Attachment theory is a theory of the close affectional bonds that remain with us throughout life. A primary motivation in all people is the need to seek and maintain contact with others. Since our well-being and survival depends on securing the protection of attachment figures, that relationship is our central concern throughout childhood, and its unresolved insecurities linger into adult life, including marriage. John Bowlby wrote in Attachment and Loss (1973, p.369):
No variables have more far-reaching effects on personality development than a child's experiences within the family. Starting during his first months in his relation to both parents, he builds up working models of how attachment figures are likely to behave towards him in any of a variety of situations, and on all those models are based all his expectations, and therefore all his plans, for the rest of his life.
There is a direct link between childhood attachment patterns, adult attachment styles, and functioning in intimate and romantic relationships. Confidence in the availability of attachment figures develops during childhood. The expectations and belief systems ("working models") that develop during these early years tend to persist throughout life. These beliefs guide our perceptions of others and behaviors, and we often recreate patterns of attachment previously experienced. That is, early childhood patterns are unknowingly recreated in our adult relationships (e.g., marriage).
The absence of secure attachment creates considerable distress, resulting in vulnerability to a variety of physical, emotional, social and moral problems. Attachment experiences and patterns extend into adult life, and influence: 1. feelings of security, 2. personal meaning given to experiences and relationships, 3. the ability to develop and maintain close affectional bonds, and 4. conflict and feelings of isolation commonly experienced by couples.
These individuals place a priority on self sufficiency. There is a defensive aspect to "switching off" attachment feelings; closeness is avoided to prevent awareness of underlying attachment needs and the experience of vulnerability.
Close relationships are established with the person always in the giving role, not allowing him or herself to receive care. Typically the result of being forced into caring for parent and/or sibling during childhood, and losing their self for another.
Also called "anxious attachment"; constant anxiety about losing the attachment figure. Display urgent and frequent care-seeking behaviors in an attempt to confirm security. This pattern results from early life experiences of doubting the availability and responsiveness of attachment figures.
Anxiety and anger are responses to perceived inaccessibility of attachment figure. Even when the individual attempts to withdraw, it is angry or spiteful withdrawal.
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Attachment Treatment and Training Institute, PLLC
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