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The Effect That Childhood Attachment Patterns Have on Adult Relationships

Childhood attachment patterns have an enormous impact on our adult relationships. By understanding our childhood attachment patterns through online therapy, we are able to better recognise our strengths and weaknesses as we approach relationships in adulthood. Mary Ainsworth identified three childhood attachment patterns called:

Secure – child is easily soothed by caregiver.

Insecure avoidant – child does not seek contact with caregiver when stressed.

Insecure ambivalent / resistant – child shows clingy behaviour but rejects caregiver when they try to interact.

These three attachment styles were discovered by Mary Ainsworth in her observation of mother-child relationships (Ainsworth & Bell, 1970). Later, a fourth attachment style was discovered called disorganised attachment (Main & Solomon, 1990). This attachment style develops as a result of the caregivers consistent failure to respond to the child’s needs.

People tend to display the same attachment patterns in their adult relationships. If someone, for example, had a insecure avoidant attachment pattern in their childhood relationship to their caregiver, they will display similar behaviour in their relationship to their adult partner. Those who are most satisfied in their adult relationships are people who posses a secure attachment style. They display the ability to seek comfort in their partner and provide their partner comfort in return. People who display an insecure ambivalent attachment style are, on the other hand, too dependent on their partners for fulfilment and display possessive tendencies. The partners of people with an insecure ambivalent attachment style often describe feeling suffocated. People with insecure avoidant attachment styles tend to distance themselves from their partner and sometimes avoid or deny the importance of relationships. Introverted people tend to be insecure avoidant. Their partners describe the treatment of them as hot-and-cold and their relationship as distant.

Online therapy can help you to better understand your childhood attachment pattern.

According to research, approximately 60% of people display a secure attachment patterns whilst approximately 20% display insecure avoidant and 20% insecure ambivalent attachment patterns, with a minute percentage displaying disorganised attachment patterns (Hazan & Shaver, 1987).

The good news is that people are not bound to their childhood attachment patterns. A person’s attachment patterns can change through online therapy. In this case, the therapeutic process involves a discovery of the patients attachment pattern and the subsequent altering of the attachment patterns through the therapist-patient relationship. The therapist takes the role of the caregiver and works with the patient to establish a secure attachment pattern.

Philip Andersson

Depression Counsellor



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