Attachment styles are characterized by different ways of communicating and behaving with those around us. Attachment is a demonstration of our emotions during an exchange of aid, nurturement, protection, and contentment. During adolescence, these attachment styles are formed when children and caregivers communicate. John Bowlby (1907-1990), a British psychologist and psychoanalyst, committed an extensive amount of research about attachment, describing it as a, "lasting psychological connectedness between human beings." Bowlby adhered to the psychoanalytic view that our experiences in childhood are substantial in conditioning our development in our lives. His studies centered on the emotions of infants who had been separated from their parents. He believed that there are four distinctive components of attachment: proximity maintenance, safe haven, secure base, and separation distress.
Bowlby conveys that in adolescence, children who are raised certain that their caregiver is assessible to them are less likely to experience anxiety. He believed that this certainty is formed during critical period of developments such as: infancy, childhood, and adolescence. The expectations and anticipation stem from that time in our lives and tend to persist comparatively consistent for the rest of our lives. Further, he suggests that expectations are directly fixed to our individual experiences. During our early childhood, we develop an expectation that our caregiver is going to be accessible and responsive to our needs. It is important that I note that although we develop attachment styles during our childhood, our attachment style in adulthood may look a lot different. Due to the time lapse, our experiences growing up are fundamental in what our adult attachment style is.
Attachment theory conceptually links to human development and theories regarding emotion regulation and personality. During the mid-1980's, researchers Hazan and Shaver (1987), took Bowlby's idea of attachment and applied it to romantic relationships. They believe that our adult relatonships may partially reflect our experiences with our caregivers. Today there are four distinctive types of attachment (Bartholomew and Horowitz 1991): secure, anxious, avoidant, and fearful-avoidant.
A secure attachment refers to the ability to form secure relationships with others. People with this attachment type feel as though they can trust others, give love and receive love, and feels close to others. Other examples may include, not feeling overwhelmed or panicked when a partner needs time and space to themselves. As well as, having boundaries in relation to dependency.
An anxious attachment is one that is insecure and rooted in fear of abandonment and rejection. Anxious attachment may look like consistent anxiety about their partner ending the relationship or feeling as though you will love others more than they will ever care for you. This attachment style often feels as though they need reassurance.
Meanwhile, an avoidant attachment is a form of insecure attachment characterized by difficulty trusting and being close to those around you. This attachment's fear of closeness tends to overpower their need and desire for closeness. They may want a romantic partner but their avoidance leads them to feel reluctant and in relationships, keep their partner arm's length away.
Finally, a fearful-avoidant attachment style (also known as disorganized), is an insecure attachment associated with risk and unresolved emotions. Fearful-avoidants deeply struggle with trauma from their past that has not been worked through. Emotional closeness in a romantic relationship feels triggering and may lead them to dissociate or feel intolerant. Some research suggests that they may find themselves reoccurring in dysfunctional relationships and repeating patterns.
There is some evidence that attachment styles are passed through generations. People learn how to treat their children after witnessing how they parented them and beyond. We in turn, have an opportunity to teach future generations. Our attachment histories are important and can help us determine how we relate to ourselves, others, and the world around us. Shamelessly, I quote from one of my favorite books during my teenage years, Stephen Chbosky's Perks of Being A Wallflower, "But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there."