Attachment Styles

What is your attachment type? Do you know?

Our attachment types are formed in our early years of childhood development as a result of the relationship between us and our primary caregiver – mother, father or someone who filled that parental role for us. It then forms our relationship attachment to others in our lives, family, friends and romantic partners. The theory suggests that a healthy secure attachment style is important for developing our sense of security which forms the foundation of how we are in relationships with others throughout our lives.

This Attachment Theory was first introduced by Psychologist, John Bowlby who described attachment as, ‘a lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.’ Mary Ainsworth then went on to conduct a study based on this theory and found the effects of attachment on behaviour in children, in her ‘Strange Situation’. Here, she found that as result of children’s attachment styles with their caregivers, children aged between 12 and 28 months old, reacted differently in each case of being separated then reunited with their primary caregiver in the study.

As a result of this study, Ainsworth found there was three main attachment styles:
Secure – Children with this attachment style typically showed distress when their caregiver left but was happy when they returned, they were comfortable seeking reassurance and comfort from their caregivers.
Ambivalent – insecure (Anxious-preoccupied) – Children became very distressed when their caregiver left and could not depend on their caregiver to be around when they need them.
Avoidant – insecure (Avoidant-dismissive) – Children with their type tended not to show any preference between a complete stranger and their primary caregiver. It is thought that this style comes from an abusive or neglectful caregiver and so due to this, children would be reluctant or even avoid seeking comfort or help from others.

Later Main and Solomon added a fourth type based on their further research:
Disorganised – insecure (Avoidant – Fearful/Disorganised) – Children with this type display a mix of confusing behaviours, which mainly would result in them resisting comfort from their primary caregiver. This mainly is the result of an inconsistent caregiver, one who provides comfort but then can be neglectful also.

(For more information about the early attachment phases then read these articles: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-attachment-theory-2795337
https://www.attachmentproject.com/blog/four-attachment-styles/ )

So what do traits or behaviours do these people display in adult relationships?

Secure attachment

As these people grow older they have the most ideal attachment type. These are probably your most grounded people. They probably had the best upbringing with loving, present parents and experienced little to no trauma in their childhood. As a result, they have the best interpersonal relationships with people on the level that they are able to have relatively functional, interdependent connections with people. They have good boundaries, are able to be loving without being distant or needy. If we think of them on a spectrum, they will be bang in the middle of the two extremes.

Anxious – preoccupied attachment

These people will generally show up to be quite needy, anxious when you go, territorial and easily jealous. They don’t tend to have good boundaries due to being fearful of being left and or abandoned and don’t have very good self-worth. Because they were often left as a child they have internalised that they are not important or lovable to be with or have and so that will manifest in certain behaviours during a romantic relationship.

Avoidant- fearful (disorganised) attachment

As they grow older, people with these types are often quite difficult to distinguish from the anxious-preoccupied as the root cause (abandonment) is the same and so some of their traits will be similar. However, one major difference is that these people tend to actually seem to go cold. They are more hot and cold than the anxious types who are mainly ‘hot’ so to speak.

Avoidant-fearful types have a fear of being left and so they will tend to act first in terms of seeming to act disinterested in a relationship but then might suddenly appear to not want you to leave at all. You generally feel as though you don’t know whether you’re coming or going with these types.

Avoidant (dismissive) attachment

In adult relationships, people with this type appear to not want a relationship at all. Whereas the Anxious types are ‘hot’ (so into the relationship, needy, clingy), these types are the complete opposite. They are very cold and appear as though they don’t need anyone at all. They may not even see the point in having a romantic relationship for that sake, they therefore might just enter one for convenience or to meet their needs (sexual/physical/monetary/cultural factors). Probably one of the worst types to be in a romantic relationship with in my opinion, they generally have commitment issues and don’t hang around long enough during conflict or anything that feels like it’s ‘too much’ for them.

I think this is important to know about yourself but also for potential dating partners as it helps to navigate through how to deal with people, understanding how they may behave and react to certain dynamics in your relationship but it also helps you be more compassionate towards them as you begin to see that the root of certain behaviours is as a result from not feeling secure with others. With this knowledge you can both find ways together to help build that lack of security in your relationship through reassurance, commitment and communication.

Although it is argued that these attachment styles are difficult to change once they are formed in childhood, I don’t believe it is impossible. Through secure relationships, be it therapy or simply being in a secure relationship, if you are willing, it IS actually possible to heal and get to having a more secure attachment style!

What style do you think you are? If you are unsure still then take the FREE online test to find out your attachment type here: https://quiz.attachmentproject.com/

Any questions or any other traits/behaviours that you think people with each type have that I may have missed then please let me know in the comments below!

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