What is your attachment style?

Updated: Oct 29

According to the psychoanalyst John Bowlby and psychologist Mary Ainsworth, our early childhood and particularly infancy influence our attachment style. That is, how your primary caregiver met your needs as a baby and toddler formed a pattern as to how you attach to others. This shows up most prominently later in life in romantic partnerships.


4 Attachment Styles

  1. Secure Attachment

  2. Anxious Attachment

  3. Avoidant Attachment

  4. Disorganized Attachment


People with each of these attachment styles differ in:

  • their view of intimacy and togetherness

  • the way they deal with conflict

  • their attitude toward sex

  • their ability to communicate their wishes and needs

  • their expectations from their partner and the relationship



1.) Secure Attachment

Babies:

This is the healthiest form of attachment. Babies with a secure attachment will become distressed when their parent leaves but seek comfort and are easily calmed upon the parent's return.


Children:

In childhood, they will see others as supportive and trustworthy and see themselves as worthy of respect.


Adults:

In adulthood, they tend to be satisfied in their relationships and not feel the need to always be with their romantic partner. They tend to have deeply connected relationships that foster honesty, support, and independence. Securely attached individuals comprise 50% of the population but a small portion of the dating pool since they tend to partner up easily and stay in their relationships.


Traits of a securely attached adult:

  • Reliable and consistent.

  • Makes decisions with their partner.

  • Flexible view of relationships.

  • Communicates relationship issues well.

  • Can reach compromise during arguments.

  • Not afraid of commitment or dependency.

  • Doesn't view relationships as hard work.

  • Closeness creates further closeness.

  • Introduces friends and family early on.

  • Naturally expresses feelings for their partner.

  • Doesn't play games.


The Securely Attached Perspective

"I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don't often worry about being abandoned or about someone getting to close to me."


For the securely attached, you enjoy being intimate without being overly concerned about your relationships.


2.) Anxious Attachment (aka Preoccupied)


Babies:

Babies with anxious attachment tended to be highly distressed upon their parent leaving and sought comfort upon their return but attempted to "punish" the parent.


Children:

Children with anxious attachments tend to stick close to their parents and lack self-confidence. They may have large and exaggerated emotional reactions and distance themselves from peers, leading to social isolation.


Children with anxious attachment styles seem less adept at reading social cues and modifying their behaviors. When their attempts to connect irritate other children, they often persist with the same irritating behaviors rather than modify them. They also tend to express more jealousy when their friends want to spend time with other friends.


Adults:

Into adulthood, they tend to feel their partner must "complete" them. They tend to be clingy, demanding, and jealous. Their behavior tends to push partners away.


Traits of an anxiously attached adult:

  • Wants a lot of closeness in the relationship.

  • Expresses insecurities and worries about rejection.

  • Unhappy when not in a relationship.

  • Plays games to keep your attention/interest.

  • Has difficulty explaining what's bothering him/her. Expects partner to guess.

  • Act out.

  • Has a hard time not making things about him/herself in the relationship.

  • Lets you see the tone of the relationship.

  • Is preoccupied with the relationship.

  • Fears that small acts will ruin the relationship; believes s/he must work hard to keep partner interests.

  • Suspicious that partner may be unfaithful.

  • Unrealistic expectations of friends, family, and romantic partners.


Relationships tend to take up a lot of emotional energy for the anxiously attached.


3.) Avoidant Attachment (aka Dismissive or Anxious-Avoidant)


Babies:

Babies with avoidant attachment showed minimal to no stress when the parent left and ignored the parent upon return.


Children:

Children with avoidant attachments have the most difficulty building friendships. They tend to exhibit antisocial behavior, lying, and bullying. They tend not to handle stressful situations well and will distance themselves from others to minimize emotional distress. This inhibits satisfying relationships.


Adults:

In adulthood, they tend to value their independence and keep their distance from others. When confronted with an argument with a significant other, they tend to "shut down."


Traits of avoidantly attached adult:

  • Sends mixed signals.

  • Values his/her independence greatly.

  • Devalues partner.

  • Uses distancing strategies, both emotional and physical.

  • Emphasizes boundaries in the relationship.

  • Has an unrealistically romantic view of how a relationship should be.

  • Mistrustful and fears being taken advantage of by partner.

  • Has rigid view of relationships and uncompromising rules. During a disagreement, needs to get away or "explodes".

  • Doesn't make his/her intentions clear.

  • Has difficulty talking about what's going on between you.

  • Unrealistic expectations of friends, family, and romantic partners.

Keeping partners at an arm's length and being on high alert for another trying to "control" you is common for those with an avoidant attachment style.

4.) Disorganized Attachment

This type of attachment was not studied in babies as this attachment style was identified later. Children tend to see others as sources of distress and respond by sometimes isolating themselves and sometimes acting out aggressively. Adults tend to try to avoid their feelings because they get overwhelmed by them. They tend to exhibit mood swings and fear getting hurt by their romantic partner. They are both drawn to and fearful of getting close to a romantic partner. This makes it challenging to develop meaningful connections.


People with a disorganized attachment style display both avoidant and anxiously attached characteristics.

Want to find out your attachment style? Take this short quiz.


If you feel comfortable, please share your quiz results below!


Cheers!


Erika Baum

Relationship Coach

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