Insecure Attachment Style: How Parent-Child Dynamics Affect Adult Relationships

Understanding Insecure Attachment Style

Childhood attachment style actually builds the foundation of adult behavior. If the child grows up in an atmosphere where their expectations are not met, they might develop an insecure attachment.

If you’ve paid any attention to the popular psychological press in the past few years, you’ll likely have heard a few things about attachment. You may even have been cautioned about the effects of your own attachment style on your current romantic relationship.

Secure attachment, you’ve likely heard, is associated with stronger relationships and reduced psychopathology. Researchers Philip Shaver and Cindy Hazan, who looked at adult relationships through the lens of childhood attachment styles, estimate that approximately 40 percent of people have an insecure attachment style of one type or another.

On his professional website, R. Chris Fraley of the University of Illinois provides a distilled history of attachment theory. To begin with, attachment styles develop in childhood and appear to be generated by the relationship between the child and the chief caregiver

The British psychoanalyst John Bowlby was the first to theorize about attachment, but the various attachment styles you’ve likely heard of were first identified in experiments conducted by Mary Ainsworth in the late 1960s.

Ainsworth briefly separated infants from their caregivers, reunited them, and observed what happened next. Some infants cried when their mothers disappeared but were easily soothed when they returned; these infants represented about 60 percent of the group overall and were labeled secure.

Related: The Attachment Theory: How Childhood Attachment Affects Adult Relationships

About half of the remaining infants also became very upset when their mothers left but could not be soothed when they returned; this pattern was said to represent anxious ambivalent attachment in the infants who behaved this way.

A third group—representing about 20 percent of the total group, and displaying the anxious-avoidant style of attachment—did not cry at all when their mothers disappeared. When the mothers returned, these infants seemed to actively avoid their mothers’ company.

But time goes on, and humans grow up, and it seems possible that infant attachment styles and parent-child dynamics are connected to patterns in adult relationships. 

In a 1994 paper, Hazan and Shaver concluded that the distribution of attachment styles among adults also showed a 60-20-20 percent split.

Several years later, Fraley & Shaver (2000) suggested that in childhood, a system of attachment is developed as a means of adaptation to the family system and that this attachment system continues to have an influence on the individual’s style of relating in adulthood.

Let’s say you recognize yourself in the “insecure” adult attachment types. Perhaps you are concerned about being too emotionally distant or too preoccupied with being close to your loved ones. In either case, it could help you to come to terms with the way you relate.

To cope with your current attachment patterns it may be essential to understand your life as a coherent narrative, which has led you from one set of experiences to another and has helped to create the person you are now. Psychotherapy may also be able to help you accomplish this. 

Related: 14 Personality Traits Necessary To Have A Secure Attachment Style

Overall, you shouldn’t assume that a feeling of anxiety in romantic relationships, or a concern about getting too close, signifies anything dire about your prospects for love or connection. As with anything else, you may need to look closely at your attachment patterns simply to learn more about yourself—but if you do, do it for the sake of self-improvement rather than self-criticism.

If you believe you need to, you can change; by being open to new experiences, insecurely attached people can develop new confidence that a potential partner is trustworthy after all.

Check out Dr. Soeiro’s personal website, for more such informative articles.


Ainsworth, M.  (1969, July).  Individual Differences in Strange-Situational Behavior of One-Year-Olds.  Retrieved from
Becker-Phelps, L.  (2019, September 30). Is Your Attachment Style at the Root of Your Struggles?  Retrieved from
Fraley, R. C.  (2018).  Adult Attachment Theory and Research: A brief overview.  Retrieved from
Fraley, R. C., & Shaver, P. R. (2000). Adult romantic attachment: Theoretical developments, emerging controversies, and unanswered questions. Review of General Psychology, 4, 132-154.
Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. R. (1994). Attachment as an organizational framework for research on close relationships. Psychological Inquiry, 5(1), 1–22

Written By Loren Soeiro 
Originally Published In Psychology Today
Mean Have Insecure Attachment Style pin
Understanding Insecure Attachment Style pin

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Up Next

Who Is A Dismissive Avoidant? 10 Behavioral Traits and their Ghosting Phenomenon Explained

Who Is A Dismissive Avoidant? Signs Of Dismissive Ghosting

Have you ever felt like someone was so into you one minute and then vanished from the face of the earth? Hate to break it to you, but you were not just ghosted, you were “dismissive avoidant” ghosted. It’s a relationship magic trick, and definitely not the fun kind. So who is a dismissive avoidant and what is dismissive avoidant ghosting, really?

