The Attachment Theory: How Childhood Attachment Affects Adult Relationships

The Attachment Theory How Childhood Attachment Affects Adult Relationships

Diana is securely attached to her parents.

Secure attachment is considered as the best attachment classification.  It has been observed that over 55% of children show secure attachment patterns in their parent child relationships.

With a secure attachment style, Diana will grow up to be a secure adult who will:

  • Have a positive self image
  • Be empathic, forgiving and trusting
  • Be comfortable in a warm, loving and emotionally intimate relationship.
  • Know how to set appropriate personal boundaries
  • Depend on her partner and allow her partner to depend on her
  • Be available for her partner when needed
  • Be dependent–independent in romantic relationships
  • Accept partner’s need for separateness without feeling lonely or rejected
  • Manage her emotions, openly communicate her feelings and will not avoid conflict
  • Be a sensitive, warm and caring parent and responsive to her child’s needs

2. Tina’s story (Anxious-avoidant insecure attachment)

Tina is not too close with her parents. Her parents are often neglectful and punish her whenever she makes a mistake. You can say Tina’s parents are slightly abusive.

So Tina doesn’t feel too secure around her parents and often avoids them. Although she explores her environment in the presence of her parents, she is not much distressed in their absence. 

When separated from her parents, Tina doesn’t really cry much. In fact, when she is reunited with her parents, Tina tends to ignore them.

This type of attachment is known as Anxious-avoidant insecure attachment.

About 20% of children show avoidant attachment patterns with their primary caregiver. Children in avoidant attachment relationships with their parents seem to avoid their primary caregivers. 

With an avoidant attachment style, Tina will grow up to be an emotionally withdrawn adult who will: 

  • Avoid emotional connections, closeness and commitment in adult relationships
  • Have a negative self image and a narrow emotional range
  • Avoid intimacy through solitary activities and emotional withdrawal
  • Be intolerant, critical, rigid, controlled, stoic and self-sufficient
  • Be emotionally distant and rejecting in intimate relationships and prefer independence over intimacy
  • Deactivate her emotions and attachment needs and keep partner at a distance
  • Not be able to depend on her partner or allow her partner to depend on her
  • Not communicate her feelings openly and avoid conflict leading to an outburst
  • Be non-emotional, be excellent in crisis management and take charge when necessary
  • Be detached, disengaged and emotionally unavailable as parent and neglectful to her child’s needs

3. Rebecca’s story (Anxious-resistant insecure attachment or Anxious-ambivalent attachment)

Rebecca is often preoccupied with gaining attention from her parents. She often controls her interactions with her parents to ensure that they remain available for her. 

This is because her parents are mostly unavailable to her and have an inconsistent and unpredictable response to Rebecca’s needs.

Rebecca is usually reluctant to explore her environment in the presence of her parents. When separated, she becomes extremely distressed. However, when reunited with her parents, Rebecca becomes angry, resists contact with her parents and refuses to settle down.

This is known as Anxious-resistant insecure attachment or Anxious-ambivalent attachment.

Around 10% of children demonstrate a resistant pattern of attachment with their parents. Resistant attachment shows exaggerated attachment needs. Here, children may be preoccupied with getting the attention of their parents.

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