First Relationships and Attachments are Important – but Not Defining.

You are MORE than your early beginnings!

Our very first understanding of relationships, are with our parents. Those early relationships have an impact on who we are and how we attach to others as we mature. However, it is important to note that no one is trapped in their early beginnings. While it is true that the “Attachment Types” can be used as a guide, they certainly are not absolute. Many other environmental and personality variables have an influence on how people develop from infancy to adulthood.

How the HECK do we ATTACH to others anyway?

***Trigger Warning***

Type of Attachment The Child Behaviour Reason for the Child’s Behaviour Adult Relationship
Secure Children in this group may be upset when a parent leaves their sight, but they understand and trust that their caregiver will return. Because of this, they are able to calm their emotions relatively quickly. Upon return, the child will greet their parent warmly.Children in this group will also seek comfort from their parent when they are frightened, and can be easily comforted. Children in this group have a close, comfortable and warm relationship with their parents. They are made to feel loved and valuable. Adults with a secure attachment history tend to have healthy, trusting and lasting relationships.
Insecure Avoidant Children in this group don’t show distress when a parent leaves their sight, and ignores the parent when he/she returns. The child may seem calm and comfortable, but in reality they are holding in their distress. These children don’t attempt to look for help from their parents because they believe that nothing will result from it. Parents in this group are less responsive to their child’s needs (physical, emotional psychological). Specifically, they may ignore their child when they are upset, hurt or sick. Similarly, they may act insensitive – such as laughing or making fun of their needs. Adults with an insecure avoidant attachment history may have problems with showing emotion or sharing feelings in relationships. These adults are just continuing a pattern that they have had throughout their development years.
Insecure Anxious: ambivalent or resistant Children in this group will become very distraught when a parent leaves their sight. They will also show distress when the parent returns. The child will attempt to seek comfort from their parent, but the child will likely be difficult to sooth. At times, the child may even fight to get their parent away from them.Children in this group may also demand a lot of attention from their parents and will cling in unfamiliar environments. Parents in this group are less responsive to their child’s needs (physical, emotional psychological). Specifically, they may ignore their child when they are upset, hurt or sick. Similarly, they may act insensitive – such as laughing or making fun of their needs. Adults with an insecure anxious attachment history may either find it hard to get close in relationships or they become very clingy and needy. Either way if they are in a relationship that ends, they can experience overwhelming grief.
Insecure Disorganized Children in this group show unpredictable responses when a parent leaves their sight as well as when the parents return back to them.  They want to approach their caregiver for comfort, but they also feel the need to avoid due to safety concerns and lack of trust. This confusion results in them freezing up or acting in a trance-like state. As the child gets older he/she may have difficulty understanding the boundaries of their role in the family and may feel equal to their parents. Children with this attachment style have typically been victims of abuse, neglect, trauma and/or inconsistent care. This type of destructive care could be from a parent, care-giver, or a stranger. Adults with an insecure disorganized attachment history deserve to have resolution from their early childhood trauma. As well, it is important for them to be surrounded with support. Trustworthy and knowledgeable therapists are critical to closure.

Who came up with these attachment styles?

John Bowlby changed the way we think about the very first relationships in our lives. Specifically, Bowlby examined how children connect to their mother (or permanent mother substitute). As well, he looked at the impact of separation, neglect, and/or death on children and their future relationship patterns.

He saw attachment behaviour as an evolutionary function – basically that a child naturally/instinctively needs to be protected from danger. Along with protection, he also concluded that children need to be in continuous relationships that feel warm and safe to have a mentally healthy future.

Mary Ainsworth also researched attachment. In her famous “Strange Situation” experiment, Ainsworth concluded that there are three types of attachment (which we still use today). The three types (which we discussed above) are: secure, insecure avoidant, and insecure anxious (ambivalent/resistant). The fourth attachment style (disorganized-insecure) was added in the 80’s by Main and Soloman.

Final Thoughts

What I can tell you from the bottom of my heart, is that I have had a number of traumatic instances over the course of my life. Recovery isn’t easy, but there is always hope, and with the right resources there can be a light at the end of the tunnel. I am living proof of it. Simply, first relationships and attachments are important – but they are not defining.

I am not a doctor….

  • The Anxious Butterfly is not run by medical diagnosis or treatment endorsements.
  • I do have an Honours B.A. in Psychology, but I am absolutely not a doctor or a counsellor. However, I am a peer. I have a long personal history in trauma, therapy, self-discovery, and recovery.
  • Information on this site should always be discussed with a professional medical caregiver prior to implementation.
  • For assistance in mental or physical health matters please contact your family doctor or a counsellor.

For clarification of disclaimers, please click HERE.


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DeZulueta, F. (2009) Post-traumatic stress disorder and attachment. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment.

Greenberg, M., Cicchetti, D., & Cummings, E.M. (1993) Attachment in the Preschool Years: Theory, Research, and Intervention. University of Chicago Press.

Newton, P. (2008) The Attachment Connection. New Harbinger Publications Inc.

Thompson, R.  (1985) Psychosocial Research on Pediatric Hospitalization and Health Care. Charles C. Thomas Publisher.


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