SECURE ATTACHMENT TYPE
Though Hollywood and current culture may categorize secure
attachment as "boring" or "mundane," strong, healthy relationships
are born from this attachment style. A secure attachment ensures
each person in the relationship feels safe, cared for, and understood.
Interestingly, it isn't perfect parenting or even a lack of parenting
skills that determines attachment style. Secure attachment develops
when a caretaker is able to make a child feel safe and protected
through nonverbal communication. Factors that prevent a secure
attachment from forming include:
During childhood, kids who are attached securely to their caregivers:
Being mistreated or abused
Only getting attention when acting out or behaving badly
Having your needs met infrequently or inconsistently
Being separated from parents (e.g., hospitalization, removed from
A hot/cold attitude when it
comes to relationships.
Antisocial behavior and lack of
A tendency to be selfish,
controlling, and lack personal
Recreating abusive patterns
from their childhood in adult
Drug and alcohol abuse, as
well as criminal behavior.
Prefer being with their parents over others/strangers.
Can separate from their parents without becoming overly upset.
Look for comfort from their parents when they're afraid.
Are happy to see their parents when they return.
Similarly, adults who were securely attached to their caregivers as
children tend to have long-term relationships in which they trust
their partners and demonstrate a healthy level of self-esteem. Not
only are these folks comfortable sharing their feelings, hopes, and
dreams with their partners, but they're also able to seek support
when needed. Secure individuals are also able to support their
partners and comfort them when they're hurting. Individuals with a
secure attachment style tend to make great partners.
ANXIOUS-PREOCCUPIED ATTACHMENT TYPE
If you can't relate to the first attachment type, you likely developed
an insecure attachment style during childhood. About 15 to 20
percent of people have an anxious attachment style, many of whom
seek out counseling due to the difficulty they experience when
trying to establish and maintain healthy relationships. Anxious
caregivers are often preoccupied or otherwise unable to consistently
meet their children's needs. People who form this type of
attachment weren't abandoned as children, and in most cases, their
parents expressed some care and concern for them; however, their
inner feelings of security weren't fully developed as children.
Inconsistent caretaking meant they could not depend on their
parent or other caregiver. This inconsistency creates an emotional
storm within the anxious child, which carries over into adulthood.
Like those individuals with a secure attachment style, people with an
anxious attachment type crave love and intimacy, but they often feel
a lack of self-worth. Their deep-rooted insecurities may lead to
attention-seeking behaviors. Though often loving, fun, all-around
good people, their clinginess, neediness, jealousy, and tendency to
nag often drive loved ones away.
Common characteristics of an anxious attachment type include:
A need for reassurance and constant validation from partners.
A desire for constant touch, interaction, and attention from
partners or potential partners.
Relationships with extreme highs and lows.
An anxious or panicked feeling when away from a partner (even
A tendency to use blame, guilt, shame, and other forms of
manipulation to keep their partners close.
A tendency to neglect responsibilities due to a preoccupation with
relationships or personal concerns.
A tendency to overreact when there is a perceived threat to the
relationship. In some cases, these threats might be imagined.
If the above-mentioned characteristics describe your tendencies, you
are certainly not alone. While an anxious attachment style can make
it difficult to build and maintain strong long-term relationships, it's
important to realize that attachment types are fluid and can be
shifted with awareness, self-acceptance, and work.
R EL A T I O N S H I P S A N D A T T A C H M E N T
DISMISSIVE-AVOIDANT ATTACHMENT TYPE
A dismissive-avoidant attachment type is the polar opposite of the
anxious-preoccupied attachment type outlined above. Though the
two types have one similarity--they're both insecure--these
attachment styles couldn't be more different. Emotionally distant
and avoidant, individuals with a dismissive attachment type don't
crave love; in fact, they run from it.
Interestingly, many anxious attachment types find themselves in
relationships and marriages with dismissive-avoidant partners. The
more the needy partner pushes for love and approval, the further the
dismissive partner distances him or herself. Upset by this lack of
intimacy, the non-avoidant partner may threaten to end the
relationship, which will have little effect on the dismissive partner.
Able to detach themselves from others, shut down completely, and
live their lives inward, folks with a dismissive attachment style give
off a pseudo-independence that suggests they do not need
connection. Of course, this is simply untrue.
By now, you've probably noticed a pattern. The avoidance of intimate
relationships is the result of childhood events in which a caregiver
was unable or unwilling to parent in a way that would build a secure
attachment. In some situations, parents were physically present, but
for one reason or another, they weren't able to meet their children's
emotional needs. In this case, the child learns to ignore and repress
This unhealthy style of attachment carries into adulthood, and the
grown individual dismisses the need for love and connection. The
following characteristics are usually present if a person has an
avoidant attachment type:
Are uncomfortable with deep feelings and intimate situations
Set extreme emotional and/or physical boundaries
May hide information from their partners
Send mixed signals and disregard partners' feelings
Are noncommittal and prefer casual sexIdealize past
Though avoidant individuals may have a deep desire for close
relationships and intimacy, they are typically unable to fulfill their
desires due to their deep-seated internal struggles. More likely
to engage in sexual affairs and end up divorced, people with an
avoidant attachment style must transition to a secure attachment
style in order to form and maintain healthy relationships. As with any
type, this shift in attachment type is possible if guided by a mental
health professional who understands the attachment process.
Because avoidant types find it difficult to discuss their feelings,
pursuing therapy can be a daunting task, but it's an important and
necessary step to help them move toward secure attachment.
R EL A T I O N S H I P S A N D A T T A C H M E N T
DISORGANIZED ATTACHMENT TYPE
The final type of attachment isn't based solely on neglect or
preoccupation, but also on intense fear. Parents of children with a
disorganized attachment style are usually dealing with trauma
themselves. Because of unresolved trauma, pain, or loss, the parent
is unable to attach themselves securely to the child. Eighty
percent of people who were abused as a child have this type of
attachment.Because their primary caregiver's behavior was often
erratic and fear-driven, adults with this type of attachment style
have never learned to self-soothe. Their past is marked by pain and
loss, and they may become aggressive, see the world as unsafe, and
have trouble socially. Signs of this attachment style include:
A hot/cold attitude when it comes to relationships.
Antisocial behavior and lack of remorse.
A tendency to be selfish, controlling, and lack personal
Recreating abusive patterns from their childhood in adult
Drug and alcohol abuse, as well as criminal behavior.
If you think you may have a disorganized attachment type, don't be
discouraged. Once again, knowledge is key. Education, willingness,
and therapy can help you move toward a secure attachment style, so
you can establish strong, healthy relationships.