Attachment Styles

Hey Soul Fam!

This week during Thankful Thursday we discussed Attachment Styles. Why is this so important to know? Well because our attachment style is how we develop our sense of self. This sense of self when translated into our adult lives is responsible for how we will attach and love others in both platonic and romantic relationships. Attachment styles are solidified usually during the first year of our lives, but for some not up until the third year in cases of neglect or abandonment. Either way, within the first five years of our lives we form our sense of self and this is determined solely by the connection that we have with our parents- primarily our mother. While original studies focused primarily on the role of the mother within this dynamic, newer studies have brought the role of the father to the forefront as well.

To understand the psychology behind attachment styles, check out this article:

While this article is a great one, it’s wrong in its crediting of psychologist as the first psychologists to coin Attachment Theory was Bowlby and Ainsworth. They first discovered these attachment styles in children and many subsequent experiments were based upon their original model, especially when they began testing adults. Everything that we know about attachment styles within adults can be traced back to Bowlby and Ainsworth original experiments.

See Bowlby believed that newborn infants being completely helpless, were genetically predisposed to form an attachment with their mothers in order to ensure survival. Any conditions that threatened to separate the mother and child would activate instinctive attachment behaviors and feelings of insecurity and fear. These ideas formed his theory which tried to explain the lifelong significance of the mother-infant bond as well as the psychological difficulties the child would suffer if the bond be damaged or completely broken.

He believed that the bond was so deeply formative that if it fails to take place or breaks down within the first few years of life, the child will go on to suffer negative consequences later on in life. He also argued that there was a critical period during which this attachment should be formed, during the first year of life, but at the very latest before the child’s second birthday. Bowlby thought that any attempts at mothering beyond the age of three would be useless, as the child would already be on course to suffer from the effects of maternal deprivation. The studies conducted on Maternal Deprivation were especially interesting as it was found that children who had no formed more secure attachment to a maternal figure seemed to be rougher in play, showed less initiative, more overexcitement, and were less competitive than their counterparts with more traditional upbringing. In some extreme cases, it was also found that maternal deprivation could lead to “affectionless psychopathy”, a clinical condition where people are unable to care deeply for others and so don’t form meaningful interpersonal relationships. Those who suffer from this display a higher incidence of juvenile delinquency and antisocial behavior without any sign of remorse. These types of people are unable to experience feelings of guilt. In a study of juvenile thieves, it was found that many had been separated from their mothers for 6 or more months before they were 5 years old.

Now, the reason why this primary secure attachment is so important according to Bowlby is because it is essential for the development of an inner working model. This is the model of framework that the child will then use to understand themselves, others, and the world. It is this model that guides a person’s thoughts, feelings, and expectations in all of their personal relationships. Since this primary attachment style serves as the prototype for all future relationships, the quality of the attachment will determine whether or not a child grows to trust others, view themselves as valuable, and feel confident in society. Like many aspects of our personality and character formed during childhood, this working model is also resistant to change once it has been formed. They tend to determine how a person will behave and even the kind of bond the will form with their own children- which is usually reflective of their own attachment style. This is probably the most important reason why this must be corrected if you do have an unsecure attachment style, because you will be doomed to raise your children in the same way and continue the cycle unless you change. It starts with YOU.

Later studies though have incorporated other attachment figures, and it has been found that children attach to their father, as well as other adults. Bowlby believed that the father had no direct emotional significance on the infant, only contributing indirectly by supporting the mother emotionally and financially. Yet, other psychologist have argued these theories by incorporating multiple cultures where fathers were far more involved in childcare. Increasing numbers of fathers are taking on the role of principal parent, which suggest that parenting roles are a consequence of social convention and NOT biology. Women are NOT genetically or biologically predisposed to be better parents.

Bowlby’s views implied that men will inevitably be the inferior parent, but other studies, mainly from Schaffer and Parke, suggest that men are equally capable of providing warmth and sensitivity to their infants. They also found that a child’s developmental outcome is not determined by a parents gender, rather the strength and quality bond that gets formed. Other studies found that infants and children display a wide range of attachment behaviors towards many people besides their mothers, and that multiple attachments are more common than previously believed. This goes back to that old saying that “it takes a village to raise a child”. It was found in many cultures that this was true and child rearing was more a community activity than a task or duty that fell squarely on the shoulders of one person.

Regardless to many criticisms and revisions to Bowlby’s work, it remains the most influential and comprehensive account of attachment styles up to date. Psychologists have used this basic premise to delve more deeply into childhood attachment patterns, and to develop theories of adult attachment by exploring how the bond between the parent and child can influence the future bond between spouses and romantic partners. His theories have also been beneficial when it comes to aspects of child rearing and has led to many more studies exploring this.

