Why do I have a hard time opening up to loved ones? Why do I feel so dependent on romantic partners for my happiness? Why don’t break ups bother me the way they do other people?
If you’ve ever wondered why you act the way you do in relationships—it could be because of your relationship attachment style.
An attachment style, as defined by the American Psychological Association is “the characteristic way people relate to others in the context of intimate relationships, which is heavily influenced by self-worth and interpersonal trust”.
The attachment styles we know today come from the work of multiple psychologists.
John Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst, first developed the attachment theory in the 1960’s. Bowlby studied the ways that children reacted to being separated from their caregivers.
He believed that the connection formed between a child and their caregiver was based on nurture, responsiveness and accessibility, and would heavily influence the child’s ability to function in social and intimate relationships later in life.
Psychologist Mary Ainsworth established the differences in attachment styles to create the first three types, and researches Main and Solomon later came up with the fourth.
Today, we commonly hear about adult attachment styles, which refer to the way people behave in romantic relationships and even friendships.
There are 4 main attachment styles:
1.) Secure Attachment Style - A secure attachment style involves a high level of self-worth and trust that allows healthy, secure connections to be formed without unreasonable fear of abandonment or betrayal. It’s estimated that around 56% of adults have this attachment type.
2.) Anxious Attachment Style (also referred to as Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment Style) - An anxious attachment style is one of the insecure attachment styles. This type of attachment is characterized by low self-worth and a deep fear of abandonment. Someone with an anxious attachment style often feels that they are “needy” and depend too much on their loved ones. It’s estimated that around 19% of adults have this attachment style.
3.) Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment Style - The avoidant attachment style, also known as dismissive-avoidant, is also an insecure attachment style. Unlike, the anxious attachment style, the avoidant attachment style is not characterized by low self-worth, but rather a distrust of others and emotional unavailability. Someone with an avoid attachment style will have a hard time getting close to others. Around 25% of adult are estimated to have this attachment style.
4.) Disorganized Attachment Style (also referred to as Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style) - The disorganized attachment style is actually a combination of the anxious and avoidant attachment styles and it involves conflicting needs and wants, like being anxious for intimacy, while also trying to avoid getting too close to anyone. This leads to inconsistent and confusing behaviors (which is why it’s called disorganized). This attachment style is thought to be rare in adults, but it has not been as thoroughly researched as the other styles.
Each style has a unique set of behaviors and traits, but there is some overlap. For example: anxious-preoccupied and disorganized attachment styles are both considered to be on the high anxiety side of the attachment style spectrum, while secure and avoidant are on the low anxiety end.
One person may show signs of more than one type of attachment style, but generally speaking, there will be one that most closely resonates above the rest.
This attachment style quiz is designed to help you determine your own attachment style—so you can better understand the way you act in relationships, and hopefully use this knowledge to work on any insecure attachments you may have because secure relationships are more likely to be lasting relationships.
Disclaimer: Keep in mind that mental health can also play a significant role in the way we act in relationships, outside of relationship attachment styles.