How childhood attachment patterns affect adult relationships

The Attachment Theory: Our attachment style determines everything in our relationships… From who we want as a partner to how our relationships will end.

This article will help you understand how attachment patterns in adult intimate relationships are guided by the emotional bonds formed in the early stages of childhood.

To start the topic: What is attachment?

Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional connection that binds you to another person across time and space.

What does attachment theory say about this?

Attachment theory was developed by British psychoanalyst John Bowlby. He assumed that children must develop a close emotional relationship with a primary caregiver in the first six months of life.

This can be their loving mother or their caring father. This is important for the normal social and emotional development of every child.

When a child has a strong emotional bond with their parents, they form a secure bond. This makes them feel safe and have a positive attitude towards life. However, when a child has a weak emotional bond with their parents, it leads to an insecure attachment. This makes them insecure, anxious and causes them to think negatively throughout their lives .

John Bowlby believed that when children are separated from their parents, they desperately try to free them. Not only do children try to avoid separation from their primary caregiver, but they also try various things like crying, clinging, and searching to free their missing parent.

According to Bowlby’s theory, these attachment behaviors are adaptive responses to separation from the primary caregiver who provides care, support, and protection.

Put simply, attachment theory says this

When the bond with our primary caregiver is strong, we develop a sense of security within ourselves, knowing that we have a safe place to return to.

However, when this bond is not strong, a sense of insecurity arises. The child develops into either an anxious personality or an avoidant personality or both. This complicates his trust in people and his surroundings, making him reserved, negative, and insecure .

pattern of binding

The attachment pattern we develop helps us create and maintain an emotional connection with others and determines our intimacy in relationships.

Depending on the care a child receives, there are four attachment patterns that can develop in early childhood:

  1. Secure
  2. Anxious Ambivalent
  3. Fearful and Avoidant
  4. disorganized

How our attachment pattern affects us as adults

The bond we share with our parents as children is important for our later emotional development.

Our attachment patterns from childhood determine the overall attachment style in our adult lives

  • How we get romantically involved with someone, and
  • how we react emotionally when a loved one is separated from us

To understand the different attachment patterns in childhood and their impact on adult life, let’s look at the stories of four best friends – Ursula, Ingrid, Petra and Susanne

They are all best friends and live with their respective parents. But they have very different stories in their lives.

Let’s take a look. Should we?

1. Ursula ‘s Story (Secure Bond)

Ursula is a happy girl who loves her parents. Her parents love her and take good care of her. She feels safe in the presence of her parents and is confident in exploring her surroundings when her parents are around.

However, she limits her explorations when her parents are not around. She is distraught and worries when her parents are not around or are separated from her. But when she is reunited with her parents, Ursula is happy again. She is content with them and feels comfortable around them.

Ursula has a secure bond with her parents.

Secure attachment is considered the best attachment classification. It has been observed that over 55% of children demonstrate secure attachment patterns in their parent-child relationships.

With a secure attachment style, Ursula will grow into a secure adult who:

  • has a positive self-image
  • is empathetic, forgiving and trusting
  • will be comfortable in a warm, loving and emotionally intimate relationship.
  • It knows how to set appropriate personal boundaries
  • relying on their partner and allowing them to rely on them
  • be there for your partner when needed
  • Being dependent and independent in romantic relationships
  • Accepting your partner’s need for seclusion without feeling lonely or rejected
  • Deal with their feelings, communicate their feelings openly and do not avoid conflicts
  • Being an empathetic, warm and caring parent and responsive to their child’s needs

2. Ingrid’s story (anxious-avoidant insecure attachment)

Ingrid is not too close to her parents. Her parents are often careless and will punish her when she makes a mistake. You can put it this way: Ingrid’s parents are slightly abusive.

So Ingrid doesn’t feel very safe around her parents and often avoids them. Although she explores her surroundings in the presence of her parents, she is not overly concerned in their absence.

When she’s separated from her parents, Ingrid doesn’t really cry much. When reunited with her parents, Ingrid even tends to ignore them.

This type of attachment is called anxious-avoidant, insecure attachment.

Over 20% of children show avoidant attachment patterns with their primary caregivers. Children who are in an avoidant attachment with their parents appear to avoid their primary caregivers.

