John Bowlby Did you ever ask yourself, if your childhood played or still plays a role in how you deal with relationships today? Well, John Bowlby was a British psychiatrist that has dealt a lot with this subject. In Bowlby’s attachment theory, he says that every individual is affected by attachment styles. There are 4 different types of attachment styles: secure attachment, ambivalent attachment, avoidant attachment, and disordered attachment. The type of attachment one is affected by depends very much on our childhood and development. A question that often arises is what influence do the different attachment styles have on relationships in adulthood and are attachment styles changeable? The answer in both cases is yes. However, it is important to emphasize that the attachment styles adopted as a child are not necessarily the same as those used in romantic relationships. Not only does a person’s childhood have an influence on attachment styles, but also the positive and negative experiences gained throughout life. In other words, an individual’s environment, social contacts, and financial situation also play a major role. There is even the possibility that in a relationship, the two individuals have different attachment styles.
Briefly, what exactly are the different attachment styles? The secure attachment is the most stable attachment style of all and is usually described as a very good bond between parents and their children so that the children develop well. The ambivalent attachment style is defined in such a way that there is a certain distance between the parent-child bond. In other words, these children show distress when the parents are absent, but there is no calming of behavior when the parents return. There is the avoidant attachment style where there is a kind of avoidance between child and parent. Here it is described that the relationship between child and parents suffers from the constant “rebuff” of the child towards the parents. This “rebuff” can show itself as direct rejection or simply as disinterest on the part of the child to establish contact with the parents. Finally, there is the disorganized attachment style, which is a mixture of avoidance and resistance. Children who adopt this attachment style seem more uncomfortable and upset when the parent or caregiver is present.
Here we have seen the consequences of each attachment style in childhood, but what do these attachment styles look like in adulthood? The secure attachment style manifests itself in adulthood with high self-esteem, trust in others, long-term relationships, and good communication or the need for social contacts. The ambivalent attachment style is characterized in adults in such a way that the person concerned tends to withdraw from others, they are constantly worried about the feelings of others towards them and suffer very much when a relationship ends. The consequences of an avoidant attachment style in adults can be seen in intimacy problems, very low investment in relationships (social or romantic), and an inability (intentionally or not) to open up and share one’s emotions with others. In the last attachment style, i.e. the disorganized attachment style, it can be clearly seen that the persons concerned often show an unpredictable behavior in social contacts and have difficulties in perceiving and interpreting their surroundings correctly.
What can you do if you find that you belong to one of the 3 “unstable” attachment styles? Well firstly realizing and identifying to which attachment style you belong is a very important and a good first step! The most effective way to “cure” your attachment style is to seek professional help. Another way of trying to change your attachment style is to notice when our behavior is “not appropriate” and then to think about how we could act instead. In other words to change our habitual behavior in some situations.
If you want to know more about attachment styles and about how to change them here is a podcast from Camilla Rees, a family life counselor, that deals with healthy relationships (https://open.spotify.com/show/7Kh1FjKo958YiuTxCGwERM?si=CRZdsLMXTsOrNFFV6LJnQA&dl_branch=1). You will also find a video just above/ underneath that deals with the attachment styles (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2s9ACDMcpjA&t=23s) .
Thank you for reading!
Melissa (trainee & Bachelor student in Psychology)
(NB : the autor of this article and owner of the site does not take risposnibility for linked contecnt)
Attachment Styles and Their Role in Adult Relationships. (2020, July 2). Attachment Project. https://www.attachmentproject.com/blog/four-attachment-styles/
Cherry, K. (2020, June 4). What You Should Know About Attachment Styles. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/attachment-styles-2795344#:~:text=Our%20early%20attachment%20styles%20are
https://www.facebook.com/verywell, & Feuerman, M. (2020, March 2). Coping With an Insecure Attachment Style. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/marriage-insecure-attachment-style-2303303
Machowska, J. (2018, September 20). What Is Your Attachment Style? Www.youtube.com. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2s9ACDMcpjA&t=23s
Rees, C. (2020, November). The Love Brain. Spotify. https://open.spotify.com/show/7Kh1FjKo958YiuTxCGwERM?si=CRZdsLMXTsOrNFFV6LJnQA&dl_branch=1
Vogel, L. (2019, April 1). How our Own Attachment Style Impacts our Relationships. Momentous Institute. https://momentousinstitute.org/blog/how-our-own-attachment-style-impacts-our-relationships