There are a variety of factors that influence the quality of the relationships that people have throughout their lives. One of these factors is our unique attachment style, which arose from the bond people had with their caregiver during childhood. There are four attachment styles – secure, insecure-avoidant, insecure-resistant, and disorganized – that a person can develop as an infant. Oftentimes, the style they develop will stick with them throughout their adult lives until they address their issues through professional treatment and support.
It is not uncommon for people to lack the knowledge or ability to identify their unique attachment style. As a result, however, individuals often feel guilty about their own needs, especially in intimate relationships. Learning about one’s unique attachment style can help them better understand and prioritize their needs. It can also work to reduce the frequency and intensity of interpersonal conflict between a person and their loved ones by honoring each other’s attachment needs.
Understanding Infant-Parent Attachment Styles
A publication by Paediatrics & Child Health titled “Infant-Parent Attachment: Definition, Types, Antecedents, Measurement, and Outcome” will serve as the basis to further our understanding of infant-parent attachment. First, the article explains that attachment is only one aspect of the relationship that exists between a child and a caregiver. Infant-parent attachment “is involved with making the child safe, secure and protected.” This attachment provides a secure base for the child “from which to explore and, when necessary, as a haven of safety and a source of comfort.”
There are four types of infant-parent attachment that you can develop during childhood: secure, insecure-avoidant, insecure-resistant, and disorganized. The article explains that “The quality of attachment that an infant develops with a specific caregiver is largely determined by the caregiver’s response to the infant when the infant’s attachment system is ‘activated’..” Or, in other words, when the infant is in distress.
Organized and Disorganized Attachment
Although a secure attachment is the optimal attachment style, there are other attachment styles that are lumped together with secure attachment in a category called “organized.” The first three styles are considered organized and the final style is considered (and also named) disorganized.
The organization of behavior is based on the consistency of a caregiver. If a caregiver consistently responds to an infant’s distress in nurturing ways, the infant is more likely to develop an organized and secure style of attachment. If a caregiver consistently fails to respond, that is also organized. On the other hand, if a caregiver responds inconsistently to an infant’s needs, the infant is more likely to develop a disorganized style of attachment.
The Four Attachment Styles
According to a book published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), “The attachment strategies that a child develops are shaped by their environment, and this has major implications for the ways in which children learn to behave in close interpersonal relationships.” The attachment style one develops during childhood will mold the relationships they have throughout adulthood. To determine what attachment style best defines someone, continue reading about each of the four styles of attachment:
This is the first organized style of attachment. A person may have a secure attachment style if they felt comforted by their caregivers during childhood. When faced with distress, their needs were met promptly and effectively. A secure attachment style with a caregiver allows one to freely explore their environment.
As an adult with a secure attachment style, a person feels confident in their ability to communicate their needs with others. They are in touch with their feelings and feel freely able to express their concerns when necessary. Oftentimes, conflict arises when they are faced with a relationship in which their partner has an insecure or disorganized style of attachment.
The second organized style of attachment, insecure-avoidant, develops from insensitive or troubled parenting. A person may have an insecure-avoidant attachment style if they felt like their caregiver minimized their feelings or did not provide adequate assistance to them during their childhood. This style of attachment may also develop if one was expected to help one’s caregiver with their own emotional needs as a child.
As an adult with an insecure-avoidant attachment style, someone may feel overly independent. Further, they may try to avoid talking about their feelings or concerns with their loved ones. Additionally, they may seem emotionally unavailable to a partner seeking emotional closeness.
The third organized style of attachment, insecure-resistant (or ambivalent), develops from high dependency on a caregiver as an infant. A person may have an insecure-resistant attachment style if they felt distressed or angry when separated from a caregiver.
An adult with an insecure-resistant attachment style may feel dependent and clingy. They may feel distressed when their partner is not around. Likewise, they may appear angry when their partner returns, resisting contact as a form of punishment to their partner.
This form of attachment develops when a caregiver inconsistently responds or fails to respond to their child’s needs. A person may have a disorganized style of attachment if their behaviors as a child were unpredictable or chaotic.
As an adult with a disorganized style of attachment, a person may experience extreme difficulties with trusting others. They may have issues establishing genuine connections. Additionally, they may fear rejection and not know how to adequately balance interdependence in their relationships.
Healing From Insecure Attachment Styles
With exception of the secure style of attachment, all other styles are considered insecure. Having an insecure style of attachment can lead to a plethora of difficulties in interpersonal relationships. Fortunately, treatment can help you heal from insecure attachment styles and the consequences that such may have imposed on your life.
Both substance use disorders (SUDs) and mental health disorders may develop as a result of insecure attachment. If this is the case for you, there are treatment programs available to kickstart your recovery journey.
There are four styles of infant-parent attachment that you can develop during childhood. Your unique attachment style will be carried with you throughout adulthood, directly affecting the quality of your relationships. Learning about your unique attachment style can help you better communicate your needs to loved ones and romantic partners. Grace Recovery provides transitional living homes for women seeking recovery from substance use disorder, trauma, and other mental health disorders. We offer a wide range of treatment programs and services for women seeking healing, especially from childhood trauma. We strive to provide comforting, compassionate care to all women seeking a lifetime of health and empowerment. To learn more, call us today at (737) 237-9663.
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