Guide to Attachment Styles in Adults

The psychology of adult attachment styles refers to how an individual forms a relationship pattern throughout their life-such as attachment, death, or loss. Known also as the “evolutionary theory”, it is believed to be evolutionary in its development as it is considered to be a survival mode, with its basis forming at birth and continuing throughout the individual’s life in a wide range of relationships.

People approach relationships in similar ways even though they may vary in quality, and research has shown that this approach is based on their original infant security issues with their caregiver/parent. A British psychoanalyst, John Bowlby, originally developed this “theory of attachment” in order to better understand why severely distressed infants, separated from their parents or caregivers for one reason or another, would go to such extremes in order to attempt to prevent this separation from occurring. Any means would be used by the infant in order to get close to the caregivercrying, screaming, crawling to them, or crawling and crying looking for them.

Over time, both John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth began to recognize that the infant attachment processes they had been studying and experimenting with would continue throughout the child’s life until adulthood, influencing their relationships with another person. Further proof was recognized in 1987, when two other researchers, Hazan and Shaver, would continue work with the attachment theory but with the relationships between adults, recognizing a similar pattern as that of the infants/caregivers.

Although Bowlby devoted extensive research to the subject of attachment with Mary Ainsworth, it was Freud who originally formed the base roots of the attachment theory through his personal theories on what love was about. Bowlby then followed through with his own psychoanalytic viewpoint, stating that early experiences of the infant/caregiver relationship would not only continue through-out life’s development and behavior until death, but influence the relationship styles greatly.

A child who has a parent figure or caregiver around feels secure in its basic needsfood, warmth, security, and shelter. Once this is taken away, the fear instinct steps in. Without that secure person, the fear of no food, warmth, or any other of the basic needs becomes overwhelming, with high levels of anxiety stepping in. Depending on the length of time involved with the original caregiver being gone, the infant or child can become depressed and anxiety-ridden, even if the caregiver comes back. Throughout life, when a intimate partner or child leaves longer than necessary, that same childhood instinct of fear and anxiety will occuragain and again.

In the past ten years, studies are being done that are more recent than the earlier ones, along with the latest research on violence and attachment theories. A high correlation is being seen between violence against women by intimate partners or youth and violence against society, with lack of security as infants or children. Studies are being done with female inmates, attempting to find out why they allow such violence against them while eventually becoming violent themselves. Other studies are being researched of children in the homes alone with working single-mothers or mothers simply not there, becoming more violent with high-developing behaviors as they get older.

The lack of attention, love, and stability are being discovered in today’s violent teenagers and youth that more than proves John Bowlby’s initial theory of attachment. Yet, still in progress, both sides of the attachment theory are being argued with each side vehemently arguing their point. But to be sure, childhood instability influences youth and adulthood relationships. How and how much is hard to say, but eventually the latest research and studies will eventually find the truthhopefully in time to save the children.