One of those studies in particular was conducted by Harry Harlow and was all about these baby monkey’s which served to show the importance of contact comfort. Many psychologist before him had believed that attachment was formed with a caregiver simply because that person was feeding them. They believed that an infant often preferred the person who fed then and fulfilled their basic need for food. Harlow was determined to prove them all fucking wrong. So he gets these monkey’s and takes them from their mothers and puts them in these cages with “surrogate” mothers. There were 2 surrogate mothers in this experiment- one made of wires but rigged with a feeding bottle, the other had no bottle but was made of terry cloth. It was found that the infants spent most of their time with their terry cloth mother, although it did not have the capability of feeding it and used it as a secure base often clinging to it for comfort when frightening objects were placed in the cage. In later test, the cloth mother was able to rock and provide food which showed their attachment become even stronger then. Harlow went on to suggest that breastfeeding’s main function might be to ensure this close body contact with the mother. THIS study was groundbreaking in so many ways and is the reason why today breastfeeding and body contact with an infant is viewed as importantly. It changed the way parenting was approached in the western world. To learn more about this experiment, check out this article:

Now, let us commence onto these attachment styles and learning what they are. What are the attachment styles?

Secure Attachment – Securely attached adults tend to be more satisfied in their relationships. Children with a secure attachment see their parent as a secure base from which they can venture out and independently to explore the world. A secure adult has a similar relationship with their romantic partner, feeling secure and connected, while allowing themselves and their partner to move freely. Secure adults offer support when their partner feels distressed. They also go to their partner for comfort when they themselves feel troubled. Their relationship tends to be honest, open and equal, with both people feeling independent, yet loving toward each other. Securely attached couples don’t tend to engage in what my father, Fantasy Bonds, an illusion of connection that provides a false sense of safety. In a fantasy bond, a couple foregoes real acts of love for a more routine, emotionally cut-off form of relating.

Anxious Preoccupied Attachment – Unlike securely attached couples, people with an anxious attachment tend to be desperate to form a fantasy bond. Instead of feeling real love or trust toward their partner, they often feel emotional hunger. They’re frequently looking to their partner to rescue or complete them. Although they’re seeking a sense of safety and security by clinging to their partner, they take actions that push their partner away. Even though anxiously attached individuals act desperate or insecure, more often than not, their behavior exacerbates their own fears. When they feel unsure of their partner’s feelings and unsafe in their relationship, they often become clingy, demanding or possessive toward their partner. They may also interpret independent actions by their partner as affirmation of their fears. For example, if their partner starts socializing more with friends, they may think, “See? He doesn’t really love me. This means he is going to leave me. I was right not to trust him.”

Dismissive Avoidant Attachment – People with a dismissive avoidant attachment have the tendency to emotionally distance themselves from their partner. They may seek isolation and feel “pseudo-independent,” taking on the role of parenting themselves. They often come off as focused on themselves and may be overly attending to their creature comforts. Pseudo-independence is an illusion, as every human being needs connection. Nevertheless, people with a dismissive avoidant attachment tend to lead more inward lives, both denying the importance of loved ones and detaching easily from them. They are often psychologically defended and have the ability to shut down emotionally. Even in heated or emotional situations, they are able to turn off their feelings and not react. For example, if their partner is distressed and threatens to leave them, they would respond by saying, “I don’t care.”


Fearful Avoidant Attachment – A person with a fearful avoidant attachment lives in an ambivalent state of being afraid of being both too close to or too distant from others.  They attempt to keep their feelings at bay but are unable to; they can’t just avoid their anxiety or run away from their feelings. Instead, they are overwhelmed by their reactions and often experience emotional storms. They tend to be mixed up or unpredictable in their moods. They see their relationships from the working model that you need to go towards others to get your needs met, but if you get close to others, they will hurt you. In other words, the person they want to go to for safety is the same person they are frightened to be close to. As a result, they have no organized strategy for getting their needs met by others. As adults, these individuals tend to find themselves in rocky or dramatic relationships, with many highs and lows. They often have fears of being abandoned but also struggle with being intimate. They may cling to their partner when they feel rejected, then feel trapped when they are close. Oftentimes, the timing seems to be off between them and their partner. A person with fearful avoidant attachment may even wind up in an abusive relationship.

Attachment styles are important to uncover when you are doing your inner child healing, because it determines how you view yourself and others. It determines how you value yourself, if you can trust yourself and others, how you form bonds, and how you love. The upside to this is that it’s never too late to develop a secure attachment. The attachment style you developed as a child based on your relationship with a parent or early caretaker does NOT have to define your ways of relating to those you love in your adult life. If you come to know your attachment style, you can uncover ways you are defending yourself from getting close and being emotionally connected and work toward forming an “earned secure attachment.” To find out what your attachment style is, check out this site. It has a quiz that you can take, and the entire site is dedicated to attachment styles and educating the masses as to what they are:

You can also check out this article from the site that has videos explaining attachment styles: 

I hope these tips help you out Soul Fam, until next week! Sending mucho luz + amor always.


Luna Estrellas

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