What Are The Kinds Of Attachment Patterns?

In our previous Question & Answer, we examined attachment patterns, how they are formed, what kinds of attachment patterns we can develop, and why understanding our attachment patterns matters. We learned that attachment patterns are often rooted in trauma and can shape our entire lives without our realizing it. Trauma in early childhood can be significant and specific, yet can also be seemingly innocuous and vague. However our attachment patterns are defined, they can define how we have relationships and get our needs met until we learn how to manage our attachment patterns on our own.

Four Kinds Of Attachment Patterns

Attachment patterns vary and can be fluid, depending on an individual and their experiences. There are, however, four distinct kind of attachment patterns which are found most often and most consistently among most people: secure attachment, avoidant attachment, ambivalent, and disorganized.

Secure And Insecure Attachment Patterns

  • Secure Attachment: An individual who has developed a secure attachment style was rarely left in a state of distress for long and was not likely caused any severe distress by a traumatic event. Their parents and primary caregivers met their needs, comforted them, and were able to build trust. In relationships, people with secure attachment patterns feel happy and secure. Relationships for those with a secure attachment are most often healthy, functional, and thriving.
  • Avoidant Attachment: One of the best ways to understand the avoidant attachment pattern is to directly contrast it to the secure attachment pattern. Someone who is avoidant likely suffered a trauma in their early lives which left them feeling abandoned, neglected, or abused. Rather than be comforted in distress, they were left in distress without any self-coping mechanisms. As a result, individuals with avoidant attachment patterns do not feel as though they can have their needs met by others, which leads them to have difficulty trusting, gaining intimacy, or even staying in relationships.

Ambivalent And Disorganized Attachment Patterns

  • Ambivalent Attachment: An ambivalent attachment pattern is neither fully secure nor is it fully avoidant because, most often, the parent or primary caregiver was never consistent in the kind of love and care they provided. Parents who are inconsistent and fluctuate between attentiveness and affection as well as neglect or avoidance, inspire the ambivalent attachment parent. Children need consistency in order to learn how to trust their own behaviors in addition to the behaviors of adults. Never knowing what to expect or for how long, adults with ambivalent attachment patterns are often anxious and insecure in their relationships and have difficulty understanding the motives or decisions made by their partners.
  • Disorganized Attachment: The secure, avoidant, and ambivalent attachment patterns are defined by relatively predictable parenting or behaviors from primary caregivers. Even the ambivalent style of parents is predictable: either attentive or neglectful. Parents who act in a disorganized manner have unpredictable responses, care styles, and behaviors towards their child. Whatever their responses, usually the manner of their response is erratic and dramatic. Jumpy and inconsistent, a child becomes deeply confused by their parent’s behaviors and lacks the general ability to cope with such behaviors. Instead of becoming secure, avoidant, or ambivalent, the child is unorganized in their thoughts, feelings, attachments, behaviors, and responses to life. Individuals with the disorganized attachment pattern may simply tune out of relationships because they never learned how to emotionally respond to life. They may also be angry and aggressive because they learned how to fight life stressors.

In our next Question & Answer, we will offer you strategies for how to determine your attachment pattern and how you can change your relationship patterns.

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