Attachment style 

Aug 28, 2022

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The Attachment styles from my perception.

Identified in the late 70s, Mary Ainsworth determined three styles of attachment in an observational study. Let’s look at each style in turn and how they might affect our romantic relationships in adulthood.

Author:Wayne Walker, Counsellor & Psychotherapist


The Anxious type 😨

Typically, people who possess an anxious attachment style may struggle to feel secure and comfortable in their romantic relationships. In childhood, caregivers may have been lacking consistency in their attentiveness towards a child’s needs, even abusive, or on the other end of the scale, a child could have experienced extremely overprotective parents that may have fuelled the child’s own anxieties.

In terms of romantic relationships, this may lead to an adult exerting overly clingy behaviour or needing constant reassurance of their significant other’s feelings towards them. The anxious type may become volatile and easily angered when they don’t receive their perceived adequate level of attention, becoming highly dependent on their partner for total stability in the relationship, even placing their life’s purpose and own worth on the status of  their relationship.

The Avoidant type

Avoidant attachment types are often highly independent, uncomfortable with intimacy and can lack commitment. They are able to rationalise why they shouldn’t commit in an intimate relationship, often sabotaging any relationship that has the potential to develop romantically.

The avoidant attachment style can often be used as a defence mechanism. In childhood, if the needs of the avoidant type aren’t constantly fulfilled by their caregiver, a child quickly learns that dependency on others is futile and that they can only rely on themselves.

In a romantic relationship, a person will often struggle with feelings of ‘suffocation’ and ‘crowding’, pushing the other person away in an unconscious attempt not to repeat their childhood experiences with the caregiver.

An example of avoidant behaviour is a person ending their relationship first, for fear the other person will end it. The avoidant person acts in this way so they can protect themselves, and take control of the situation, something they were unable to do as a child.

The Secure type

The secure attachment style would generally indicate that the person had a happy and fulfilled childhood, enjoying a healthy relationship with their parents or caregivers. They would have developed a responsive relationship with their caregiver in that the caregiver understood and responded in a sensitive, appropriate way to the child’s needs.

In later life, this person would be completely comfortable welcoming intimacy and closeness into their relationships, and wouldn’t perceive potential ‘threats’ – for example, another person befriending your significant other and affecting their availability towards you – as an actual threat to their safety mechanism.

Attachment style theory 

The attachment style theory was first coined in the 50s by John Bowlby, noting that attachment to other humans is a basic need, just like food and water. It’s a working model for understanding the human connection and how the fulfilment of basic needs in childhood will determine how we perceive the world, developing a set of expectations and ideals. 

Attachment to others is almost like a safety mechanism using the emotional brain to determine how safe we feel with others.

The form of attachment we develop will dictate how we choose romantic partners, why we choose them and how we react towards intimacy within that relationship.