Attachment patterns from early childhood can greatly affect relationships into adulthood. Styles of attachment are formed in the first few years of our lives. These patterns carry over into our intimate relationships and even how we parent our own children. Attachment styles also carry over to our friendly and professional relationships. It can also be an influence on how we react and respond to situations and our personality types.
Attachment Styles from Childhood into Adulthood
As infants, we need to form at least one strong relationship with a caregiver. Without this relationship it can cause a disruption in emotional, social and psychological development.
John Bowlby was a psychologist who first did extensive research on attachment. He found that there were four basic styles of attachment in children which then carried over into adulthood.
These are the four styles:
- When an infant/child feels like they can fully rely on their caregiver and receive the emotional support that they require. The child/infant forms a strong emotional bond and secure attachment to the parent/caregiver. Children that grow up with secure attachments grow into adulthood wth these secure attachment patterns. This means they have a positive outlook of themselves and their relationships. This style may make you feel more confident and more self-aware.
- This style is typically acquired in the infant/child that has been taught their needs will not be met by their caregivers. These are the children that have been discouraged from crying therefore not receiving consistent nurturant care at a very young age. Into adulthood, people with avoidant attachment patterns tend to be more isolated and more cautious of relationships. Their response to stressful situations is to disengage and remove themselves from the situation. These people tend to be shut down more easily and become emotionally unavailable.
- Some parents are highly inconsistent with parenting which can cause confusion in the child. This style happens when a caregiver sometimes shows nurturing affection and a more insensitive approach at other times. This may cause confusion and insecurities in the child. This causes the child to feel sometimes distrustful of their parents and other times feel desperate and clingy. Ambivalent attachment patterns tend to lead to more insecure and self-critical patterns as an adult. This often leads them to being overly clingy and distrustful.
- When a caregiver is abusive, the child may feel scared. This again, causes a a lot of confusion in the child. They are frightened of their caregiver but also know that they are the one they also go to, to seek safety. With these fearful avoidance patterns, adults may detach themselves in time of trauma. This causes people to want to be isolated from others but also very close to others at the same time.
Why Should we know our Attachment Styles
Attachment styles can be a great explanation of why relationships have or have not worked out in the past. People can have a bit of every attachment style, but typically there is one that you feel describes you best. Knowing your attachment style and knowing the reasons behind it can be greatly beneficial for maintaining relationships, parenting and emotional intimacy. Self-esteem, manage emotions and the quality of our relationships can all be affected by our attachment style.
Developing a More Secure Attachment Style
It is possible to build a more secure attachment style but it takes a lot of time and effort. When an anxious or avoidant person gets into a relationship, it can sometimes bring that person closer to a secure attachment. Research points out that if a person with anxious or avoidant attachment patterns marries a securely attached partner; within five years they will display a securely attached pattern learned from their partner. Therefore secure attachment patterns can be learned.
Working on self-awareness and self-esteem can help gain a more secure attachment style. Counselling is a great way to get there as well, as it can help you rewire the patterns of how you think of yourself and relationships.