Discover Your Attachment Style



9 Questions

What is the primary behaviour associated with attachment in infants?

What are the four attachment styles in infants according to Mary Ainsworth's theory?

What is the internal working model of social relationships?

What is the most desirable state of attachment?

What are the four adult attachment styles?

What is the criticism of disorganized/disoriented attachment?

What is the focus of attachment theory?

What is the role of the attachment behavioural system?

What are the implications of insecure attachment in children?


Attachment Theory: A Psychological Ethological Theory about Human Relationships

  • Attachment theory concerns relationships between humans and was formulated by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby.

  • The theory proposes that young children need to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for normal social and emotional development.

  • Infant behaviour associated with attachment is primarily the seeking of proximity to an attachment figure in stressful situations.

  • Mary Ainsworth developed a theory of a number of attachment patterns in infants: secure attachment, avoidant attachment, anxious attachment, and disorganized attachment.

  • Attachment theory has been extended to attachments in adults, including peer relationships, romantic and sexual attraction, and care needs for infants, the sick, and elderly.

  • Bowlby explored a range of fields, including evolutionary biology, object relations theory, control systems theory, and the fields of ethology and cognitive psychology to formulate a comprehensive theory of the nature of early attachments.

  • The attachment behavioural system serves to achieve or maintain proximity to the attachment figure.

  • Early experiences with caregivers gradually give rise to a system of thoughts, memories, beliefs, expectations, emotions, and behaviours about the self and others called the "internal working model of social relationships."

  • There is a focus on single attachment to primarily the mother in Western culture child-rearing, but in hunter-gatherer communities, mothers share the maternal responsibility of ensuring the child's survival with a variety of different allomothers.

  • The three basic aspects of attachment theory are, to some degree, universal: secure attachment is the most desirable state, maternal sensitivity influences infant attachment patterns, and specific infant attachments predict later social and cognitive competence.

  • A toddler who is securely attached to his or her parent will explore freely while the caregiver is present, typically engages with strangers, is often visibly upset when the caregiver departs, and is generally happy to see the caregiver return.

  • The strength of a child's attachment behaviour in a given circumstance does not indicate the 'strength' of the attachment bond; individuals with different attachment styles have different beliefs about romantic love, availability, trust capability of love partners, and love readiness.Understanding Attachment Styles

  • There are four attachment styles: secure, anxious-ambivalent, anxious-avoidant, and disorganized/disoriented.

  • Secure attachment is the most common attachment style and occurs when a child's parent is available and able to meet their needs in a responsive manner.

  • Anxious-ambivalent attachment occurs when a child is wary of strangers and shows distress when their caregiver departs, but is ambivalent when the caregiver returns.

  • Anxious-avoidant attachment occurs when a child avoids or ignores their caregiver and shows little emotion when the caregiver departs or returns.

  • Disorganized/disoriented attachment occurs when a child's behavior is not coordinated in a smooth way to achieve proximity with the caregiver, indicating a disruption or flooding of the attachment system.

  • Disorganized/disoriented attachment has been criticized for being too encompassing.

  • There are cultural differences in attachment styles.

  • Older children can have further attachment classifications, such as caregiving-controlling or punitive behavior.

  • Patricia McKinsey Crittenden has elaborated classifications of further forms of avoidant and ambivalent attachment behavior.

  • Attachment styles are associated with children's functioning across their lifespan.

  • There is growing interest in disorganized attachment from clinicians, policy-makers, and researchers.

  • Research also shows that children with abusive childhood experiences are more likely to develop ambivalent attachments and experience difficulties in maintaining intimate relationships as adults.Attachment Theory and Its Applications Summary

  • Insecure attachment in children can lead to difficulties in various areas of life, including relationships, social skills, and intellectual development.

  • Infants at high risk for autism spectrum disorders may express attachment security differently than those at low risk.

  • Some authors question the idea of a taxonomy of categories representing attachment relationships and argue that variation in attachment patterns is continuous.

  • Gender differences in attachment patterns begin to emerge in middle childhood, with males more likely to engage in criminal behavior due to inadequate early attachments to primary caregivers.

  • Environmental risk can cause insecure attachment and favor the development of strategies for earlier reproduction.

  • Childhood and adolescence allow for the development of an internal working model related to attachment that leads to more stable attachments.

  • Adolescents use an attachment system as a "safety regulating system" to promote physical and psychological safety.

  • Four adult attachment styles have been identified: secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, and fearful-avoidant.

  • Securely attached adults have high self-efficacy, excellent conflict resolution skills, and are mentally flexible, effective communicators, and comfortable with closeness.

  • Insecure individuals tend to be partnered with insecure individuals, while secure individuals tend to be partnered with secure individuals.

  • There are various measures of adult attachment, including self-report questionnaires and coded interviews.

  • Insecure attachment styles are linked to lower emotional intelligence and lower trait mindfulness.

  • Bowlby's concepts were influenced by case studies on disturbed and delinquent children, as well as the work of social worker RenĂ© Spitz.A Summary of John Bowlby's Attachment Theory

  • John Bowlby's 1951 monograph for the World Health Organization, Maternal Care and Mental Health, hypothesized that a lack of warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with a mother may have significant and irreversible mental health consequences for an infant and young child.

  • Bowlby's theory sparked considerable interest in the nature of early relationships, leading to a "great body of research" in an extremely difficult and complex area.

  • Bowlby's work and films by psychoanalyst James Robertson caused a virtual revolution in hospital visiting by parents, hospital provision for children's play, educational and social needs, and the use of residential nurseries.

  • Bowlby's work implicates that maternal deprivation negatively influences the attachment behavior trajectory of a child's life, and that mental-health support for pregnant women is important pre and post-partum.

  • Bowlby formulated the innovative proposition that mechanisms underlying an infant's emotional tie to the caregiver(s) emerged as a result of evolutionary pressure, and he set out to develop a theory of motivation and behavior control built on science rather than Freud's psychic energy model.

  • Ethology and the study of imprinting were important influences on Bowlby's work, but over time it became apparent there were more differences than similarities between attachment theory and imprinting, so the analogy was dropped.

  • Psychoanalytic concepts influenced Bowlby's view of attachment, but he rejected psychoanalytical explanations for early infant bonds, including "drive theory" in which the motivation for attachment derives from gratification of hunger and libidinal drives.

  • Bowlby relied on Piaget's theory of cognitive development, which gave rise to questions about object permanence in early attachment behaviors.

  • Behaviourism saw attachment as a remnant of dependency with the quality of attachment being merely a response to the caregiver's cues, but attachment theorists saw crying as an inborn attachment behavior to which the caregiver must respond if the infant is to develop emotional security.

  • The selection of the secure pattern of attachment is found in the majority of children across cultures studied, but there are cultural variations in how attachment is expressed, which need to be ascertained before studies can be undertaken.

  • Critics in the 1990s were generally concerned with the concept of infant determinism, stressing the effects of later experience on personality, but subsequent research has not borne out these arguments.

  • Psychoanalyst/psychologists Peter Fonagy and Mary Target have attempted to bring attachment theory and psychoanalysis into a closer relationship through cognitive science as mentalization, potentially leading to alterations in attachment theory.


Test your knowledge on Attachment Theory with this quiz! Discover the different attachment styles, the impact of early childhood experiences on adult relationships, and the origin and evolution of the theory. From John Bowlby's pioneering work to Mary Ainsworth's attachment patterns, explore the fascinating world of human relationships through the lens of Attachment Theory. This quiz will challenge your understanding of this psychological ethological theory and help you learn more about the complex nature of human attachments.

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