How Your Parents Have Affected Your Ability To Form Adult Relationships

Bowlby, one of the pioneers in attachment theory, defined attachment as a ‘lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.’

The development of an attachment for a child can have the ability of alter the child’s internal psychological modelling and result in either positive or negative outcomes.

The determination of which of the 4 attachment styles a child will develop is dependant upon the type of care that is given by a primary caregiver (parent or guardian) during that child’s early years of life.

The 4 attachment styles are:

  1. Secure attachment: the most positive attachment style, where consistent love and care is given to the child. Observed by distress upon caregiver leaving, but comforted upon their return.
  2. Avoidant attachment: Children exhibit no distress upon a caregiver leaving them, and ignore them upon their return.
  3. Anxious attachment: Children exhibit an extreme level of distress upon caregiver leaving and an alternating display of comfort and distress upon their return.
  4. Disorganised attachment: children exhibit an unpredictability in their emotional responses

Research has shown that the attachment style a young child develops has the ability to pave the way for an adults ability to form deep, meaningful relationships, or how they act in doing so.

Examples of adult displays of a personal attachment style.

Secure Attachment – Adults with this attachment style are likely to have characteristics of honesty, loyalty, independent and faithful relationships. They feel secure with their partner, without the need to be excessively invasive in their partner’s life.

Avoidant Attachment – People with this attachment find it hard to form deep, meaning bonds with others. They tend to keep their distance in order to protect themselves from hurt. Although, they may feel like they don’t need another person to satisfy their life, and they can obtain all their needs and wants alone. They can isolate themselves, especially when a conflict arises within a relationship. They find it hard to admit to wrong, and would rather ‘run away’ or ‘shut down’ that face the situation.

Anxious Attachment – People with anxious attachment often feel like they ‘need’ someones love and affection to complete them. They may jump from one relationship to another. They can be seen by others as having tendencies of being clingy, jealous, cautious, possessive and demanding.

Disorganised Attachment –  People with this attachment style have a hard time forming and maintaining meaningful relationships. They can feel emotionally confused, and become easily overwhelmed with emotions. They may experience outbursts of emotions and hurl this off to their partner in an angry range because they struggle to effectively communicate. They may want a successful relationship but also can hold fears of becoming close enough to them.

It can be hard to know the exact attachment style you may have developed the you were young, due to the feeling that you somehow fit in each of the 4 in different ways.

It can be beneficial to understand the different attachment styles, and being with a partner with a conflicting attachment style can be where issues arise.

It can be easy to want to blame your parents for how you may have developed psychologically, it is possible to change. It just takes effort.

Hopefully this has been insightful in one of the many reasons you are who you are.

If you would like to learn more, research Bowlby & Ainsworth Attachment Theory. There are also many notable books on the topic, such as ‘Attached’ by Amir Levine.


Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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