With an avoidant attachment style, Ingrid will grow into an emotionally withdrawn adult who:

  • Avoiding emotional attachments, closeness and commitment in adult relationships
  • has a negative self-image and low emotional range
  • Avoids intimacy through solitary activities and emotional withdrawal
  • intolerant, critical, rigid, controlled, stoic and self-sufficient
  • are emotionally distant and distant in intimate relationships, preferring independence to intimacy
  • switch off their feelings and attachment needs and keep their partner at a distance
  • not being able to rely on their partner or allow them to rely on them
  • They do not openly communicate their feelings and avoid conflicts that lead to an outburst
  • Being emotionless, having excellent crisis management and taking responsibility when necessary
  • being distant, uninvolved and emotionally unavailable as a parent and neglecting their child’s needs

3. Petra’s story (anxious-resistant insecure attachment or anxious-ambivalent attachment)

Petra is often busy trying to get her parents’ attention. She often controls her interactions with her parents to ensure they remain available to her. This is because her parents are mostly unavailable to her and respond inconsistently and unpredictably to Petra’s needs.

Petra is usually reluctant to explore her surroundings in the presence of her parents. When separated, she is extremely distressed. However, when reunited with her parents, Petra becomes angry, resists contact with her parents, and refuses to calm down.

This is known as fearful-resistant insecure attachment or fearful-ambivalent attachment.

About 10% of children show a resistant bond with their parents. Resistant attachment shows an exaggerated need for attachment. Here the children can be busy trying to get their parents’ attention.

Due to inconsistent parent-child communication, Petra will grow up with an insecure and anxious adult who:

  • longs for closeness and intimacy in a relationship
  • has a less positive self-image
  • being very needy, controlling, unpredictable and unpredictable and constantly seeking validation
  • deal with the partner and are constantly afraid of being abandoned and rejected
  • They have an inordinate need for attachment and are very clingy, which pushes their partner away.
  • They are very sensitive to their partner’s behavior, moods, and actions, and take them too personally
  • They allow unresolved family issues from the past, such as emotional pain, fear, anger, and rejection, to affect their current relationship
  • Being overly emotional, moody, controlling, blaming, angry, argumentative, and argumentative with poor personal boundaries
  • communicate uncooperatively and do not understand their responsibilities in a relationship
  • She is unpredictable with her own children and reacts unpredictably to their needs

4. Susanne ‘s Story (Disorganized Attachment)

Susanne mostly feels unhappy in her life. She feels light-headed and disoriented, and tends to behave in a confusing manner. She doesn’t feel safe around her parents because they behave inconsistently, mistreat and abuse her.

For Susanne, her parents are a source of both fear and comfort. Because of this, she lacks a clear pattern of attachment. As a result, she exhibits disordered behaviors in the presence of her parents.

This is referred to as disorganized attachment or disoriented attachment.

Over 15% of children show a disorganized attachment with their primary caregiver. This attachment pattern is considered a severe form of insecure attachment.

As an adult, growing up with abusive parents, Susanne will develop a disorganized attachment style that

  • have a negative self-image
  • Likely to be in an unhealthy and toxic relationship
  • She is abused herself and is aggressive, insensitive and suspicious
  • become very chaotic and desperate for emotional security in intimate relationships
  • has unresolved thoughts, feelings, and attitudes
  • They are traumatized by past abuse, experiences, memories and losses that have not been worked through.
  • are unable to accept emotional closeness in romantic relationships and cannot regulate their feelings
  • Being angry, argumentative, aggressive, punishing, and abusive in dysfunctional relationships to recreate childhood patterns and avoid pain
  • They have narcissistic and antisocial tendencies and show no remorse or empathy. They may be prone to substance abuse and criminal behavior and under
  • suffer from depression and PTSD.
  • They have fear-based parent-child interaction and can abuse and mistreat their own children. She can try her children in their own previous unresolved
  • to adjust bindings.

Attachment in childhood and relationships in adulthood

Although attachment patterns with our parents play an important role in our future relationships, they may not necessarily define us as adults.

You have the opportunity to change your attitude and behavior in your current relationship. Being aware of your attachment styles as a child and how they are tied to your interactions as an adult can help you improve your existing relationships as an adult.

If you have an insecure attachment style, you can seek professional help to make the necessary changes in your life. You can also choose a partner with a secure attachment style and work on self-improvement to gain a more secure attachment and emotional connection.

Knowing your attachment style can help you overcome your insecurities. It can empower you to develop new attachment patterns in order to develop a loving and fulfilling relationship as an adult.

What attachment style do you have? Do you have a secure bond? Or an insecure attachment? Tell us your story in the comments below.

How childhood attachment patterns affect adult relationships


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