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Types of Attachment Styles

People require attachments with others in order to develop psychologically and emotionally. Attachment is the bond that normally develops between a mother and her child during the first few years of a child’s life. The quality of this bond affects the relationships that a person will have for the rest of his life.

As the mother responds to her baby’s cries by meeting its needs, appropriately feeding, consoling, soothing, and comforting, as well as keeping the infant safe from abuse and harm, she builds a secure attachment with her baby. 

A secure attachment is needed in order to help the child learn to self- regulate feelings of well-being, level of stimulation, and levels of arousal. A secure attachment also teaches the child that their environment is safe and people are good and can be trusted.  The quality of this bond affects the relationships that a person will have for the rest of his life.

In the 1960s, John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth concluded that there were three distinct types of attachment:

  • Secure
    • Background
      • Loving childhood
      • Well cared for by mother
    • Characteristics
      • Secure people do not avoid others, and
      • Are not constantly dependent on others
      • Curious and responsive to environmental clues
  • Avoidant
    • Background
      • Denied physical contact by mother while infant
      • Abuse
      • Neglect
    • Characteristics
      • Infants
        • Friendlier with strangers than parents
        • Pay more attention to environment than to people
      • Young Child
        • Hostile and distant with peers and teachers alike
        • Socially isolated
        • Not compliant with rules
      • Older Child
        • Independent, sullen, and oppositional
        • Often will not seek help when injured
        • Angry
        • Distant
        • Lack of empathy
  • Anxious/Ambivalent
    • Background
      • Mothers slow or inconsistent in responding to cries as infant
      • Mother may have emotional/psychological problems of her own
    • Characteristics
      • Infant
        • Alternate between wanting to be near caregiver and resisting contact
        • Problems directing attention to the environment
        • Anxiety and fear
      • Young Child
        • Clinging
        • Dependent
        • Demanding
        • Eager to please
        • Problems with adult/child boundaries
        • Resentful of limits set by caregiver
        • Excessive separation problems
        • Lack of confidence
      • Older Child
        • Easily feel rejected or betrayed
        • Display immature or regressive behaviors
        • Tries to engage caregiver through manipulation when the caregiver appears distant, but likely to sabotage relationship when the caregiver appears close emotionally

In 1988, Martha Welch classified four types of attachment, as follows:

  • Secure
    • Competent, appropriately self-reliant
    • Self-confident, good self-esteem
    • Resilient
    • Cheerful much of the time
    • Able to recognize and anticipate needs of others
    • Able to empathize with others
    • Humorous, playful
    • Appropriately distrustful of strangers
    • Able to use emotional, mental, and physical resources
    • Able to make appropriate commitments
    • Interacts with others
  • Resistant
    • Clingy, but sometimes rejecting
    • Stressed, tense
    • Impulsive
    • Passive, defeatist
    • Volatile temper tantrums, rages
    • Difficulty making commitments or following through
    • Difficulty in school
    • Irritable
    • Reactive
    • Engages in high risk activities
    • Co-dependent, and not fully self-reliant
  • Avoidant
    • Actively hostile
    • Bullying
    • Whiny
    • Needy, yet distant
    • Compulsively self-reliant
    • Unable to make or keep commitments
    • Isolated
    • Blames others for mistakes
    • Unable to show affection
    • Easily angered
    • Tends to be vengeful
    • Likely to abuse alcohol or drugs
    • Engages in high risk activities
  • Disorganized
    • Often crosses other three types
    • Depressed
    • Inhibited
    • Not easily comforted
    • Anxious
    • Clingy, to anyone
      • Vulnerable to stranger abuse
    • Unachieving, unmotivated

Other Useful Links regarding Attachment Issues

  • Attachment Issue Overview
  • What is Reactive Attachment Disorder?
    • Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a clinically recognized form of severe insecure attachment. Read more about Reactive Attachment Disorder.
  • Prognosis and Treatment of Attachment Issues.
 
     
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