Attachment theory is a model for understanding how children relate to their parents, which can also be used to understand how adults interact in intimate relationships. There are two overarching modes of attachment in children and adults: As children, we develop our attachment style in relationship with our primary caregiver, who is also referred to as our Dismissive avoidant attachment in adults object. If our primary caregiver is able to provide good-enough parenting, then we are able to internalize them as an attachment object.
We are then able to carry them with us, secure in the knowledge that they will be there when we need them, developing enough confidence in the world to venture forth without their physical accompaniment. This is what enables us to differentiate from our primary caregiver and to accomplish our own goals in life. To the degree that this happens, we grow up with secure attachment.
Switching to the perspective of the parent, our ultimate objective is to empower children to survive on their own, without our presence or moment-to-moment guidance. Ultimately, we will die, and our children will continue, and hopefully they will achieve much more than we could in our own lives. Optimal parenting is a paradoxical practice: Practical parenting is usually far from optimal, however, and typical parental love is tainted with the selfish needs of an adult who did not get their attachment needs met as a child.
As a result, most parents, to at least some degree, attempt to get their attachment needs met by their children. Parenting is often extremely stressful, and because many of our parents had not developed secure attachment by the time we were born, we grew up into adults who struggle with insecure attachment ourselves. In broad terms, if our primary caregiver was unpredictably responsive, then we might have developed into adults with anxious-preoccupied attachmentwhich can lead to us appearing obsessive and angry in relationship; if they were overbearing or emotionally invasive, then we might have developed into adults with dismissive-avoidant attachmentwhich can lead to us appearing as cold and disinterested.
There Dismissive avoidant attachment in adults a third class of insecure Dismissive avoidant attachment in adults, which is called fearful-avoidant attachment in adults. This is usually the result of relatively severe early traumatic experiences, and manifests in behaviors that alternate between those of anxious-preoccupied attachment and those of dismissive-avoidant attachment.
This attachment style is also characterized by mistrust and reluctance to commit in relationship. When we became adults, we began to transfer the attachment bond that we had with our primary caregiver onto Dismissive avoidant attachment in adults romantic partners.
If we developed anxious-preoccupied attachment, then we are often attracted to, and seek relationship with, other adults who behave like our primary caregiver, which is usually people with dismissive-avoidant attachment.
If we developed dismissive-avoidant attachment, then we are often attracted to, and seek relationship Dismissive avoidant attachment in adults, people with anxious-preoccupied attachment. Likewise, people with fearful-avoidant attachment often end up paring with other people with fearful-avoidant attachment. Other mixtures are both possible and not uncommon.
Under stress, we now behave with our partner as we did with our parent. If we have anxious-preoccupied attachment, we become highly distressed when separated from our partner, and aggressively angry— either actively or passively—on their return. In the case of disorganized attachment, we express the anxiety of separation in a mixture of behaviors, including avoidance, distress, and anger.
Secure attachment in adults is characterized by comfort with both intimacy and independence, and a generally positive regard for themselves, their partner, and the relationship. It may be harder to accurately measure this statistic directly because adults may often shamefully hide their non-secure attachment traits in self-report questionnaires. The good news for those of us who do not have secure attachment is that secure attachment can be developed during adulthood.
This is called earned secure attachment. Nourishing and adaptive re-parenting experiences, which can occur in relationship with an adult who already has secure attachment, can lead to the fulfillment of developmental attachment needs, and to the internalization of a Dismissive avoidant attachment in adults optimal attachment object. We can experience, and then Dismissive avoidant attachment in adults to carry inside of us, relatively untainted parental Dismissive avoidant attachment in adults.
There are many ways to experience this good-enough re-parenting, but it always occurs in relationship with another person attachment object who can exhibit secure Dismissive avoidant attachment in adults behaviors at least sometimes. That other person might be a romantic partner, a psychotherapist, a coach, a mentor, or a friend. A securely attached partner is not always necessary for one to develop secure attachment.