introduction to attachment styles The concept of attachment has become increasingly prevalent in psychology and other interdisciplinary fields. The basic assumption is that infants and children form a unique bond with their primary caregiver that effects how they will interact with the world. When infants form an attachment with a caregiver that is warm, consistent and responsive, their attachment is safe and secure.

John Bowlby is considered the father of attachment theory and his colleague Mary Ainsworth also contributed significant observations that have served as the foundation of this theory. Ainsworth created an experiment called the strange situation where she placed an infant and a mother in a room with a stranger, observed their interactions and how the child reacted when the mother left the room and returned. She discovered that children who had a secure attachment to their mother would use her as a safe base to explore the space and would be alright if she left for a moment and then returned.

Through extensive research and observation Ainsworth discovered that children develop four types of attachment with their primary caregiver. These attachment patterns have been labelled secure, avoidant, ambivalent/resistant and disorganized. As attachment research has grown and evolved, other professionals such as Kim Barthomew have discovered that these four attachment styles stay fairly consistent throughout adolescence into adulthood. Hazan and Shaver released a ground breaking article suggesting that we attach to our romantic partner with the same attachment pattern that we developed as an infant. This theory has since been subjected to various studies and has given birth to a new field of marriage therapy called emotion focused therapy developed by Sue Johnson and Leslie Greenberg. It is predominant in the field of marriage and family therapy and really emphasises the creation of a secure bond between partners.

You may be wondering what all of this information has to do with you and why I am telling you all of this. Well, understanding your attachment style and how it effects your interactions with your partner is an important piece to self-awareness and a healthy relationship. It allows you to see how you behave and respond to someone that you are attached to, which can be crucial when dealing with conflict in a relationship. Adult attachment styles have been well researched and are widely accepted. The diagram below illustrates the most predominate description of attachment styles.

How we view ourselves and our thoughts towards others effect how we attach. For example someone who has a positive view of themselves and a positive view of others is comfortable with intimacy and attaches securely. On the other hand someone who has a positive view of themselves and a negative view of others is often dismissive of intimacy and is very independent.

Over the next four articles we will discuss each attachment style in depth so that you can understand how each style behaves. Understanding your attachment style is knowledge that will help you to understand your reactions and interaction in romantic relationships and other interpersonal relationships. Understanding all of the attachment styles will allow you to also understand your partner and those around you better. The last article will also include a brief self-inventory so that you can discover your attachment style and be able to research it further. It is most often the case that you won’t even need to take an inventory, you will most likely be able to relate to your attachment style when it is described. Also worth noting is that everyone can relate to certain aspects of each attachment style at times. This is normal, but there is one that we operate out of the most which is our default attachment style.

This was meant to be a brief introduction into adult attachment styles. Next week’s article will be a more in-depth look at preoccupied attachment style. 

This article was originally written for and posted on Liveabundantly.ca