Attachment theory, first proposed by the psychologist John Bowlby who experimented on children concerning this phenomenon, suggests that early experiences with early caregivers can shape an individual’s emotional and behavioral patterns in relationships throughout the transition into adulthood, meaning that it can be difficult to change once acquired but not impossible. These attachment styles can influence an individual’s interpersonal relationships, including romantic relationships.
According to Bowlby’s attachment style theory, there are four different types of attachments:
Secure attachment: securely attached children tend to see the caregiver as someone they can rely on, developed a positive emotional connection with the caregiver, and thus can function with autonomy to explore the environment at the same time the child knows that she or he can rely on the caregiver if there is anything wrong in the environment. Furthermore, securely attached children feel that the bond they developed with their caregiver is genuine even when they are not together at a specific moment. On the other hand, adults who develop secure attachment tend to understand how when their partner leaves, it is temporary and it should not impact the relationship unless there is a breakup. They tend to believe that feelings are mutual and they know they can trust their partner. There is little if any jealousy, open and honest communication, and knows how to keep the balance of closeness and independence in the relationship. The individual is said to have high self-esteem and is capable of having long-term healthy relationships.
Anxious attachment: children with this kind of attachment tend to become clingy with the caregiver, develop an abnormal emotional response when they are left by the caregiver, and aggressive behavior among anxiously attached children tends to develop. On the other hand, anxiously attached adults tend to have significant abandonment fear or separation anxiety, they tend to be jealous or clingy in a romantic relationship, there is always the worry that their relationship will fail, they tend to adjust to the needs of others, experiences low self-esteem and constantly need reassurance from their romantic partner or friends.
Avoidant attachment: this kind of attachment style leads children to become disinterested in the presence or warmth of the caregiver, not feel distressed when the caregiver departs, and not feel anxious with strangers. Similarly, avoidant adults do not feel like developing close bonds or romantic relationships, they avoid relationships to stay away from developing emotional closeness and thus potentially get hurt if they otherwise would. Additionally, they tend to prioritize their needs which limits the development of emotional connection with others, might present themselves as someone people cannot trust, tend to hide feelings, struggle to cope with their emotions, and if, in a romantic relationship, they might see their partner clingy if the partner seems to approach them with emotional closeness.
Disorganized attachment: children with this attachment style seem confused when their caregiver approaches them and they might adopt inconsistent responses when greeted by their caregiver. Adults, on the other hand, seem to feel the need for closeness and love but at the same time, they are afraid of getting hurt by others or their partner. They tend to worry about people close to them harming them, besides having trust issues they also tend to sabotage the relationships they are in, the person might seem unpredictable, and struggles to deal with emotions.
Overall, it could be said that attachment styles developed early during childhood could affect later interpersonal relationships including romantic relationships, and depending on the attachment style some relationships might flourish while others might seem to be toxic. At the same time, this does not mean that the type of attachment acquired is fixed and cannot be changed, on the contrary, if the person works hard and wants to change their attachment style, it is possible.
By Marta Padron Pena, Mental Health Intern
Attachment Styles and Their Role in Adult Relationships. (2023, April 6). Attachment Project. https://www.attachmentproject.com/blog/four-attachment-styles/ Retrieved on April 22, 2023, from
McDermott, N. (2022, October 27). What Are The Attachment Styles—And How Can They Impact Your Relationship? Forbes Health. Retrieved on April 22, 2023, from https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/what-are-the-attachment-styles/