This type of ghosting comes from a place where independence is key and emotional closeness feels threatening. If you can picture someone building an invisible fortress around themselves and darting away when things get too real, that’s dismissive avoidant attachment right there.

Up Next

Why You’re Attracted To Certain People? Exploring the Science of Human Chemistry

Why You're Attracted To Certain People: Types Of Attraction

Attraction is a complex aspect of human relationships that plays an important role in shaping our romantic endeavors. Understanding why you’re attracted to certain people can offer valuable insights into your personality, experiences, and emotional needs.

Whether drawn to intelligence, kindness, or shared interests, your attractions are windows into your desires and aspirations.

From the subtle nuances to the unmistakable preferences, the different types of attraction weaves a story that reflects the threads of your inner self.

Up Next

Disorganized Attachment In Relationships: 10 Signs To Look Out For

Signs Of Disorganized Attachment In Relationships

Relationships can be complex and sometimes leave us feeling confused and emotionally overwhelmed. Have you ever experienced a rollercoaster of mixed signals and conflicting emotions with your partner? Do you find yourself wanting closeness one moment and pushing them away the next? If these questions resonate with you, you may be dealing with disorganized attachment in relationships.

In this article, we will explore disorganized attachment style, what causes disorganized attachment, signs, and impact on relationships. By understanding disorganized attachment style, you can begin to unravel the complexities that hinder your ability to form secure and harmonious connections.

Up Next

Unpacking Parentification Trauma: The Burden of Growing Up Too Soon

What Is Parentification Trauma? Seven Types, Effects and Healing

The excitement of childhood is beautiful, when your biggest worry was whether your favorite cartoon was on TV. Some kids don’t have a childhood as carefree. Parentification trauma becomes a real issue when a child is thrust into the shoes of a grown-up.

The child takes on responsibilities beyond their years. It’s like playing a role in a movie you didn’t audition for. This is the reality for those who’ve experienced the issue – a lesser-known yet impactful challenge that shapes lives in unexpected ways.

What is Parentification Trauma?

It might be your question, though–what is parentification trauma? The trauma occurs when a child is placed in a role that reverses their expected position within the family dynamic.

Up Next

Healing Attachment Wounds: 6 Strategies For Overcoming Insecure Anxious Attachment In Adults

Anxious Attachment In Adults: Six Ways To Overcome And Heal

Anxious attachment in adults is a result of negative attachment between parents and children, in childhood. This post is going to delve deep into the insecure anxious attachment style, how insecure anxious attachment in adults work, and how to overcome anxious attachment.

A childhood characterized by healthy, supportive parenting – in other words, secure attachment – is the foundation for calm and confident adulthood.

What Causes Anxious Attachment In Adults?

If you suffer from chronic anxiety you already know it’s a negative and und

Up Next

What Is An Inter-Intimate Relationship? 5 Signs To Know If You Are In One

What Is An Inter-Intimate Relationship? Five Signs

There are countless ways we express love, and we all have different needs for emotional and physical intimacy. Some couples struggle with mismatched desire, while others might find themselves in what they call “inter-intimate relationships”.

Do you find yourself in this situation? If yes, don’t worry; you’re not alone! Let’s explore how to find a balance and make it work together.

What Is An Inter-Intimate Relationship?

Up Next

Need More Affection In A Relationship? 10 Signs You Or Your Partner May Be Suffering From Touch Starvation

Ten Clear Signs Of Touch Starvation In A Relationship

From warm hugs to gentle handshakes, touch has the incredible power to connect us and make us feel alive. But what happens when we don’t get enough of it? That’s where touch starvation, also known as affection deprivation or skin hunger, comes into play.

It might sound surprising, but touch starvation is a real thing, and it can have a significant impact on our overall wel