The Attachment Theory: How Childhood Attachment Affects Adult Relationships

The Attachment Theory How Childhood Attachment Affects Adult Relationships

The attachment Theory: How our attachment style determines everything in our relationships… from who we want as our partners to how our relationships will end.

This article will help you understand how attachment patterns in adult intimate relationships are guided by the emotional bonds developed at the initial phases of childhood.

To start with, What is attachment?

Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional connection that connects you with another person across time and space. 

What does The attachment theory say

The attachment theory was developed by British psychoanalyst John Bowlby. 

He believed that during the first six months of life, children need to develop a close emotional relationship with one primary caregiver. 

That could be your loving mother or your caring father. This is important for normal social and emotional development of every child.

When a child shares a strong emotional bond with their parents, it builds a secure attachment. This makes them feel safe and have a positive view of life. 

But when a child shares a weak emotional relationship with their parents, it leads to an insecure attachment. This makes them feel insecure, afraid and have a negative mindset throughout life.

John Bowlby believed that when infants are separated from their parents, they become desperate to find them. Not only do children try to prevent separation from their primary caregiver, they also try various things, like – crying, clinging and searching – to find their missing parent. 

According to Bowlby’s theory, these attachment behaviors are adaptive responses to separation from a primary caregiver who offers care, support and protection.

Understanding Attachment Theory

To put it simply, the attachment theory says that 

If our bonding with our primary caregiver is strong, we develop a sense of security in us, we know that we have a safe place to return to, as such we grow up to be confident and positive adults who feel independent to explore around them.

However if this bonding is not strong, there comes a sense of insecurity. The child either turns out to be an anxious individual or an avoidant personality or both. This hampers his trust in people and his surroundings which makes him reserved, negative and lack confidence.

Patterns of attachment 

The pattern of attachment we develop helps us build and maintain emotional connection with others and determine our intimacy in relationships. 

Depending on the care a child experiences, there are four patterns of attachment that can develop in early childhood: 

  1. Secure 
  2. Anxious Ambivalent 
  3. Anxious Avoidant, and 
  4. Disorganized 

How our attachment pattern affects us as adults

The bond we share with our parents as children is important for our subsequent emotional development. 

Our childhood attachment patterns determine the overall attachment style in our adult life

  • How we connect with someone romantically, and 
  • How we emotionally respond when a loved one is separated from us

Read also – Attachment Theory Explains Why Your Relationships Fail

To understand the different attachment patterns in childhood and its effects on adult life, let us consider the stories of 4 best friends – Diana, Tina, Rebecca and Allison

All of them are the best of friends and live with their respective parents, But they have very different stories running in their lives.

Let’s take a look. Shall we?

1. Diana’s story (Secure attachment)

Diana is a happy girl who loves her parents. Her parents love her and take good care of her. She feels secure around her parents and feels comfortable and confident to explore her environment in the presence of her parents.

However, she restricts her exploration when her parents are not around her. She becomes distressed and worried when her parents are not nearby or separated from her.

But when she is reunited with her parents, Diana becomes happy again. She settles down and feels comfortable around them.

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