This article follows up on the previous article that introduced attachment theory and will describe the different types of child – parent attachments while listing the long-term consequences of the attachment pattern in childhood and adulthood.
What most people do not realize is that attachment patterns start forming at the very beginning of your life. The type of attachment you form will ultimately govern the way you form intimate relationships with peers and the way you parent your child yourself.
A child depends on the mother or the main attachment figure for survival. The way the parent interacts with the child sets the foundation of the attachment type that the child will possess.
But before turning into types of attachments and consequences into adulthood, we look at the factors that seem to come into play to form the different types of mother – child relationship:
- Emotional Availability: To sustain a high standard of living, some caregivers give in to an exhausting number of jobs causing them to be depleted at the end of the day and not caring for their child.
- Acceptance of the Infant: As cruel as it may sound, some caregivers do not even accept to take care of their child for reasons such as wanting a girl rather than a boy.
- Sensitivity and Mutuality: The quality of the attachment formed by the child is also reciprocal to the quality of the care provided by the parent.
- Temperament: Children that are difficult to deal with are hardly ever pleasurable and require much more attention for a healthy relationship to form.
Original theories concluded that attachment was an all or nothing process. Mary Ainsworth proved otherwise with the Strange Situation experiment and classified attachment types into four specific categories:
Category 1: Securely Attached
A child that feels safe, soothed and attuned to his needs will most likely develop a secure attachment. Studies by child psychologists and common sense tells us that secure attachment leads to a number of positive outcomes in childhood and adulthood which include:
- Trust: Children who are securely attached have their needs met, therefore in later stages in life they are more likely to trust more in family and peers and will expect help to be ready whenever it is needed.
- Confidence and Self Esteem: The child in this case receives positive treatment from the parents, therefore he/she will become how he/she is treated. This is largely due to the sensitive response to his parents’ treatment.
- Problem Solving Skills and Autonomy: As mentioned in the previous article, the child who is securely attached will start discovering the world with his primary caregiver acting as his safe base. This leads to the child developing problem solving skills which will help him develop his mental skills later on in life.
- Strong Relationships: The primary caregiver’s consistent affection has largely paved the way for an ability to build and maintain strong intimate friendships and romances in later stages in life.
Category 2: Avoidant Attachment
Parents who are emotionally not attuned to their children’s sensitive needs usually have off springs who are avoidant attached. Such children develop a style of thinking that no matter how much I cry, it is no good. Children characterized by this attachment type usually develop into independent children with no regards to emotions. Readers have to bear in mind that 30% of the general population have this type of attachment. Below are some characteristics of individuals with this attachment type:
- Lack of Trust: A child learns that no matter what he/she voices concern (mainly through crying in childhood), he/she will never get any help. Therefore, and in other stages in life, the child will refrain from asking help from peers and will exhibit a lack of trust.
- Separation: When avoidant adults are struck with threats of loss or separation, they never fully express their feelings and attitudes and tend to only express their feelings through fragments of stories, hinting and complaining.
- Selfishness: Adults who are avoidant are usually very selfish and will disregard the emotions or feelings of others.
- Conflicts: When faced with an argument or a conflict, these adults usually respond to the argument by distancing themselves.
Category 3: Ambivalent Attachment
In certain situations, parents are at times largely attuned to their children’s needs, while at others they are simply detached from their children and do not respond effectively to their needs. This leads to the formation of an ambivalent type attachment, which is manifested in the following manners:
- Clinginess: Children with this type of attachment tend to cling to their parents and act desperate for attention, knowing for a fact that the parent might lend them their attention only if the child nags.
- Insecurities: Children who have an ambivalent attachment type, tend to grow up with a view being very self-critical of themselves. They typically seek approval from certain groups in addition to assurance and reassurance, but nothing relieves their sense of insecurity.
- Self-Worth and Others: These adults usually have negative views of themselves and positive views of other. They usually view themselves as the “pursuer” in their relationships.
- Dramatizing: These people tend to think that they should dramatize their anxiety and feelings in order for other peers to react.
Category 4: Disorganized Attachment
When a parent is either physically or morally abusive and neglecting to the child, the child is caught in a dilemma where he/she has to rely on the caregiver because he/she provides the many basic needs of the child (such as food, water and shelter), and has the sense to flee the parent because of the abuse or neglect. In this sense the child cannot develop an organized pattern of behavior, thus the term Disorganized. A disorganized individual tends to have the following characteristics:
- Not knowing how to parent: In moments of stress with their child, these parents demonstrate unpredictable and confusing behaviors. They also tend to respond with fear.
- Trouble Regulating Emotions: These individuals have trouble expressing themselves and they rarely open up to others to seek help.
- Poor social skills: These individuals often have trouble managing their difficulties and stress, and at times demonstrate aggressive behavior.
- Perception of the world: Because of their negative life experiences, these individuals tend to perceive the world as an unsafe place.
– Elio Kassab