Attachment is an emotional bond that forms between an infant and their caregiver. It is the means by which helpless infants get their primary needs met. This subsequently becomes an engine of social, emotional, and cognitive development.
Scientists who study the brain believe that attachment is a fundamental need that is hardwired into the brain. This is why specific neural pathways in the brain are responsible for initiating attachment and a hormone. It is called oxytocin which helps to promote the attachment process.
Development of Attachment in Early Life
The early social experience of the infant stimulates the growth of the brain. This can have an enduring influence on forming stable relationships with others. Attachment provides the infant’s first coping mechanism and sets up a mental image of the caregiver in their mind. This image is stored and can be summoned up as a comforting cognitive presence in difficult moments.
Attachment develops through everyday interactions as a caregiver attends to an infant’s needs. The bond between infant and caregiver is usually well established before the end of the first year of life. Researchers have described several attachment patterns, including secure, anxious-resistant, avoidant, and disorganised. A majority of children tend to show “secure” attachment behaviour, while others seem “insecure.”
Attachment Styles in Adulthood
Attachment styles in adulthood are similar to attachment patterns in children. However, attachment styles may be better thought of as dimensional. It differs from person to person, where one rate as relatively high, low, or somewhere in the middle. A person may not exhibit the same attachment pattern in every close relationship.
Attachment security and behaviours in adult relationships are commonly called “attachment styles.” The four attachment styles in adulthood are:
- Secure (feeling safe in relationships)
- Anxious-preoccupied (high anxiety, low avoidance)
- Dismissive-avoidant (low anxiety, high avoidance)
- Fearful-avoidant (high anxiety, high avoidance)
Many adults feel secure in their relationships and comfortable depending on others. These types of adults tend to have healthy relationships and lifestyles.
Others tend to feel anxious about their connection with close others. They become so worried about their relationship that they prefer to avoid getting close to them in the first place.
Similarly, some adults will not care about their relationship and feel less anxious. They will become highly avoidant due to their careless emotion.