Attachment Styles: How are they formed?

Date Published: October 29, 2021

The way you navigate relationships and attachments in adulthood is directly related to how you attached to others in your childhood. Attachment patterns are generational. You learn how to connect with others from caregivers and therefore pass it on to your own children. There are four attachment styles: secure, avoidant, anxious and disorganized.

It’s basic human nature to seek comfort and close relationships with others. From an evolutionary standpoint, humans needed societal relationships and support to survive. However, love and close relationships are hardly simple.

Attachment styles can define how you perceive and deal with emotional intimacy, how you communicate your emotional needs, how you respond to conflict and what kind of expectations you have for a partner. Each attachment style differs significantly in those categories.


Secure Attachment Style:

Secure attachment is the most common form of attachment styles. Around two-thirds of the population is securely attached, according to research.

Secure attachments can be defined as low avoidance and low anxiety. People who experience secure attachments are not preoccupied with thoughts of abandonment or rejection. It is easy for them to get close with others and open up with their emotions. They don’t worry about others depending on them either, they are confident in the support they give others. They form long-lasting, deep relationships.

Parental Influence:

There are five conditions necessary to raise a child with secure attachment:

  1. The child feels safe and protected around you.
  2. Their emotional cues are acknowledged, allowing them to feel seen and understood.
  3. When the child is distraught, the caregiver helps them back to a calm state through reassurance and comfort.
  4. The caregiver expresses joy about who the child is to make them feel valued.
  5. The child feels supported to explore their world because the caregiver champions them.

When a child is born, there is an automatic expectation that their needs will be fulfilled. Parents who meet those expectations and do not break their trust raise children with secure attachment styles.


Avoidant Attachment Style:

Nearly 25 percent of the population has an avoidant attachment style.

Avoidant attachments are most easily defined as someone who avoids intimacy in a relationship. They are high on avoidance but low on anxiety. The thought of developing close relationships make them feel suffocated. They value independence and freedom and don’t often worry about their partners availability.

Parental Influence:

Parents who do not accept their child’s emotions nor tolerate the expression of them can raise children with an avoidant attachment style. Along with this, parents that expect independence and autonomy from their children can also cultivate this attachment style.

In avoidant attachments, children learn that their best possible outcome comes from shutting down their feelings and being self-sufficient.


Anxious Attachment Style:

Just under 20% of adults have an anxious attachment style.

Anxious attachment styles are low on avoidance and high on anxiety. People with anxious attachment styles crave intimacy and are very insecure with their relationships. They often worry that their partner does not reciprocate the same amount of love and have a strong fear of abandonment or rejection. They are consistently hungry for validation and reassurance in how much their partner loves them.

Often, people with an anxious attachment style can scare others away from a close relationship due to their neediness and high expectations.

Parental Influence:

Children with anxious attachment styles can result from an inconsistent parenting or caregiving pattern. A child does not have the capacity to understand why a caregiver is inconsistent and will most often automatically assume it is their own fault. When a caregivers behavior sends children mixed signals, then it is difficult for a child to understand what reasonable expectations are.

Another caregiver pattern that is linked to developing an anxious attachment style is when the caregiver seeks emotional closeness with their child to satisfy their own needs instead of the child’s. These parents can appear intrusive and over-protective. In most cases, this genre of parents experienced the same type of relationship with their own caregivers which can make this an unrealized pattern.


Disorganized Attachment Style:

Disorganized attachment styles are the most complex attachment style and has the least amount of research to support it.

People with a disorganized attachment style are high on anxiety and high on avoidance. The internal conflict is defined as craving emotional intimacy but wanting to avoid it at all costs as well. They are uncomfortable with closeness and are worried about their partner’s commitment. They are often worried about being hurt if they open up to someone or develop a close relationship. There is little to no emotional regulation in relationships and there is even a heightened risk for violence.

Parental Influence:

Disorganized attachment styles are developed when a caregiver is a source of fear for a child instead of a source of safety and protection. This is most often seen in children who have been verbally, physically, or sexually abused in their childhood.


Do you need support with your attachment patter? Are you looking to develop secure attachments? Please reach out to us. Our team of therapists is here to provide support and guidance. We look forward to connecting with you.