The Theory of Attachment Styles

Attachment can be defined as a deep and enduring emotional bond between two people in which each seeks closeness and feels more secure when in the presence of the attachment figure. In psychology, this term is observed more keenly as it brings out many aspects of man and their social relationships with others. Attachment or attachment styles refer to the emotional attachment that an individual had shared with their primary caregiver as an infant . The theory of attachment style brings out four such kinds of attachment with the parents or caregivers.

Founded by psychoanalyst John Bowlby in the 1950s and expanded by Mary Ainsworth, attachment theory outlines how the bond with our primary caregivers sets the foundation for how one navigates other relationships throughout life.

There are four main adult attachment styles: secure, anxious, avoidant, and fearful-avoidant. These styles are figured out by how one behaves in the present relationship with others be it friendly or a romantic relationship.

  1. Secure Attachment Style involves or refers to the ability to build a strong, long-lasting relationship that is loving as well with others. A securely attached person can trust others and be trusted, love and accept love, and get close to others with relative ease. They're not afraid of intimacy, nor do they feel panicked when their partners need time or space away from them.It is a result of feeling safe, understood, comforted and valued during one's early or childhood interactions, hence as a child a securely attached person felt safe and warm in any situation.

  2. Anxious Attachment Style refers to insecure attachment style marked by a deep fear of abandonment. Anxiously attached people tend to be very insecure about their relationships, often worrying that their partner will leave them and thus always hungry for validation. Anxious attachment is associated with neediness or clingy behaviour, such as getting very anxious when one's partner doesn't text back fast enough. Some 19% of adults have the anxious attachment type, according to Hazan and Shaver's research. The parenting under this case has been inconsistent where they had difficulty understanding their caregivers and had no security for what to expect from them moving forward hence often confused within their parental relationships and felt unstable.

  1. Avoidant Attachment Style also known as dismissive-avoidant attachment, and it generally aligns with the anxious-avoidant attachment style observed among children . It is marked by the fear of intimacy and the lack of trust for their partners.Basically defined by failures to build long-term relationships with others due to an inability to engage in physical and emotional intimacy .They feel threatened when anyone tries to get close to them and spend more time alone than interacting with others. Some avoidant-producing parents are outright neglectful but others are simply busy, slightly disinterested, and more concerned with things like grades, chores, or manners than feelings, hopes, dreams, or fears.

  2. Disorganised Attachment Style also known as fearful avoidant attachment style involves a combination of both anxious and avoidant attachment styles i.e. these people crave a lot for affection and attention but avoid it as well .Adults with this style of insecure attachment tend to feel they don’t deserve love or closeness in a relationship, probably find intimate relationships confusing and unsettling, often swinging between emotional extremes of love and hate for a partner,may exhibit antisocial or negative behaviour patterns, abuse alcohol or drugs, or prone to aggression or violence. It stems from intense fear, often as a result of childhood trauma, neglect, or abuse.Caregivers are inconsistent and are often seen as sources of comfort and fear by their children, which leads to their disorganised behaviours.

"Human beings are born helpless, so we are hardwired at birth to search for and attach to a reliable caregiver for protection," Peter Lovenheim, author of The Attachment Effect. "The quality of that first bond—loving and stable or inconsistent or even absent—actually shapes the developing brain, influencing us throughout life in how we deal with loss and how we behave in relationships.

Advantages of the attachment theory -

  • Having known the attachment style of oneself and their partner , one can work upon building a more safe and comfortable environment or relationship be it friendly or romantic relationship.

  • Caregivers can work upon their parenting style to offer a secure environment to their child, allowing a safe and comfortable environment to the infant.

  • The child might feel less angry with their parents, and might know themself better, furthur feeling better about themselves.

  • Such individuals will trust the people they love as they might understand their feelings better at that time.

  • This theory has led to the findings that children diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) frequently display attachment problems, possibly due to early abuse, neglect, or trauma.

Disadvantages/ Criticism of attachment theory -

  • A serious limitation of attachment theory is its failure to recognize the profound influences of social class, gender, ethnicity, and culture on personality development. These factors, independent of a caregivers sensitivity, can be as significant as the quality of the early attachment.

  • There is an over emphasising on the caregivers style of parenting however, the personality develops throughout the growth years and not just the infancy period therefore involving many changes through vicarious learning.

  • The parenting style can be remedied throughout the years and different children have different temperaments therefore the caregivers address them accordingly.


This theory proposed by John Bowlby , despite its criticisms, brings out a lot of factors about human and human relationships which can further help one bond and have a better experience with themselves and with others .


Lawrenz, L. (2021, October 13). Here Is How to Identify Your Attachment Style.

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Robinson,L. ( 2021, February). How Attachment Styles Affect Adult Relationships.

Retrieved from -,Secure%20attachment,Disorganized%20attachment


This Blog on 'The Theory of Attachment Styles' has been contributed by Simarpreet Kaur, who is currently pursuing BA in psychology from GGDSD College, Chandigarh. She is keenly interested in singing, creating content, and drawing and looks forward to becoming a counselor someday.

She is part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP). GIRP is a Umang Foundation Trust initiative to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present it in creative content expression.