What is Your Attachment Style?
What is attachment and why is it important?
Attachment refers the particular way in which you relate to other
people. Your style of attachment was formed at the very beginning of
your life, during your first two years. Once established, it is a style
that stays with you and plays out today in how you relate in intimate relationships
and in how you parent your children
Understanding your style of attachment is helpful because it offers you
insight into how you felt and developed in your childhood. It also
clarifies ways that you are emotionally limited as an adult and what you
need to change to improve your close relationships and your
relationship with your own children.
Early Attachment Patterns
Young children need to develop a relationship with at least one
primary caregiver in order for their social and emotional development to
occur normally. Without this attachment, they will suffer serious psychological
impairment. During the first two years, how the parents or caregivers
respond to their infants establishes the types of patterns of attachment
their children form. These patterns will go on to guide the child’s
feelings, thoughts and expectations as an adult in future relationships.
Ideally, from the time infants are six months to two years of age,
they form an emotional attachment to an adult who is attuned to them,
that is, who is sensitive and responsive in their interactions
with them. It is vital that this attachment figure remain a consistent
caregiver throughout this period in a child’s life. During the second
year, children begin to use the adult as a secure base from which to
explore the world and become more independent. A child in this type of
relationship is securely
There are adults who are emotionally unavailable and, as a result,
they are insensitive to and unaware of the needs of their children. They
have little or no response when a child is hurting or distressed. These
parents discourage crying and encourage independence. Often their
children quickly develop into “little adults” who take care of
themselves. These children pull away from needing anything from anyone
else and are self-contained. They have formed an avoidant attachment with a misattuned parent.
Some adults are inconsistently attuned to their children. At times
their responses are appropriate and nurturing but at other times they
are intrusive and insensitive. Children with this kind of parenting are
confused and insecure, not knowing what type of treatment to expect.
They often feel suspicious and distrustful of their parent but at the
same time they act clingy and desperate. These children have an ambivalent/anxious attachment with their unpredictable parent.
When a parent or caregiver is abusive to a child, the child
experiences the physical and emotional cruelty and frightening behavior
as being life-threatening. This child is caught in a terrible dilemma:
her survival instincts are telling her to flee to safety but safety is
the very person who is terrifying her. The attachment figure is the
source of the child’s distress. In these situations, children typically
disassociate from their selves. They detach from what is happening to
them and what they are experiencing is blocked from their consciousness.
Children in this conflicted state have disorganized attachments
with their fearsome parental figures.
Adult Attachment Patterns-
People who formed secure attachments in childhood have secure
attachment patterns in adulthood. They have a strong sense of
themselves and they desire close associations with others. They
basically have a positive view of themselves, their partners and their
relationships. Their lives are balanced: they are both secure in their
independence and in their close relationships.
Those who had avoidant attachments in childhood most likely have dismissive
attachment patterns as adults. These people tend to be loners; they
regard relationships and emotions as being relatively unimportant. They
are cerebral and suppress their feelings. Their typical response to
conflict and stressful situations is to avoid them by distancing
themselves. These people’s lives are not balanced: they are inward and
isolated, and emotionally removed from themselves and others.
Children who have an ambivalent/anxious attachment often grow up to have preoccupied
attachment patterns. As adults, they are self-critical and insecure.
They seek approval and reassurance from others, yet this never relieves
their self-doubt. In their relationships, deep-seated feelings that they
are going to be rejected make them worried and not trusting. This
drives them to act clingy and overly dependent with their partner. These
people’s lives are not balanced: their insecurity leaves them turned
against themselves and emotionally desperate in their relationships.
People who grew up with disorganized attachments often develop fearful-avoidant
patterns of attachment. Since, as children, they detached from their
feelings during times of trauma, as adults, they continue to be somewhat
detached from themselves. They desire relationships and are comfortable
in them until they develop emotionally close. At this point, the
feelings that were repressed in childhood begin to resurface and, with
no awareness of them being from the past, they are experienced in the
present. The person is no longer in life today but rather, is suddenly
re-living an old trauma. These people’s lives are not balanced: they do
not have a coherent sense of themselves nor do they have a clear
connection with others.
To see what your attachment pattern is, take the following quiz.