Childhood Attachment Explains Adulthood

Posted on November 10, 2018

Attachment theory has been increasingly linked to a myriad of disruptions to personal and interpersonal functioning, as well as mental health diagnoses. It was founded by psychiatrist John Bowlby in the 60s and continue to be a very relevant piece of the puzzle in figuring out the root causes of certain personality and mental health problems.

Attachment theory explains how we are socialized to regulate our emotions and interpersonal threats to our self-esteem. Existing research findings spanning 50 years have shown that attachment styles are a reliable predictor of children’s behavior, and even more research back the claim that behavioural effects of attachment styles can last well into adulthood.

There are 4 main attachment styles – secure, anxious, avoidant and disorganized. Securely attached children tend to grow up with carers that are responsive and sensitive to their child’s needs. If carers are sensitive to their child’s needs but appear distracted and not fully present when attending to their child, they risk creating an anxious avoidant attachment. In contrast, children whose carer ignore or withdraw from them when they display signs of distress and comfort-seeking tend to grow into individuals with an avoidant attachment styles. Lastly, carers who abuse their child through neglect or harm create a disorganised attachment style.

Attachment styles function as a foundation that guide our behaviours in social interactions and the formation and maintenance of relationships. During childhood, it acts as a model by which we can attain comfort and protection from our carers when we feel upset or threatened. This model is deeply ingrained in our brains as to how we should go about navigating our social interactions and relationships with other individuals in our life.

Individuals who are securely attached to their primary caregiver feel valued by others which partly account for why they are able to feel like they can rely on others and regulate their emotions effectively. On the other hand, individuals with a disorganized attachment may not feel the same validation from others and hence, are unable to regulate their emotions as well and resort to manipulative behaviours to garner comfort from others.

As mentioned earlier, these models of attachment are formed during childhood and act as the foundation on which we build later relationships in adolescence and even adulthood. But because the environment that we live in as adults are so different from our childhood, our attachment style may not give us the right behavioural response in reaction to certain events. For example, individuals with an anxious attachment style may constantly ruminate and present personal problems to their friends, who may in turn feel overwhelmed by the constant barrage of problems and eventually stay away.

Knowing your attachment style may thus allow you with the information and knowledge to make appropriate and constructive changes in the way you interact with your friends, or how you respond to certain events. Understanding and recognizing the potential cognitive pitfalls in how you address problems may be the much-needed first step to an active solution.


Category(s):Adjusting to Change / Life Transitions, Adult psychological development, Child Development

Source material from Medical Xpress


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