Sonya Thomas lcsw

Attachment 101 – Part 2

Attachment patterns and bonds are formed between infants/children and their primary caregiver(s).  Here are the 4 types of attachment bonds that develop, with a brief description of how each is formed:

Secure AttachmentIdeally, from the time infants are six months to two years of age, they form an emotional attachment to a primary adult who is attuned, sensitive and responsive in interactions with their child. It is vital that this attachment figure remain a consistent caregiver throughout this period in a child’s life. When the attunement in ruptured, it is quickly noticed and repaired by the adult, allowing the child to come to trust the predictability and safety of the parent.  During the second year of life, children begin to use the adult as a secure base from which to explore the world and become more independent. A child in this type of relationship is securely attached.

Insecure Avoidant AttachmentThere are adults who are emotionally unavailable and, as a result, they are insensitive to and unaware of the needs of their children. They have little or no response when a child is hurting or distressed. These parents discourage crying and encourage independence. Often their children quickly develop into “little adults” who take care of themselves. These children pull away from needing anything from anyone else and are self-contained. They have formed an avoidant attachment with a misattuned parent.

Insecure Ambivalent/Anxious Attachment:  Some adults are inconsistently attuned to their children. At times their responses are appropriate and nurturing but at other times they are intrusive and insensitive. Children with this kind of parenting are confused and insecure, not knowing what type of treatment to expect. They often feel suspicious and distrustful of their parent but at the same time they act clingy and desperate. These children have an ambivalent/anxious attachment with their unpredictable parent.

Insecure Disorganized Attachment:  When a parent or caregiver is abusive or frightening to a child, the child experiences the physical and emotional cruelty and frightening behavior as being life-threatening. This child is caught in a terrible dilemma; her survival instincts are telling her to flee to safety but safety is the very person who is terrifying her.  The attachment figure is the source of the child’s distress. In these situations, children typically disassociate from their selves. They detach from what is happening to them and what they are experiencing is blocked from their consciousness. Children in this conflicted state have disorganized attachment with their fearful parental figures.

The research tells us that about 50% of all adults are securely attached.  The remainder fall into one of the three other styles of insecure attachment.  In our next post, we will look at how these attachment bonds get replicated and re-enacted in adult primary relationships.  Stay tuned.  Until then, peace.


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