Do you ever find yourself preoccupied with your relationships; or struggling to connect with others? If so, keep reading to learn more about attachment. Attachment theory is based on the assertion that the need to be in a close relationship is rooted in our genes. Humans are programmed by evolution to single out a few specific individuals to create special relational ties. The need to be near someone special is so important that the brain has a biological mechanism especially responsible for creating and regulating connections with attachment figures (parents, children, and romantic partners).
The attachment system consists of emotions and behaviors that ensure safety and protection by staying close to loved ones. Fundamentally, attachment principles teach that “most people are only as needy as their unmet needs. When emotional needs are met, and the earlier the better, attention can be turned outward” (Levin, Heller, 2011). For example, the more effectively dependent people are on one another, the more independent and daring they can become.
Where Do Attachment Styles Come From:
Originally, it was assumed that adult attachment styles were predominantly a product of upbringing. As a result, it was hypothesized that current attachment is determined by the way in which you were cared for as a baby. For example, if parents were sensitive, available, and responsive, a secure attachment was created. If parents were inconsistently responsive, an anxious attachment was created. If parents were distant, ridged, and unresponsive, an avoidant attachment was created.
Today, however, it is known that attachment styles in adulthood are influenced by a variety of factors, one of which is the way our parents care for their children, but other factors also come into play including life experiences. According to Dr. Levine, it is not impossible for someone to change their attachment style. On average, “one in four people do so over a four-year period” (Levine, Heller, 2011). Most people are unaware of the issue, so these changes happen without ever being aware of the occurrence.
Secure Vs. Insecure Attachment:
A secure attachment bond meets the needs of a persons need for security. Having a secure attachment allows for optimal development in a person. Secure attachments result in healthy self-awareness, enthusiasm to learn, empathy, and trust. This helps a person react well to stress, try new things independently, form stronger intrapersonal relationships, and problem solve. People with secure attachments are comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving. An insecure attachment bond results in needs for security not being met. Having an insecure attachment can impede a person’s development. Also, it can restrain mental, emotional, and physical development. People with insecure attachments tend to avoid others, refuse interaction with others, show anxiety, anger, fear, and embellished distress.
In this post anxious and avoidant personalities are classified as insecure attachments. An anxious attachment consists of people who are often preoccupied with their relationships and tend to worry about their parents or partners ability to love them back. People who have an anxious attachment may have a hard time feeling secure in a relationship.
In relationships this can be clinginess towards a particular caregiver (lover) or inconsolable when the caregiver (lover) leaves. As an adult this can lead into jealously and insecurity in relationships (Ng, 2017). An avoidant attachment consists of people who equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness. This type of attachment is formed when caregivers or loved ones are emotionally unavailable or unresponsive. Avoidant attachments appear outwardly independent, struggle in connecting with others, rely heavily on self-soothing techniques to suppress emotions, and struggle verbalizing emotional needs (Ng, 2017).
Levine, A., & Heller, R. (2011). Attached: The new science of adult attachment and how it can help you find- and keep-love.
Ng, H. (2017). Contentment Duration Mediates the Associations between Anxious Attachment Style and Psychological Distress. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 258–258. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00258