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Psychologists have long known how important the first year of life is in a person’s emotional development. But did you know that the relationship you had with your earliest primary caregivers influenced the “attachment style” you in turn developed in early childhood? That style is something you probably carried into adulthood especially in regard to your romantic relationships.
“There are four main adult attachment styles,” Kelly Gonsalves writes in an article for MindBodyGreen.com: “Secure, anxious, avoidant, and fearful-avoidant (aka disorganized). The latter three are all considered forms of insecure attachment.”
Secure attachment. The good news here is that research has shown that over half of all adults studied have this fundamentally healthy attachment style. “A securely attached person,” says Gonsalves, “can trust others and be trusted, love and accept love, and get close to others with relative ease. They’re not afraid of intimacy, nor do they feel panicked when their partners need time or space away from them. They’re able to depend on others without becoming totally dependent.”
Anxious attachment. There’s one core issue that some people with an anxious attachment style have: a fear of abandonment. That fear is manifested in a romantic relationship as neediness and a hunger for validation. About one-fifth of adults in research studies exhibit this behavior.
Avoidant attachment. There are red flags for people with avoidant attachment: a fear of intimacy and emotional unavailability. About a quarter of people in studies fall into this category.
Fearful-avoidant attachment. This is the one category that is not well researched, in part because it is fairly rare. As its name implies, it is a combination of both anxious and avoidant styles, and it’s associated with significant psychological risks.
Although attachment theory has been well researched, there is an alternate school of thought that has found a moderate correlation at best between infant attachment patterns and adult attachment styles. For most emotionally healthy adults, self-reflection about their attachment styles can be revealing. And it’s also interesting that research is also showing that people can change their attachment styles.