Question: What is my attachment style?
Some are better at it than others: intimacy, trust and dependence. Why is that?
Although everyone needs emotional connections, not everyone has the same expectations of what you could expect from your loved ones.
The attachment style that you learned as a child, has a great influence on your relationships throughout the rest of your life , according to John Bowlby the founder of the attachment theory.
How you feel and behave in a relationship therefore depends on your attachment style: an important building block of your personality (or character).
There are four attachment styles:
Approximately sixty percent of people have a secure attachment style; approximately forty percent learned to attach themselves to others to a lesser extent. In which description do you recognise yourself the most?
1. Secure (+/- 60%)
– Finds it easy to form a close bond with others.
– Can cope well with other people’s emotions.
– Trusts others and likes it when others can count on them.
– Doesn’t worry too much about whether others like me, are there for me or will stick by me.
2. Avoidant (+/- 15%)
– Feels comfortable without close ties with others.
– Prefers that others are independent of them and vice versa.
– Doesn’t worry about being alone.
– Have short-term and superficial contacts.
3. Ambivalent (also called resistant) (+/- 15%)
– Often wonder if others like them.
– Have the feeling that they like others more than they like them.
– Being abandoned or being alone frightens them.
4. Anxious (also called disorganized) (+/- 10%)
– I would like to be close to others, but find it difficult to trust others completely.
– For fear of being hurt they avoid relationships.
Attachment style = ( self-) confidence + emotional expression + intimacy
Were you securely attached in childhood? Lucky you! You have the greatest chance to be happy in relationships and to have a positive outlook on others and yourself (you find yourself worth loving).
Are you avoidingly attached? Then it means that you probably have enough self-confidence, but you have your doubts about others.
Because of this you score low on emotional expression and intimacy in romantic relationships, friendships etc. In other words: sharing personal information, thoughts and feelings, and reacting openly, sensitively and non-rejectively to others, is not your strongest side.
Ambivalently attached types, on the other hand, have low self-confidence, score high on emotional expression and are most emotionally dependent on others; they always strive for acceptance by people whose judgment they find important.
Anxiously attached people have both little self-confidence and little intimacy; the latter for fear of being hurt.
What do others notice about you?
Within a partner relationship, for example, your attachment style has consequences for the extent to which you seek and give support. Those with an avoidant or anxious bonding style do so the least because of their negative view of others.
However, there are also clear differences in other types of relationships. For example, ambivalent attachment types are the quickest to be vulnerable in contacts with others; and people with an anxious or ambivalent attachment style find it most difficult to discuss relationship problems.
Where do you get your attachment style?
It is by far the most likely that you learned your attachment style in early childhood because of the way your parents or caregivers treated you.
Your attachment style remains fairly stable for the rest of your life, but can sometimes change as a result of other relationship experiences, for example at school or with romantic partners.
Parents often pass on attachment patterns to their children, unless they are aware of their (unsafe) attachment style and make an effort to break it.
Attachment style per way of upbringing:
Secure: A child who is securely attached seeks the closeness of his or her parents or caregivers, this child feels free to explore and learn new things and is confident that his or her parents or caregivers are readily available. Parents or caregivers recognise their child’s needs and respond to them consistently.
Avoidant: A child who is avoidantly attached has no confidence in the availability of his parents or caregivers. They ignore their child’s needs and, when stressed, do not call for attention for fear of rejection.
This style of attachment can arise if a child is often rejected or neglected or has many different upbringers.
Ambivalent (repellent): A child who is ambivalently attached is uncertain about the availability of his parents or caregivers.
This form of bonding can occur if the child does not receive his or her attention at the right time or not to the right extent. Ambivalent bonding can also occur if the parents or caregivers are very unpredictable and react differently to their child’s needs.
For example, they are there for the child in an overly exaggerated manner when it’s not necessary, but they are not there in ’emergency situations’.
Anxious (disorganized): A child that is in a disorganized state of attachment shows contradictory behaviour: chaotic, anxious, unusual. For the child, the parent is a source of fear, but at the same time the protector. This form of attachment can be caused by neglect, mistreatment, abuse and/or threats.
As a child, were you really afraid of being abandoned? Or perhaps you didn’t care that much about others? That does not always reflect on your parents or caregivers’ upbringing! You may simply have been born with a little less attachment talent. For instance, this is the case for some people born with autism.
Attachment problems and psychological problems:
In addition to your self-confidence and relationships, attachment styles are also linked to psychological problems.
For example, children of parents with psychological problems or an addiction; and children who went through a lot of divorces or grew up in a children’s home, are relatively often not securely attached. For this reason, attachment problems are relatively common in adoptive and foster children.
Although quite few people have attachment problems, very few (around 1%) actually have an attachment disorder. This psychological disorder, which is described in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , involves very drastic and comprehensive attachment problems.
Unsecure attachment, and especially the anxious attachment style, is a risk factor for many other psychological disorders, such as anxiety, mood and behavioural disorders. If there are additional risk factors, such as experiencing trauma, the chance of psychological problems increases significantly.