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in Canada. Gabor Mate, M.D. is a physician and author living and working in Canada.

Hold on to Your Kids is a new way of thinking about attachment parenting. It takes the importance of attachment parenting beyond the infant and toddler years and well into the teen years. Neufeld and Mate remind us that parents are important throughout childhood and, in fact, are more important than peers for a child’s healthy development.


Neufeld Ph.D., Gordon and Mate, M.D., Gabor. Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers. Ballantine Books. New York. 2004.