Attachment Theory: How Your Childhood Shaped You

Hey, Psych2goers!

What’s your relationship with your parents like? Have you heard of the attachment theory? According to Psychiatrists John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, attachment theory refers to the bond you have with your primary caregiver that determines the relationships you develop once you grow up. 

With that said, let’s look at the four different types of attachment styles and how your childhood shaped you. 

  1. Secure attachment style

Do you know someone comfortable being alone but also able to form close relationships while hanging out with others? They communicate their needs and feelings with clarity without being passive-aggressive. If your answer is “Yes”, then it is highly likely that you’ve met someone who has a secure attachment. 

Now, let’s look at how a person with a secure attachment is raised by their caregivers.   

In a new environment, their caregivers most likely gave them room to explore and move around independently, but when they cry, the caregivers are still there to reassure and hug them.

For example, when the child is going to kindergarten for the first time, the caregiver will drop the child off while reassuring them they will meet again after school. 

  1. Dismissive avoidant attachment style 

Do you know a highly successful friend in work-life but has difficulty maintaining friendships and romantic relationship? Do they tend to be a bit judgmental towards people showing emotions? 

If someone you know fulfils the above criteria, there is a high likelihood that you are dealing with someone who has a dismissive-avoidant attachment style. 

The person with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style is likely raised in a family where showing emotions is discouraged. They may be hush-hushed or punished harshly because their parents view their crying as a weakness. 

Now, you may wonder why this person achieves success in their career, but in a close relationship, they seem to struggle? 

When their partner is vulnerable or emotional, they will usually recoil. It’s because they can’t handle emotions well. 

Suppose you resonate with this type of attachment style and want to move towards secure attachment. In that case, you should try flexing your emotional muscles more and practising empathy in your everyday interactions with strangers. Similarly, you can watch movies and read fiction books to get a sense of the feelings and emotions of the characters.    

  1. Anxious-preoccupied attachment style 

Maybe you’ve seen a video about attachment styles online. Watching the video gives you a sense of self-awareness, “Oh no, I think I have an anxious-preoccupied attachment style.” Perhaps you always try to satisfy the other person’s needs and wants at the expense of your own needs and wants. 

A person with this kind of attachment style always seems to want to keep getting validation from people, and they are more at risk of getting involved in an abusive relationship. 

If we review this person’s childhood, they may have been nurtured with irresponsible parenting. Perhaps their parents are too busy to make ends meet. So, there are days that the caregivers can give attention and fulfil their child’s needs, while at other times, they are so exhausted that they tend to neglect their child. However, there is a nature aspect to this attachment style as well. Sometimes some babies are born with a more anxious temperament. 

But, don’t sweat it; if you have an anxious-preoccupied attachment style, you could try to work towards a more secure attachment by seeking therapy and looking for relationships with people capable of secure attachment.

  1. Fearful-avoidant (anxious-avoidant) attachment style 

Last but not least, let’s delve into the most disorganised type of attachment style: fearful-avoidant attachment style. 

Adults with this kind of attachment may want to be close with people, but at the same time, they don’t want to invest a lot of their time and emotions in the relationship. In other words, their attachment style has the combination of both the anxious-preoccupied and dismissive-avoidant attachment styles.  They are also more at risk of depression and anxiety. 

Growing up, this person is nurtured with erratic parenting styles. Their needs are not met consistently by their parents who may be struggling with their own depression and anxiety. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Secure attachment style is considered the ideal type of attachment that a person can have. But…what if you are growing up in a less “ideal” environment and parenting style which causes you to develop insecure attachments once you are an adult? It is said that a person can “earn” secure attachment by getting involved in a healthier relationship or perhaps signing up for interpersonal therapy with a therapist. 

REFERENCES 

Bowlby, J. (1977, January 1). The making and breaking of affectional bonds. I. Aetiology and psychopathology in the light of attachment theory. an expanded version of the Fiftieth Maudsley Lecture, delivered before the Royal College of Psychiatrists, 19 November 1976.: Semantic scholar. Retrieved November 12, 2021, from https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/The-making-and-breaking-of-affectional-bonds.-I.-in-Bowlby/fe8b82d36a04baa05ea8e66f583935c1e22793cb.

MedCircle. (2021, November 6). 4 Ways Childhood Impacts Your Love Style | MedCircle MasterClass [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_ETE0icZaM&t=813s

Shaver, P. R., &; Mikulincer, M. (2008). A brief overview of adult attachment theory and research: R. Chris Fraley. A Brief Overview of Adult Attachment Theory and Research | R. Chris Fraley. Retrieved November 12, 2021, from http://labs.psychology.illinois.edu/~rcfraley/attachment.htm.

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