Attachment and Attachment Styles Dr. UroojSadiq Assistant Professor Humanities
Bowlby and Ainsworth’s attachment theory Bowlby’s theory was first tested on infants and their mothers by Mary Ainsworth, an American psychologist, and her colleagues (whose major book appeared in 1978) Mary Ainsworth: Conducted arguably the most important research to date on attachment theory & devised the “Strange Situation” method of studying attachment, where infants are briefly left alone and then reunited with their caregivers.
The way that the child behaves when the caregiver leaves, in their absence, and upon their return were found to vary as a result of factors within the mother-child relationship and predict various characteristics in adult individuals. • Identified three major styles of attachment: secure, ambivalent-insecure, and avoidant-insecure. • These results have been supported by a number of studies that have been conducted since Ainsworth’s original work.
Three major patterns of infant attachment • Secure, • Insecure • Ambivalent • Avoidant
Socially induced patterns of infant attachment (Ainsworth) • Secure: Confident that parent is available and responsive. Exploration-oriented, emotionally positive. Soothes easily. Shows early empathy and ability to talk about emotions. • (Documented origin: sensitive, empathic parental care giving; coherent parental discussion of emotions) • Anxious: Cries a lot, is anxious, angry. Lacks confidence that parent is accessible and responsive. Inhibited exploration. Attachment behavior is too readily activated. • (Documented origin: parental anxiety and uncertainty, parental self-centeredness, misperception of the child’s needs and signals, intrusiveness, inconsistency) • Avoidant: Cries little during separation and actively avoids parent upon reunion. Engages in rigid, displaced exploratory activity, “turning to the neutral world of things without the true interest of exploration.” • (Documented origin: parental rejection, lack of warmth, discomfort with negative emotions, vulnerability, and physical contact)
Types of Attachment • In Strange Situation: Babies exhibit minimum distress when separated from their mothers, • theoreticallybecause they feel secure and able to depend on the mother as a caregiver. Mom leaving is ok because the child can trust that she will return. • Parents: Respond quickly to the needs of child, play more with their children than parents of children with other attachment styles.
Observed trends in children: When afraid, children seek soothing, • Theoretically:because they know it will be provided. Welcome contact from caregivers, positive response to return of caregivers, prefer parents to strangers, more empathic, less disruptive, less aggressive, and more mature. • Observed trends in adults: Strong self-esteem, intimate and secure/stable romantic relationships, more positive beliefs about relationships (i.e. belief that romantic love is enduring), ability to seek social support, ability to share thoughts/feelings with others.
Types of Insecure Attachment Ambivalent Avoidant
Ambivalent Attachment • In Strange Situation: Typically become extremely upset when the caregiver leaves, • theoreticallybecause they cannot trust that the caregiver will return or be present when the child needs them. Do not seem reassured or comforted when caregiver returns. • Parents: Consistently linked with low caregiver availability • Observed trends in children: Often rejects caregivers attempts at comfort, may be outwardly aggressive toward parents. Highly suspicious of strangers, described by teachers as “overly dependent” and “clingy.”
Observed trends in adults: Fall in love often but reluctant to become close, preoccupied with worry that partner does not return feelings, break-up often, exceptionally troubled by the end of relationships. May cling to their children as a source of security.
Avoidant Attachment • In Strange Situation: Tend to avoid parents or caregivers and do not prefer their own caregivers over strangers. There is evidence that this may be a result of abuse or neglect. • Theoretically, these children have been punished for seeking help, nurturance and care in the past and are no longer safe to do so. • Observed trends in children: Tend to avoid parents and caregivers, especially after a period of absence. Do not necessarily reject but do not seek comfort or contact with caregivers, show no preference for parents over strangers.
Observed trends in adults: Belief that love is rare and short-lived, pattern of being unwilling/unable to invest emotion in relationships and experience a pronounced lack of distress when a relationship ends, often avoid intimacy by using excuses (such as long work hours). Failure to support
identify attachment patterns in adults ____ I am uncomfortable being close to others; I find it difficult to trust them completely, difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I’m nervous when anyone gets too close, and relationship partners often want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being. ____ Relationship partners are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn’t really love me or won’t want to stay with me. I want to get very close to my partner, and this sometimes scares people away. ____ I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on them. I don’t often worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me.
identified attachment patterns in adults ____ I am uncomfortable being close to others; I find it difficult to trust them completely, difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I’m nervous when anyone gets too close, and relationship partners often want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being. (Avoidant) ____ Relationship partners are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn’t really love me or won’t want to stay with me. I want to get very close to my partner, and this sometimes scares people away. (Ambivalent ) ____ I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on them. I don’t often worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me. (Secure)