The Basics of Attachment

Leslie Kleyweg, M.A., LPC-A on Feb 24, 2023 in Relationship and Family

Attachment theory is one of the most influential psychological theories that provides insight into the development of relationships between young children and their primary caregivers. Attachment theory has been particularly influential in the study of the development of interpersonal relationships and has been increasingly used to inform research and practice in understanding adult relationships.

Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space. It is learned in infancy as an infant begins to form an attachment relationship with their primary caregiver. From a psychological standpoint, the attachment between a young child and a parent or caregiver is the foundation upon which all future relationships will be built.

In adults, attachment theory suggests that people tend to develop attachments that are similar to their early childhood attachment relationships. For example, individuals who had close, secure relationships with their primary caregivers in early childhood are more likely to develop secure attachments with their partners later in life. Similarly, people who experienced insecure or negative attachment relationships in early childhood are more likely to develop insecure attachments in adulthood.

The impacts of attachment theory in adulthood vary widely. Adults who had secure attachments in childhood are more likely to have stronger intimate relationships and are better able to handle the stresses of life. They tend to have more successful relationships because they are able to communicate their feelings more effectively and are better able to empathize with their partners. They also have greater self-confidence, which allows them to have healthier emotional reactions and better self-care.

Conversely, adults who had insecure attachments in childhood tend to have difficulty forming close, meaningful relationships. They may struggle to trust their partners and are often overly suspicious or clingy in relationships. They may also have difficulty managing their emotions and often engage in destructive behavior.

Overall, attachment theory has tremendous implications for how adults form and maintain relationships. By understanding the connection between early childhood attachment and adult intimate relationships, we can better understand the dynamics of adult relationships and how to better support adults in forming and maintaining secure, healthy relationships.

As you consider the information provided here, please take a moment to reflect on the following journal prompts:

What do I need from my relationships to feel secure and supported?

What are my experiences of attachment, both positive and negative?

How can I use my understanding of attachment to build healthier relationships in the future?

At Nancy Thomas Counseling, we administer an ECR-R (experiences in close relationships) assessment that provides clients with information pertaining to their attachment style and allows the therapeutic work to be informed by these outcomes. If you are interested in learning more, please reach out for a free consultation.

Leslie Kleyweg is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate in Houston, TX.

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