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Attachment Theory

Attachment theory is a framework originally developed by John Bowlby that operates under the assumption that it is the same motivational system that gives rise to the close emotional bond between parents and their children that is also responsible for the bond that develops between adults in emotionally intimate relationships.¹

Attachment theory dictates that a person’s attachment orientation is considered along two dimensions:¹

  1. Attachment anxiety reflects the extent to which an individual feels unworthy of love and fearful of rejection.
  2. Attachment avoidance reflects the degree to which an individual avoids or feels uncomfortable with closeness and emotional intimacy in relationships.

Attachment is a social and emotional bond that spans both time and space. In psychology, this is typically referring to the bond between an infant and caregiver. 

Secure attachment is the ideal pattern of attachment. Infants will use their caregivers as a base for exploring a new environment. They will venture out from their caregivers to explore but will return periodically

The three types of insecure attachment are:¹

  1. Resistant attachment is the kind of attachment in which infants show mixed reactions to their caregivers. They may approach their caregivers upon return but at the same time continue to cry and turn their caregivers away.
  2. Avoidant attachment is the kind of attachment in which infants avoid or ignore their caregivers and often will not cuddle when held.
  3. Disoriented attachment is a low quality attachment which is most troublesome amongst children who experience it. A common way of describing the emotional tone of such infants is that they appear dazed.

Although psychologists believe that the attachment orientations formed in childhood are long lasting, adult experiences continue to influence the way people see the world and the people around them.

This means that patterns of attachment are dynamic and subject to change. One third of all individuals experience changes in their attachment style.¹ Those who subscribe to the attachment theory believe that people are more likely to change from avoidant or anxious into secure individuals rather than vice versa.¹


1. Carlson, Neil R., Buskist, W., Heth, C.D, Schmaltz, R. Psychology - The Science of Behaviour.

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