Perhaps the greatest influence upon our ability to love and to be loved is our relationship with our parents. Researchers John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth researched the various attachment styles between children and their caregivers as well as the impact these styles have upon adult behaviors of the children. Bowlby and Ainsworth concluded that there are four kinds of attachment: Secure and three types of insecure attachment, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, and fearful-avoidant.
The Different Styles
One who is securely attached to their parent sees them as a sensitive and alert caregiver. This sense of safety is essential to a child’s exploration and interaction with the world beyond their parents as they enter school and the broader society. In contrast to secure attachment are the three types of insecure attachment. If we view secure attachment as a mean between excessive and insufficient attachment, the various insecure attachments fall closer to either of these extremes.
Some are preoccupied by the need to feel attached, approved, and respected in a relationship so much so that their anxiety concerning the potential loss of the relationship unduly influences their behavior. Others value independence to such a degree that they appear to avoid attachment all together. We call these people dismissive of attachment. Tragically others avoid attachment on account of fear brought on by trauma sustained at the hand of a significant attachment figure.
Attachment Style in Therapy
Ones attachment style is often revealed by a consideration of early interactions with your mother and father, reactions and changes in these interactions on account of ones siblings, friends, and relatives, as well as those changes consequent upon developmental goals of your school age, teenage, and early college years. As with Temperament, ones individual attachment style is a foundation upon which our patterns of behavior, our choices and habits, are built. As a therapist I help my clients to discern their Attachment Style and to build upon it the kinds of relationships that will make them happy.