Attachment refers to the bond that an infant forms with their caregiver. How an infant attaches to their caregiver will influence their future social, cognitive, and emotional development. Typically, infants attach to their parents, but they can also attach to other primary caregivers.
Why is it important to understand the attachment theory? And why does it make sense to know the various attachment styles?
The answer to that seems simple: It helps you understand how attachment affects relationships. The attachment theory can explain your own or your child’s relationship behaviour.
What is Attachment Theory?
Attachment theory seeks to explain how enduring attachments are formed. Further, it explains how these attachments influence an infant’s later development.
Who Came Up with Attachment Theory?
Psychoanalyst John Bowlby initially proposed attachment theory. He theorized that attachment behaviours are part of an evolutionary behavioural system that helps the child ensure they are cared for.
Bowlby thought that children attach to an attachment figure who responds to their needs and helps them navigate the world. He proposed his theory to explain two major aspects.
1. How do enduring attachments emerge, and
2. How do enduring attachments impact the child’s later development.
Later psychologist Mary Ainsworth advanced attachment theory. She studied how children responded when separated from their parents. This research led to the creation of different attachment styles.
What are the Different Styles of Attachment?
An attachment style is formed by the caregiver’s daily responses to an infant’s needs. Researchers have observed four basic attachment patterns between children and their caregivers.
1. Secure Attachment Style
Secure attachment occurs when a child is distressed after being separated from their parent. But when the caregiver returns, the child reacts welcoming. It makes eye contact with and hugs the caregiver.
2. Anxious-Resistant Attachment Style
This type of attachment style describes a child who is frightened when they’re separated from their caregiver. When the caregiver returns, the child continues to show anxious behaviour.
3. Avoidant Attachment Style
The attachment style describes a child who is calm when separated from their parent. But it also doesn’t exhibit positive emotions when their caregiver returns.
4. Disorganized-Insecure Attachment Style
This attachment style indicates that the child exhibits odd or ambivalent behaviour when their caregiver returns. For example, they may reject, turn away from, or hit the caregiver.
Why Does Attachment Style Matter?
For a secure attachment to form, children need responsive, sensitive caregiving. However, not only parenting or caregiving influences a child’s attachment style. Another important factor is genetics.
The attachment style between an infant and their caregiver influences the child’s later attachment patterns. It even shapes future adult relationships. Children that feel secure in their relationship with their caregivers, tend to display secure relationships later in life.
Conversely, kids who feel anxious about their attachment may struggle to form close connections or avoid creating intimate connections. Borderline-personality disorder is even associated with an insecure attachment style. Secure attachment styles often result in more stable, more satisfying relationships.
Severe cases of abuse and neglect are associated with a disorganized attachment style. Children with avoidant or disorganized attachment are at risk of developing Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).
RAD occurs when the child has difficulties developing a bond with their caregivers due to early neglect or abuse. Children with RAD are often emotionally withdrawn. They don’t seek comfort from others and have trouble forming meaningful relationships.
Adults and children exhibiting signs of anxious, avoidant, or disorganised attachment will improve with therapy. Seeing a therapist who specializes in attachment theory will be a benefit.
If you or someone you know needs therapy,please do not hesitate to contact us here
By Heidi Ramos