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HelpGuide uses cookies to improve your experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. Privacy Policy. Attachment, or the attachment bond, is the emotional connection you formed as an infant with your primary caregiverโ€”probably your mother. According to attachment theorypioneered by British psychiatrist John Bowlby and American psychologist Mary Ainsworth, the quality of the bonding you experienced during this first relationship often determines how well you relate to other people and respond to intimacy throughout life.

If your primary caretaker made you feel safe and understood as an infant, if they were able to respond to your cries and accurately interpret your changing physical and emotional needs, then you likely developed a successful, secure attachment. As an adult, that usually translates to being self-confident, trusting, and hopeful, with an ability to healthily manage conflict, respond to intimacy, and navigate the ups and downs of romantic relationships.

Infants with insecure attachment often grow into adults who have difficulty understanding their own emotions and the feelings of others, limiting their ability to build or maintain stable relationships. They may find it difficult to connect to others, shy away from intimacy, or be too clingy, fearful, or anxious in a relationship.

Of course, experiences that occur between infancy and adulthood can also impact and shape our relationships. However, the infant brain is so profoundly influenced by the attachment bond, understanding your attachment style can offer vital clues as to why you may be having problems in your adult relationships.

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Maybe you repeatedly make the same mistakes over and over? Or maybe you struggle to form meaningful connections in the first place? By identifying your attachment style, you can learn to challenge your insecurities, develop a more securely attached way of relating to others, and build stronger, healthier, and more fulfilling relationships.

Attachment styles or types are characterized by the behavior exhibited within a relationship, especially when that relationship is threatened. For example, someone with a secure attachment style may be able to share their feelings openly and seek support when faced with relationship problems.

Those with insecure attachment styles, on the other hand, may tend to become needy or clingy in their closest relationships, behave in selfish or manipulative ways when feeling vulnerable, or simply shy away from intimacy altogether. Understanding how your attachment style shapes and influences your intimate relationships can help you make sense of your own behavior, how you perceive your partner, and how you respond to intimacy.

Identifying these patterns can then help you clarify what you need in a relationship and the best way to overcome problems. Rather, attachment is founded on the nonverbal emotional communication developed between caregiver and infant. An infant communicates their feelings by sending nonverbal als such as crying, cooing, or later pointing and smiling. When this nonverbal communication is successful, a secure attachment develops. Neither is having an insecure attachment style as an adult reason to blame all your relationship problems onto your parent.

Your personality and intervening experiences during childhood, adolescence, and adult life can also play a role in shaping your attachment style. Beyond categorizing attachment as secure or insecure, there are subsets of insecure attachment which give us four main attachment styles:.

Empathetic and able to set appropriate boundaries, people with secure attachment tend to feel safe, stable, and more satisfied in their close relationships. But you likely feel secure enough to take responsibility for your own mistakes and failings, and are willing to seek help and support when you need it. Of course, no parent or caregiver is perfect and no one can be fully present and attentive to an infant 24 hours a day.

The strong foundation of a secure attachment bond enabled you as to be self-confident, trusting, hopeful, and comfortable in the face of conflict. Some people may identify with some but not all of the characteristics of secure attachment.

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Start by seeing if you relate to any aspects of the following three insecure attachment styles. As the labels suggest, people with this attachment style are often anxious and uncertain, lacking in self-esteem. If you have an ambivalent or anxious-preoccupied attachment style, you may be embarrassed about being too clingy or your constant need for love and attention. Or you may feel worn down by fear and anxiety about whether your partner really loves you.

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Adults with an avoidant-dismissive insecure attachment style are the opposite of those who are ambivalent or anxious-preoccupied. As someone with an avoidant-dismissive attachment style, you tend to find it difficult to tolerate emotional intimacy. You value your independence and freedom to the point where you can feel uncomfortable with, even stifled by, intimacy and closeness in a romantic relationship. An avoidant-dismissive attachment style often stems from a parent who was unavailable or rejecting during your infancy. Since your needs were never regularly or predictably met by your caregiver, you were forced to distance yourself emotionally and try to self-soothe.

This built a foundation of avoiding intimacy and craving independence in later lifeโ€”even when that independence and lack of intimacy causes its own distress. If you experienced abuse asyou may try to replicate the same abusive patterns of behavior as an adult. Often the parent acted as both a source of fear and comfort for you as an infant, triggering the confusion and disorientation you feel about relationships now. In other cases, your parental figure may have ignored or overlooked your needs as an infant, or their erratic, chaotic behavior could have been frightening or traumatizing to you.

There are many reasons why even a loving, conscientious parent may not be successful at creating a secure attachment bond with an infant. The causes of your insecure attachment could include:. Having a young or inexperienced motherlacking in the necessary parenting skills. Your caregiver experienced depression caused by isolation, lack of social support, or hormonal problems, for example, forcing them to withdraw from the caregiving role. Traumatic experiencessuch as a serious illness or accident which interrupted the attachment process. Physical neglectsuch as poor nutrition, insufficient exercise, or neglect of medical issues.

Emotional neglect or abuse.

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For example, your caregiver paid little attention to you asmade scant effort to understand your feelings, or engaged in verbal abuse. Separation from your primary caregiver due to illness, death, divorce, or adoption. Inconsistency in the primary caregiver.

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You experienced a succession of nannies or staff at daycare centers, for example. Frequent moves or placements. For example, you constantly changed environment due to spending your early years in orphanages or moving between foster homes. It is possible to change and you can develop a more secure attachment style as an adult.

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A therapist experienced in attachment theory can help you make sense of your past emotional experience and become more secure, either on your own or as a couple. To start, learn all you can about your insecure attachment style. One of the most important lessons gleaned from attachment theory is that adult relationships, just like the first relationship you have with your primary caregiver, depend for their success on nonverbal forms of communication.

Even though you may not be aware of it, when you interact with others, you continuously give and receive wordless als via the gestures you make, your posture, how much eye contact you make and the like. These nonverbal cues send strong messages about what you really feel. At any age, developing how well you read, interpret, and communicate nonverbally can help improve and deepen your relationships with other people.

You can learn to improve these skills by being present in the moment, learning to manage stress, and developing your emotional awareness. Emotional intelligence otherwise known as emotional quotient or EQ is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to empathize with your partner, communicate more effectively, and deal with conflict in a healthier way.

As well as helping to improve how well you read and use nonverbal communication, building emotional intelligence can help strengthen a romantic relationship. A strong, supportive relationship with someone who makes you feel loved can play an important part in building your sense of security.

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Similarly, developing strong friendships with these individuals can also help you recognize and adopt new patterns of behavior. As discussed above, experiencing trauma as an infant or young child can interrupt the attachment and bonding process. Childhood trauma can result from anything that impacts your sense of safety, such as an unsafe or unstable home environment, separation from your primary caregiver, serious illness, neglect, or abuse.

When childhood trauma is not resolved, feelings of insecurity, fear, and helplessness can continue into adulthood.

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Even if your trauma happened many years ago, there are steps you can take to overcome the pain, regain your emotional balance, and learn to trust and connect in relationships again. Cookie Policy. The cause may be the attachment style you developed with your primary caregiver as an infant. What is attachment? Types of attachment Beyond categorizing attachment as secure or insecure, there are subsets of insecure attachment which give us four main attachment styles: Secure attachment Ambivalent or anxious-preoccupied attachment Avoidant-dismissive attachment Disorganized attachment Secure attachment style: what it looks like Empathetic and able to set appropriate boundaries, people with secure attachment tend to feel safe, stable, and more satisfied in their close relationships.

Secure or insecure? Print PDF.

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