Attachment refers to the intense and lasting affective bond that develops between two individuals.. These relationships are formed at birth, and change throughout life depending on the environment and the people with whom we live together.
The English psychoanalyst John Bowlby was the first to present the attachment theory, but it was Mary Ainsworth who categorized the types of attachment in the infant stage. She established four different categories, and understanding them is always very interesting, especially for those who have children.
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The 4 types of emotional attachment
From the moment of birth the baby is very perceptive to the maternal figure.. The reactions, emotions and behaviors of the mother are very important, and it is with her that the first attachment relationship is established. Between 6 and 9 months, the baby establishes a bond with her even though he may be afraid of other people he does not know.
If the attachment is secure and healthy, the baby knows that he will have someone to protect him from a sense of threat. This gives him security and confidence to explore and establish relationships outside his safe circle. If the attachment is not secure, the infant will display other types of attitudes.
When there is a secure attachment, the child feels confident and secure in his environment.. This attachment is a construction that takes place from the first days of life. Bonding will be formed at this early stage if the caregiver provides the child with attention and care in the face of his or her complaints. Over time and as the baby grows, it becomes stronger.
In the first months of life, the baby’s way of expressing that he needs something and asking for help is mainly by crying. For this reason, it is important that parents learn to detect their baby’s needs and attend to them correctly.
Babies who have this secure attachment feel confident and secure. As soon as they perceive some kind of threat or problem to be solved, they ask for help. If their attachment figure responds in some way to their call, the secure attachment is strengthened.
As a result, a child who has maintained a secure attachment is confident in establishing relationships with others and shows great adaptability to new environments. By the same rule, an adult who has developed a secure attachment is capable of establishing stable, committed and trust-based affective relationships. At the same time, they are not afraid of being alone, nor are they afraid of abandonment.
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2. Ambivalent attachment
A child with ambivalent attachment is uncertain whether or not his caregivers will come to him if he needs them.. At the baby’s first calls for help, the attachment figure comes sometimes but not at other times. For the baby, he is absent without explanation, and does not observe his presence (calling him from afar, sending someone to attend him).
This happens because although he has been attended to on some occasions but not on others. This inconsistency causes him constant uncertainty as he does not know what to expect from his caregiver and attachment figure. When they begin to crawl and are able to move away, they do so very little and with a lot of nervousness, without losing sight of their caregivers and without concentrating on their main activity.
For this reason, children with ambivalent attachment tend to show a constant attitude of complacency towards their parents or caregivers. They seek their approval at all times and tend not to stray far from them. When they do and return to them, they may be distrustful and sometimes even angry about the separation.
An ambivalent attachment in childhood can provoke codependent attitudes in adult life. They present a constant fear of rejection and abandonment that derives in harmful behaviors to relate affectively. They are insecure and fearful of change.
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3. Avoidant attachment
In avoidant attachment, the child shows total indifference to his/her primary caregiver.. This is because during its first stage it did not receive care. When not even the slightest affectionate relationship has taken place, no sensitivity is shown. The needs of the child that are met are those of a more physical and urgent nature.
If the parents have been indifferent to the baby or have even shown attitudes of rejection, a relationship different from the previous ones begins to be built. In avoidant attachment the child knows that his needs will not be met, and that even his emotions are annoying to his caregivers.
Because of this, the child shows a false independence. In the absence of his attachment figure he does not show anger, sadness or concern (although he may feel it). Upon his return, the child does not show joy for his arrival, nor anger for his absence. However, the fear of being alone or with strangers exists even though it is not manifested.
In their adult life these people are unable to show their emotions. It is difficult for them to feel empathy, and at the same time they fear abandonment and being alone. Their affective relationships are overshadowed by their insecurities and fears and by their lack of expressiveness and understanding.
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4. Disorganized attachment
Disorganized attachment is associated with abuse and family violence.. This type of attachment has gone from avoidant to ambivalent attachment for long periods of time. Although there are moments when the baby has been cared for and has been given manifestations of affection, on the other hand, most of the time the baby has been ignored or assaulted.
When the baby becomes mobile, either crawling or walking, he/she moves little away from his/her attachment figures due to insecurity and fear of not being helped if needed. At the same time, he/she may show rejection if affection is attempted. Very strong outbursts of anger may begin to occur at this stage or later.
Occasionally, a child with disorganized attachment shows rejection of his parents. He seeks to avoid them, runs away from them and prefers not to be near them. However, there are times when he may feel homesick and want to be with them. Usually when this happens, the rejection reappears. All this is accompanied by poor or no emotional management on the part of the child.
In adult life, a disorganized attachment makes it very difficult for people to relate affectively. Anger outbursts are frequent, without having any type of emotional tool to manage them. In both children and adults, psychological therapy is generally required to heal the wounds and to be able to rebuild bonds from a healthy base.
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- Wickens, A. (2004). Foundations of Biopsychology. 2nd. ed. Prentice Hall.