6 Things To Help You Understand Attachment Theory

A concept in developmental psychology, attachment theory attempts to explain the dynamics of long-term interpersonal relationships. It claims that when a person forms an emotional and physical attachment to another person, they gain a sense of balance and security that allow them to take risks and grow as an individual. Attachment theory is a complex idea, so here are six things to help you understand it better.

6 Things To Help You Understand Attachment Theory

By Julie Klukas

  • Attachment Theory Resulted from Studies of Child Developmental Psychology

    By Julie Klukas

    Psychologist John Bowlby coined the term “attachment theory” when he came up with the idea that childhood development relied on a child’s ability to form a strong relationship with a parent (or primary caregiver). His studies led him to believe that a child who had developed such a relationship had an essential sense of safety and security. Consequently, he found that children without a strong attachment were less likely to seek out new experiences.

  • Children Have Four Different Patterns of Attachment

    By Julie Klukas

    According to the developmental psychologist, Mary Ainsworth, there are [four patterns of attachment](http://www.simplypsychology.org/mary-ainsworth.html) that children may experience. Children with a** secure** attachment will explore freely when their caregiver is present, will be upset when the caregiver leaves and will be happy when the caregiver returns. Children with an **ambivalent** attachment will be hesitant to explore when the caregiver is present, will be highly distressed when the caregiver leaves and will be resistant when the caregiver returns. Children with an **avoidant** attachment will not explore much regardless of who is there and will show little emotion when the caregiver leaves or returns. Children with a **disorganized** attachment will show disoriented behavior when the caregiver leaves or returns.

  • Romantic Relationships are a Form of Attachment

    By Julie Klukas

    Theorists Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver extended attachment therapy to [romantic relationships](http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~schaller/Psyc591Readings/HazanShaver1987.pdf), and found that attachment impacts relationship outcomes and dynamics. They learned that romantic relationships functioned best when there was a balance between intimacy and independence. Otherwise, an attachment that was too strong led to co-dependence while a weak attachment created feelings of inadequacy.

  • Attachment Doesn’t Have to be Reciprocal

    By Julie Klukas

    Attachment in children does not have to be reciprocated by adults for it to fall under the attachment theory umbrella. This theory is characterized by behaviors in children (such as reaching out to the caregiver when upset), even if the attachment is not shared.

  • Attachment in Childhood Can Affect Adulthood

    By Julie Klukas

    The pattern of attachment that a child shows while developing can have an effect in their adult years. [Researchers](http://www.psychology.sunysb.edu/attachment/online/online_2/ew_stability.pdf) have found that those who were securely attached as infants tend to have better self-esteem and better self-reliance. They're also less likely to experience [depression](http://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1008&context=masters_theses_2) and anxiety.

  • Non-Western Societies Offer a Counter-Example to Attachment Theory

    By Julie Klukas

    Critics refer to non-Western societies as evidence that attachment theory does not work. In countries like Ghana, child-rearing duties are [distributed among the community](http://www.intechopen.com/books/parenting-in-south-american-and-african-contexts/parenting-and-culture-evidence-from-some-african-communities). These children go on to be well-adjusted adults, which suggests that in some societies, a different social mechanism acts in place of the attachment necessary for Western children.

Feature Photo: Luis Llerena