Attachment Theory stems from the seminal work of John Bowlby, who began publishing papers on the subject in 1958 and developed the ideas into a full-blown model in the trilogy of books Attachment and Loss, with Volume I: Attachment being published in 1969, Volume II: Separation: Anxiety & Anger in 1972, and finally Volume III: Loss: Sadness & Depression becoming available in 1980.
Infant Attachment Styles
There are 4 attachment styles:
- Secure Attachment
- Anxious-Resistant Insecure Attachment, also commonly called Ambivalent Attachment
- Anxious-Avoidant Insecure Attachment
- Disorganized/Disoriented Attachment
There are subcategories to each of these 4 styles; the following descriptions are just a summary. Secure infants will readily explore the surroundings, interact with the stranger, get upset when the mother departs but are happy she returns. Secure attachment develops when caregivers are readily available to the infants and are able to satisfy their needs in an optimal manner. In contrast, anxious-resistant infants tend not to interact with the stranger even when their mother is present; upon her departure they often appear distressed, yet when she comes back they want to approach her but express anger or helplessness instead. Anxious-resistant attachment results from parents that are unpredictable and respond inconsistently to the infant's needs. Perhaps worse, infants develop an anxious-avoidant insecure attachment when their attempts at closeness are rejected and, furthermore, their needs are repeatedly unattended to; as a result, the infants learn that communication is useless and begin to camouflage their distress by seeming aloof and unresponsive. Anxious-avoidant infants do not explore much, do not show anger when the mother leaves and either ignore her when she returns or simply turn away.
Disorganized/Disoriented attachment puzzled researchers at first, such that many subjects were improperly classified in the early experiments, until Mary Main added this fourth category once there was enough data to discern the pattern. Infants with a disorganized attachment style display tense and jerky movements that attempt to contain crying, movements that stop when they do cry. Overwhelmed by fear, these infants' behavior is inconsistent, contradictory, and often display clear signs of psychological dissociation; nonetheless, about half of these infants still approach their caregivers without resistance or avoidance. This disoriented attachment style may sometimes be the result of abuse, and in barely a majority of cases it stems from the mother having suffered trauma shortly before or after childbirth or having had a major loss (like the death of a parent) that they did not fully process, such that they became severely depressed.
Adult Relationship Attachment Styles
An individual's attachment style may change over the years depending on the quality of their experiences during development. Although romantic relationships do not share many traits with caregiver-infant relationships, not only do romantic links involve many of the core tenets of earlier attachments, but also traces of those first attachments do tend to carry over into adulthood, remaining constant in many cases.
The adult romantic attachment styles are:
Now that you have enough background information....
Test yourself! What is your Attachment Style?