What’s Your Adult Attachment Style?

Two people sitting on the ground, Attachment style, Therapy, Miami Fl

What is Adult Attachment Style?

Attachment styles is based on something called Adult Attachment Theory. Our earliest attachments to our primary caregivers (usually parents or whoever raised us) can instill patterns that later present in our intimate relationships with our partners.

A Bit About the History of Attachment Styles

A quick Google search for the phrase “attachment styles,” “attachment theory,” or even “adult attachment theory,” will find you knee-deep in photos of baby rattles and adorable infants. Adult attachment styles are an extension of the attachment theory between babies and their primary caregivers pioneered by John Bowlby in the 1950s to explain the distress a lot of babies exhibit when separated from their parents. 

Bowlby’s research with young children was later expanded on by another noted pioneer in the world of attachment, psychologist Mary Ainsworth. Her work in the 1970s established patterns of how attachment shows up in adult relationships, which she referred to as attachment styles (more on these in a bit).

The underlying principle of attachment in babies is that they need to develop a relationship with a primary caregiver to foster healthy emotional and social skills. Infants routinely seek out proximity to this individual as a source of comfort.

It’s also important to note that young children eventually begin to see their primary caregiver as a “secure base” from which they can explore the world or new relationships (this is one of the earliest ways to find evidence that new relationships build on the primary connection). Infants will often explore a new toy, setting, or person for a while and then return to their secure base individual for some familiar comfort.

Finally, some common attachment behaviors in children include protesting the caregiver’s departure (like crying or throwing a toy when the caregiver goes away), celebrating the eventual return of the caregiver (running into parents’ arms when they come back), clinging to the caregiver when the child is scared or anxious, and following the caregiver around. These are valuable to keep in mind as we will find certain parallels in adult behavior later on.