What is Attachment Theory, and what influence does this have?
Children grow up to have different forms of relationships and bonds with people throughout their lifespan. Much of this can be explained by understanding their relationships early on with their parents.
Attachment theory is an important concept within the domain of developmental psychology as it revolves around the developing relationship between a primary caregiver and an infant and aims to understand the influence that this important and early relationship has on promoting healthy social and emotional development in children.
Attachment theory attempts to explain how infant experiences with primary caregivers are an important basis for the development of close social and intimate relationships later in life that are outside the parent-child relationship. Attachment theory is based on the attachment styles formed between a primary caregiver and an infant, which continue to develop throughout childhood.
The designed attachments are generally the result of the caregiver's responsiveness to the infant's/child's needs. With this being said, the two primary forms of attachment a parent and child can develop are secure or insecure attachments. More information on each attachment style and its characteristics will be explored below.
Types of attachment styles and characteristics
Two types of attachment styles can be developed in infancy and childhood, these being secure and insecure attachments. Insecure attachments can be broken down into avoidant-dismissive, anxious-preoccupied, and avoidant-fearful.
Below are general characteristics displayed in adulthood that are associated with each style:
- You may be easy to get close to and are comfortable depending on other people.
- Avoidant-dismissive: You may prefer your independence and are uncomfortable depending on others.
- Anxious preoccupied: You may crave emotional closeness to the point where you are overly dependent on your partner.
- Avoidant-fearful: You may want a close relationship but have difficulty trusting others.
What does this mean?
These attachment styles developed in infancy and early childhood are general profiles that can be used to help describe and understand how adults relate to other individuals in future romantic or social relationships.
Our attachments determine the adults we learn and develop as a child. They help inform how we handle intimacy, conflict, and expectations.
The excellent news is attachment styles can be reversed! After some research and self-exploration, you realize you may have an insecure attachment. In that case, these can be changed by exploring the possible origins of learned unproductive behaviours that no longer serve you and by re-learning new healthy and adaptive ones.
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Benson, M., McWey, L., & Ross, J. (2006). Parental attachment and peer relations in adolescence: A meta-analysis. Research in Human Development, 3(1), 33–43. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15427617rhd0301_4