In a nutshell, there are three primary attachment styles that are formed in childhood as a result of the quality of attunement, predictability, and nurturing we received growing up:
- Secure Attachment: Approximately 50% of the population, securely attached adults were raised in a consistent, reliable, and caring way. They learned early that the world is a safe and accessible place and others are viewed as dependable and supportive. They feel able to love and they feel loveable. They are compassionate and responsive to others. They are flexible thinkers and able to explore options and ask for advice. They are accepting of differences and trusting in love.
- Avoidant Adults (Dismissing Style): Approximately 25% of the population, these individuals have a dismissing state of mind with respect ot attachment. They often have vague and non-specific early childhood memories. They avoid intimacy and close affective involvements. These individuals experienced caregivers as unnurturing, dismissive and critical. Avoidant adults are uncomfortable with closeness and intimacy. They are emotionally distant and uncomfortable expressing needs or asking for help. Often they do not recall much of their childhood experiences. They can be cool, controlled, ambitious and successful. They avoid conflict and tend to be passive-aggressive and self absorbed. They don’t want to rely on anyone, fearing dependency or a perception of being weak, nor do they want to be relied upon by others.
- Ambivalent Adults (Preoccupied Style): Approximately 25% of the population, these individuals have a preoccupied state of mind when it comes to their relationships. They have over-detailed stories and continue to reexperience past hurts and rejections being played out in adult relationships. These adults had parents who alternated between warmth and availability and coldness and rejection for no apparent reason. Ambivalent adults can be bossy and controlling and do not like rules and authority. They are impatient, critical and argumentative. They often sabotage getting what they want. They also can also be creative, exciting, adventuresome, and charming.
- Disorganized Adults: This is a very small percentage of the population and these individuals have a disorganized state of mind with respect to attachment. As children they had histories of often severe trauma. Their parents were unresponsive, inconsistent, punitive and insensitive. They learned to view others as unavailable, threatening and rejecting. They are afraid of genuine closeness and see themselves as unworthy of love and support. Disorganized adults can show antisocial behaviors such as lack of empathy and remorse. They can be selfish, controlling, refuse personal responsibility for their actions, and disregard rules. They are much more vulnerable to a variety of emotional, social and moral problems. They are at high risk for alcohol and drug abuse, abusing their own children, criminality, extreme volatility in their relationships with others, as well as being at risk for self harm and/or suicidality.
Over the next several blog posts, we will look more deeply into how the first three attachment styles show up in their primary adult attachment relationships. We will not dive into disorganized attachment, as this attachment style bodes far more challenges in relationship and is outside the realm of a simple blog post.
Until next time, peace.