John Bowlby’s Four Patterns of Early Attachment

Life is all about connection and attachment which are wired into us from birth. And the kind of early attachment we experience in childhood has a tremendous impact on the fears, insecurities and shameful feelings we experience as adults in everyday life, especially in intimate relationships with our lovers.

Take a close look at each of the four attachment patterns below and pick the one that best captures your early attachment experiences in your family of origin. How might it apply to what you need emotionally from your lover?

           Attachment Pattern           Caregiver’s Parenting Style           Child’s Behavior  

Secure

 

Good at reading child’s needs and responds appropriately. Forms a secure, caring, emotional bond with child.

Uses caregiver as secure base for exploration. Protests caregiver’s departure but is comforted upon return of caregiver. Comforted by strangers but always prefers caregiver

Avoidant

 

Little or no response to distressed child. Discourages crying. Encourages independence, achievement, better performance than peers.

Little feeling or emotional engagement when playing with caregiver. Little or no distress at caregiver’s departure. Treats strangers similarly to caregiver. Feels no attachment, is sometimes rebellious, seeks attention in wrong way. Has low self-esteem but feels strong, self-sufficient.

 

Inconsistent back and forth, warm, then cold, stone-faced

 

 

Inconsistent, ranging between caring and neglectful. Usually responds after child has a meltdown.

Unable to use caregiver as a secure base. Distressed at caregiver’s departure but feelings are a mix of anger and relief upon caregiver’s return, with reluctance to warm to caregiver. Preoccupied with caregiver’s availability. Seeks contact but resists angrily when it happens. Not easily calmed by strangers. Always feels anxious because can’t count on caregiver’s availability

 

Disorganized Makes child  crazy or leaves child severely traumatized (PTSD, physical abuse, sexual abuse)

 

 

Either frightened of or frightening to the child. Intrusive to child or withdraws. Confused when communicating to child. Humiliates child one minute, warm, loving the next (Jekyll and Hide).

Frequent contradictory behaviors such as approaching caregiver but with the back turned. Often results in severe Anxiety, Panic, ADHD, OCD, Schizophrenia in adult life.


 

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