Attachment Theory: How Upbringing Affects Lifelong Relationships
Attachment theory refers to the deep connection that humans make with other people, particularly the ones they are closest with. The theory follows the relationship that infants make with their parents or caregivers, and how these relationships develop until adulthood. It was formulated by the psychologist John Bowlby in 1985.
4 Different Types of Attachment
According to Bowlby, attachment develops as early as six months. Babies get attached to their primary caregivers and respond based on how these caregivers provide their needs. There are four different types of attachment which are as follows.
Babies who grew up with secure attachment have received adequate care and attention from their primary caregiver or parent. They may feel anxious when the caregiver leaves, but will welcome them warmly when they return. They are also confident when their caregivers are around, and will roam freely and do whatever they want, knowing that their caregivers are always present to support them and help them when in need.
Babies with anxious attachment are scared when their caregivers leave, but do not feel comfort when their caregivers return. This is due to their caregivers not giving enough attention and security as they grow. Those with anxious attachment are always seeking approval from their caregivers and fear being abandoned. This type of attachment is carried into adulthood.
Avoidant attachment usually develops when the needs of an infant are mostly unmet. This sets the expectation that their emotional needs will remain unattended. In return, they distrust their caregivers and learn to fend for themselves. In adulthood, those with avoidant attachment often avoid relationships and intimacy.
Disorganized attachment is a combination of anxious-ambivalent and avoidant attachments. Babies with this type of attachment often grew up with inconsistent caregivers who sometimes show love and care and at other times show neglect and anger. The children are unsure how their caregivers will react in every situation, thus developing confusion and frustration. As they grow, these children may show intense anger and have difficulty controlling their emotions.
How Attachment Affects Adult Relationships
The ideal type of attachment is secure attachment, where an individual is able to form healthy independent relationships with the people around them. People who have a secure attachment style recognize that they are complete on their own and their relationships with others simply complement them to become better individuals.
From the four attachments above, the bottom three are known as insecure attachment styles. These are based on insecure thoughts and emotions and can disrupt the connection between people. Those with insecure attachment styles may have difficulty maintaining their relationships because of their unhealthy coping mechanisms. They may self-sabotage their connections with others and live difficult, unhappy lives.
Recognizing Your Attachment Style
As an adult, knowing your attachment style can help you recognize your unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns that are disrupting your relationships. Awareness is the key to understanding why you relate to others the way you do, and establishing stronger and happier connections. If you have an insecure attachment style, you may feel unfulfilled with your relationships. The only way to overcome this is by developing a secure attachment style.
How Therapy Can Help You Develop Secure Attachment
Not everyone can overcome their instinctual behaviors and thought patterns, especially since these were developed from infancy. Having an insecure attachment style can make you feel frustrated, angry, and unhappy. You may even feel confused and distressed with your own behaviors.
Through the help of a professional, you can get a better understanding of your attachment style and how you are creating rifts in your own relationships. Therapists can teach you the techniques to change your thought patterns and adjust your unhealthy behaviors. In time, you will be able to develop a secure attachment style and make your relationships more peaceful and fulfilling.