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TW: mentions of strained parental relationships and abuse

Relationships—whether some are bold enough to admit it or not—require work. From friendships to relationships with a significant other, some can agree that it’s an unspoken blessing to keep a healthy relationship nowadays, especially with social apps that make it easier to create a disguise behind the screen. That said, once you find a match, it’ll feel so natural and have you singing Etta James’s “At Last” to your significant other with no shame.

However, how you give and receive love is greatly influenced by one or two significant individuals in your life: your parents. In fact, it is a proven fact that our first experience with the emotion of love is with our parents, and our early years set the standard for how we give and receive in relationships and what we want from them for the rest of our lives, as stated by Rebecca Bergen, Ph.D.

It’s no secret that how love is shown between parents is influential on the child. It makes sense because when growing up, our parents are our significant role models for everything. When you’re young, you don’t think to yourself that what your parents are doing could potentially be wrong—even though it might be.

For instance, if your parents were not very affectionate and hardly ever hugged or kissed you, you may have an aversion to affection as an adult. This behavior sticks with you as you grow up and eventually plays a huge role in your attachment style. Research during the 1960s and 1970s by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth assisted in our understanding of attachment theory. Since their work, many psychological researchers have examined the different ways secure and various forms of insecure attachments with our parents affect our attachment styles as adults.

Expert Scott Caroll, M.D., tells Bustle that every relationship a person has, beginning at birth, is rooted in the attachment style learned from his or her parents. "There are four attachment styles: secure, insecure-ambivalent, insecure-avoidant, and disorganized. A baby's attachment system [will become hard-wired] with the same attachment style as the mother about 80 percent of the time; the other 20 percent seems to be genetically-driven in terms of temperament," Carroll says. "Expressive, affectionate and attentive parents tend to raise healthy children who are comfortable expressing themselves all five ways [of attachment]. This type of attachment is called a secure attachment," Carroll continues.

On the flip side of things, if we had an insecure attachment develop with our parents, we may have a fragmented sense of self. This may lead to low self-esteem, anxiety in relationships, doubt that we can trust others, and sometimes being more prone to seek out relationships that mimic this same attachment—not because it feels good but because it is familiar to us.

Parents who are emotionally-dramatic will tend to raise children who are attention-seeking within their relationship and will most likely do whatever it takes to get someone’s attention, regardless if it’s unhealthy. Known as an insecure-ambivalent attachment style, this will result in adults becoming high-maintenance within their relationships since they yearn for the attention that they wanted from their parents.

When it comes to emotionally-reserved parents, it’s common for them to teach their children to not express their needs or their desires for affection, attention, and closeness with the parent, even if they really want to. This type of attachment is called an insecure-avoidant style, and such people grow up to be stoic and unexpressive in their relationships. These people can express their love in non-verbal ways with gifts and physical touch and sometimes quality attention, but it's their communication that is lacking the most.

If adults grew up in a severely abusive or neglectful household, it will most likely result in the disorganized attachment style. It's not uncommon for the behaviors learned in abusive homes to carry into adulthood, serving as reminders of what is "normal," or even a subconscious or conscious response to actively avoid becoming vulnerable to any and all emotional connection. People with this style tend to be manipulative in relationships and often don't see people as human beings, only as objects that can be used to meet their needs.

All in all, these attachment styles aren’t meant to strictly label us; we as young adults can find ways to break unhealthy attachment styles and toxic generational cycles as time goes on. Most psychologists agree that any personal change begins with self-awareness. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself questions regarding your “bad habits” and whether you want to carry them into a relationship. Reflect on your childhood and recall the interactions that you had with your parents—is it something ideal that you’d want to bring to the table?

Remember: if these habits are too difficult to break on your own, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. A trained therapist can help you identify these patterns and explore the roadblocks to implementing new, positive ones.

Jasmine Cubillan is a fourth-year at the University of Florida and is currently studying public relations with a minor in event management and dance. Her articles cover topics from women empowerment to local businesses to support. When she isn't writing articles for Her Campus UFL, she practices yoga or explores new places to have brunch.
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