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  • Laryssa Levesque

Four Attachment Styles and How They Impact Your Relationships

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

Have you ever wondered why you act the way you do in relationships? Maybe you label yourself as being super "clingy" or "needy" or find that you are always craving space from your partner and don't want to talk. Or maybe you want love and affection but when you get a taste of it, you self-sabotage and push them away. The way we relate to others is called our "Attachment Style", and in this article we will explore the various types of attachments as well as how attachment styles impact relationships.

what are the types of attachment styles

What is Attachment Theory?

Attachment theory suggests that the emotional bond we form with our primary caregiver(s) during childhood influences the relationships we form in our adulthood. This bond (aka attachment) is established before 2 years of age and is stable throughout our lives. Romantic relationships are particularly affected by the attachment style we develop as children, but other close relationships like friendships can be affected as well.

A Brief History on Attachment Theory

Attachment theory was first developed by John Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst and psychiatrist. His work began when he worked with hospitalized and delinquent children. He observed that these children’s symptoms were linked to their histories of maternal deprivation and separation. According to Bowlby, in order for a person to grow up mentally healthy...

"...the infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his mother (or permanent mother substitute) in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment."

In other words, good mental health in adulthood depends largely on our experiences as children; growing up in an environment with a loving, consistent, and nurturing parent is essential for forming secure, happy relationships as an adult.

If you have ever taken a first year psychology course, you may have learned about Mary Ainsworth's The Strange Situation test, in which children are introduced to a stranger, separated from their mother, left with the stranger and then reunited with their mother. Based on the behaviours of the children during the test, four child-parent attachments were established: secure, avoidant, resistant (i.e., anxious), and disorganized attachment.

Many studies have since supported Bowlby's and Ainsworth’s findings and have shown evidence that the attachment style developed in childhood influences our behaviour later in life. Therefore, it is important to determine what your attachment style is so that you can learn more about yourself in the context of others, work through any attachment disturbances or wounds, and ultimately form happier and healthier relationships.

What Are The 4 Attachment Styles?

Our attachment styles influence how we relate to others, our needs in a relationship, and how we try to get our needs met. According to psychologists, we develop one of four attachment styles in our childhood that tend to stay with us throughout adulthood. Attachment styles are divided into two categories: secure and insecure. Insecure attachment styles include anxious, avoidant, and a combination style called disorganized. Here is a closer look at each one:

1. Secure Attachment Style

Children with a secure attachment tend to be well-adjusted, resilient, and get along well with others their age. From the age of six months to two years, these children develop a close emotional bond with their primary caregiver, who is responsive and attuned to their needs. These children treat their attachment figure as a secure base from which they can explore the world and as a safe haven to which they can return for reassurance. As adults too, people with secure attachment are more satisfied in their relationships and feel connected to their partners. According to research, over 50% of adults have a secure attachment style.

Signs of secure attachment in adult relationships:

  • They feel confident in their relationships

  • They have high self-esteem and a positive view of themselves

  • They are comfortable with displays of affection

  • They can easily communicate their needs

  • They are trusting of their partners and other people

  • They offer support to their partner in times of distress and also seek the support of their partners

  • They don’t face a lot of trouble regulating their emotions