Attachment styles are unique to each individual,many things shape a person’s attachment style. Attachment is the strong connection, usually emotional connection, between two people. Since we were made for connection with others, attachment is a basic human need and usually starts in early childhood. We become dependent on our caregivers and oftentimes that is where our attachment style begins to take seed. Though, the attachment style experience in childhood does not dictate one’s attachment style in adulthood. Research has shown that the best predictor of adult attachment styles was how people perceive the quality of their relationships with their parents and their parents’ relationship with each other.
Mary Ainsworth, a psychologist from the 1970’s expanded Bowlby’s work. Through her observation in children ages 12-18months, her observation led to discovering the four different attachment styles:
- Secure attachment: these individuals generally are the type to become upset when caregivers or loved ones leave and are happy when they return. Research has shown that children who grow up with secure attachment tend to be more empathetic, less disruptive and more mature. These individuals seek comfort when they are away from their parents or caregiver. As adults, those who have a secure attachment style have trusting and lasting relationships. They tend to have a good sense of self esteem and have an ability to share their feelings with people they are close to. As adults, they may also tend to seek social support often.
- Ambivalent attachment : Individuals who have an ambivalent attachment style tend to be very suspicious of strangers. As children they have experienced distress when away from their parents, they are not reassured when their parents are present again. As adults, these individuals are reluctant to become close to others in relationships or friendships, they tend to worry if their partner loves them or not and they are dependent on their partners and become quite distraught at the end of relationships.
- Avoidant attachment : Individuals who have an avoidant attachment tend to avoid parents and caregivers. This avoidance often occurs after a period in which the caregiver is absent. These individuals tend to not seek attention nor reject it. They often seem “numb” or indifferent towards their loved ones. As children, they show behaviors such as not seeking contact or comfort, avoiding and no preference towards their parents. As they get older, this avoidant attachment style shows up in relationships where they are unable to become intimate or have problems with intimacy. They tend to invest little emotion in social and romantic relationships. Those with avoidant attachment styles may seem unable to make connections or share openly with others.
- Disorganized attachment : Individuals with disorganized attachment style tend to display lack of clear attachment behaviours. At age 1 they may show a mixture of avoidant and resistant behaviour. They often seem dazed, confused, apprehensive and “in a cloud”. At a young age (5-6) they may act as if they are the parent and act as a caregiver towards their parents. It is theorized that as children they may have felt comfort and scared of their parents leading to feelings of confusion.
The good news is that no matter your attachment style, we have a map that could help you create a lasting love with your partner! Knowing your attachment is just the first step!
Are you ready to learn more about how couples therapy can help you and your partner strengthen your bond?