What is Your Attachment Style?

Attachment is the word we use in the realm of psychology for the bond that exists between a child and his/her caregiver early in life. A secure attachment is the foundation for a person’s ability to connect with others, to love and be loved. 

If a primary care-taker consistently notices and attends to a child’s needs and offers affectionate touch and eye contact, then healthy attachment patterns are developed. If this continues predictably throughout childhood, attachment patterns become secure and extend to other relationships. If, however, parents or caretakers are neglectful of a child’s emotional or physical needs, or are unpredictable in their approval, love and care-taking, then insecure attachment styles are developed.

Sadly, insecure attachments are common. In a 2014 study of 14,000 U.S. children, researchers at Princeton University found that 40 percent of the children lacked strong emotional bonds with their parents, and that these children are more likely to face educational and behavioral problems. This is a profound statistic. 

Long-term studies have also reported that insecure attachment to a primary caregiver can significantly impair a person’s ability to form and maintain healthy relationships throughout life. Furthermore, severe childhood neglect has been shown to develop the brain itself differently, with adverse affects related to depression, anxiety, learning & memory.

Fortunately, attachment styles are on a spectrum, and people can develop better attachment styles. A secure attachment style is the ability to love and be loved, and to be able to ask for needs to be met and to meet the needs of others. It’s an expectation that others can be trusted, with a reasonable awareness that some people are not trustworthy.

Insecure attachments come in different styles, varying from fearing abandonment or hurt to avoiding intimacy all together. But with insight and practice, connecting with people in healthy ways can be learned.

What take-away do I suggest from this information? If you are an adult with an unhealthy attachment style (click here for a test), make the effort to find healing from your childhood wounds and to learn new, healthy styles of relating. If you are a parent, work hard at being attentive and predictably safe and caring. If you have a secure attachment style, enjoy your relationships and help those around you to do so as well. 

And most importantly, each of us can experience the greatest bond of all with God. Even if our parents fail us, He will not (Isaiah 49:15). He is always attentive to the details of our lives (Psalm 139), always present (Hebrews 13:5), always safe and predictable (Psalm 102:25-28), and always loving (1 John 4:7-10). If we attach ourselves to Him, the rest of life will fall into place.

by Tova Kreps, LCSW, President & Co-Founder