Have you ever wondered how your relationship with your parents impacts your relationships as an adult? Research suggests that there may be some overlap between our early childhood experiences with our primary caregivers and the way we form close relationships in adulthood.
In psychology, there is a working model called Attachment Theory. It is believed that in childhood everyone has an attachment style, which was developed in infancy, and falls under one of four categories: secure, insecure-ambivalent, insecure-avoidant, and disorganized attachment. For adults, a more general categorization of anxious, avoidant, or secure attachment roughly correspond to the childhood attachment styles. For more information, see Fraley’s report on adult attachment theory here.
Attachment-related anxiety is characterized by worry about whether one’s partner will be available, responsive, loving, etc. Attachment-related avoidance is characterized by a person not wanting to get too close or become too dependent on a significant other, as a way of protecting oneself. These types of behaviour could be linked to patterns developed with one’s parents in infancy.
Secure attachment style is characterized by low levels of attachment-related anxiety and avoidance. This means in romantic or close relationships, a person will feel comfortable being close to their partner, talking and opening up with their partner, and not worry about being left or rejected by them.
It can be beneficial to have awareness about your own tendencies in relationships and how these patterns might impact those closest to you. If you feel you might lean more towards anxious or avoidant attachment, the encouraging news is that your attachment style is NOT fixed for life. Forming new relationships as an adult means you have the opportunity to develop secure attachments and that you can change the way you relate to others in safe and secure relationships.
To learn more about your own attachment style, take this short quiz (Fraley)
Emily Hanna is a professional counsellor based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and seeks to help people improve their mental, emotional, and relational health through professional, non-judgmental, and confidential counselling. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.