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Attachment is defined as the condition of being attached to something or someone. With regard to psychology, an emotional bond is the attaching force between people. Attachment theory is a psychological theory that pertains to the long-term relationships between people, especially parent-child and romantic relationships. It is believed that the early life attachment between a caregiver and child will go on to affect that child’s relationships all throughout life. These are the attachment styles from childhood and how they often develop into adulthood.
- Secure Attachment
A secure attachment can develop when the caregiver meets the child’s needs in a timely manner. This caregiver is sensitive and consistent in their responses to the child. The caregiver is connected to the child, and the child learns she can depend on the caregiver.
Children who formed secure attachments in childhood will usually have secure attachment in adulthood as well. As adults, these people are well adjusted. They have a strong sense of self which includes a positive view of themselves. Their lives are balanced. In relationships, they have an easier time being open, honest, supportive, and loving.
2. Avoidant Attachment
This caregiver is unavailable to the child. When the child is in need, the caregiver provides little or no response. The child realizes that no one is coming to help and often learns to parent herself. This caregiver may also shame the act of crying or encourage extreme independence.
Children with avoidant attachment will often have dismissive attachment in adulthood. These adults are often loners who do not value relationships. They may supress their feelings and be perceived as brainy. Dismissive attachment adults will avoid conflict and detach from situations or people they find difficult.
3. Ambivalent/Anxious Attachment
An ambivalent or anxious attachment forms when the caregiver is inconsistent in meeting the needs of the child. Sometimes the caregiver will meet the needs appropriately, but other times they will not. This is confusing for the child as she cannot anticipate what to expect from her caregiver.
Children who developed ambivalent/anxious attachment generally have preoccupied attachment as adults. These adults have low self-esteem and thus seek approval from others. Their fear of rejection can cause them to act clingy and desperate in relationships. Often these behaviours result in pushing their partner away.
4. Disorganized Attachment
This is a frightening caregiver who may be physical and/or emotionally abusive. It is conflicting for the child because her instinctual source of safety is also the source of anxiety. The child may disassociate from her experiences and exhibit a disoriented mix of behaviours.
Children with disorganized attachment will often develop fearful-avoidant attachment as adults. These adults are disconnected from themselves and feel mixed up in their desires, fears, and behaviour. Relationships are often dramatic. These adults may also find themselves in abusive romantic relationships.
Being aware of your attachment style and personality will give important insight into your relationships and interpersonal behaviour. If you’re unsure from reading these descriptions, you can take this quiz from Psychology Today to find out.
We can’t change how we grew up, but everyone can work to change their present situation. For the foundation of a satisfying relationship, choose a partner who you believe to have secure attachment, and then focus on developing your own sense of security. We at Okanagan Clinical Counselling Services look forward to helping you adjust any unhelpful patterns of behaviour you may have developed to cope with your early life experiences. Contact us today too ok an appointment for individual, couples, family and group counselling services at either our Kelowna, Westbank or Penticton location.
This blog post was written by:
Nicole Ripley, BA Psyc, M.Couns
Registered Clinical Counsellor (#10535)
Okanagan Clinical Counselling Services