Eva Carlston Academy
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Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Attachment Styles

Parents and child in front of sunset

Something that affects people for the rest of their lives (with or without their knowledge) are their attachment styles. Healthy versus unhealthy attachments, attachments with parents, and overall how these impact the ability to make meaningful connections. Oftentimes, especially if someone is unfamiliar with the topic, it can be hard to distinguish the different characteristics that each attachment holds. Although, learning about these differences can help an individual learn more about themselves and how they interact with the world. 

What Are Attachment Styles?

First and foremost, what exactly is attachment theory and how did it develop in the first place? This theory was introduced by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth in the late 1960s. This groundbreaking research took an indepth look at how insecure attachments are formed and separation anxiety in children. Due to this, they discovered that those who had the fundamental building blocks early in life, provided by caregivers, were able to carry that with them throughout the rest of their lives. 

Focusing on how a caregiver responds to their child when they cry, if the child feels safe to express their feelings, if the child feels as if they can depend on that caregiver, and the overall bond a child develops with their caregiver. These are all important qualities that help the emotional and mental wellbeing of the child. Essentially, the types of attachments someone forms in childhood impacts them later on in life when forming future relationships. 

Healthy Versus Unhealthy Attachment Types

Psychologists follow four main attachment styles; Secure Attachment, Anxious Preoccupied Attachment, Avoidant Attachment, and Fearful Avoidant Attachment. All of these different attachment styles come with their own complexities. It should also be noted that various factors can determine someone’s attachment style, and they can fluctuate throughout one’s life.

  1. Secure Attachment

Secure Attachment styles are often considered the ‘most healthy’ since individuals with this attachment type typically have low anxiety, have a positive self-image, and see the worthiness in having meaningful connections. Additionally, they may have longer lasting romantic relationships and are able to open up more easily to their peers/caregivers. More often than not, this type of attachment is formed when the caregiver has met the emotional needs of the child during infancy and early childhood. 

  1. Anxious/Preoccupied Attachment

On the other hand, those that have an Anxious/Preoccupied Attachment style often undervalue themselves but hold others in a high regard. This means that they have low self esteem and may have issues seeing their worth. This is mainly seen when a caregiver is inconsistent with providing the infant or child with the emotional support they need. They can also see praise or recognition from others as a facade and have a hard time trusting the sincerity behind it. 

  1. Dismissive/Avoidant Attachment 

Further, individuals with a Dismissive/Avoidant Attachment style may experience a high regard for themselves, but have little to no respect for others. This is caused by the caregiver not meeting the needs of the infant/child, which retrospectively makes the child not see the caregiver as “safe” or do not find joy when the caregiver returns. Additionally, Dismissive/Avoidant attachment may make it hard to form relationships and view others as untrustworthy or, in general, not important. 

  1. Fearful/Avoidant Attachment

 Lastly, the Fearful/Avoidant Attachment style impacts an individual’s ability to have a positive image of both themselves and others. In childhood, they may be disorganized, have social anxiety, or withdrawn. They also have an internal conflict about their caregivers and if they’re happy to see them or scared. Later on in life, romantic relationships are hardly pursued for a long period of time for fear of getting close to their partner. 

There are many different situations that warrant a type of attachment style and how it may apply to someone’s life. Trauma, abuse, neglect, love, and many other factors all feed into how someone develops in their early life and how it may affect them as they get older. Being aware of your attachment style can help you recognize where it impacts your life and relationships. Regardless of what attachment style someone has, they can still flourish and grow to their greatest potential. At Eva Carlston we specialize in helping our students heal the wounds that they hold and encourage them to develop healthy and purposeful relationships.