Types of attachment in adults 

Discover the types of attachment that exist in adults: partner attachment, family attachment and even friendship attachment. How do you identify which type of attachment is safe and which isn't?



Attachment is an emotional relationship which involves an exchange between the adult and newborn in their first year of life, in relation to the care and attention the baby receives.

The roots of research on attachment started from the theory of love, from the infamous Sigmund Freud. The research and development of attachment theory corresponds to prestigious psychologist John Bowlby, and arose in the 1960's. He agreed with Freud that early childhood experiences are important in developing the personality. Additionally, he added an evolutionary component: aiding survival.  According to Bowlby, “The propensity to make strong emotional bonds to particular individuals is a basic component of human nature”.

Attachment styles and characteristics

Nowadays, psychologists recognise four attachment styles that are characterised by the different ways we have of interacting and behaving in our relationships. Throughout early childhood, the attachment style is set according to the interaction between children and their parents. Subsequently, in adulthood, the attachment style is used to describe patterns in relationships with other people, especially romantic relationships.

There are three fundamental propositions within attachment theory: that children are raised with confidence that their primary caregiver will be available to them, that they are raised in a stable environment and without parental disruption and the proposition that children’s confidence is forged during a critical period of time (from birth to twelve months).

What are the types of attachment?

Nowadays, psychologists identify four types of attachment.

  • Secure attachment: people with secure attachment develop long-lasting, trusting relationships, they tend to have good self-esteem and positive feelings about themselves and others, they have a good social support network, enjoy intimate relationships and have the ability to share feelings and affection with others.

  • Ambivalent attachment: they are usually distrustful people, who feel extreme discomfort when separated from and/or in the absence of their caregiver, they can be inconsolable and show themselves to be short tempered and aggressive towards them. As adults they usually react badly to closeness of others, they show concern when their partners don’t love them and feel anxious when relationships end. 

  • Avoidant attachment: children tend to avoid their parents and caregivers; they might not reject their attention, but neither do they look for reassurance and contact, and they treat their caregivers like complete strangers. The avoidant adult has problems in intimate relationships and difficulties in including emotions in social and romantic relationships, and avoids sharing thoughts and feelings with others.

  • Disorganised attachment: the actions and responses to caregivers are usually ones of avoidance and resistance in adulthood; when they maintain this evasive behaviour they usually seem confused, dazed, apprehensive and even, over time, they tend to reverse their roles acting like parents when they are young and displaying regressive behaviour when they are adults.

As a result of these studies, we can conclude that romantic bonds of adults seem to correspond with the bonds in early childhood, and there is no doubt that the relationship with our primary caregivers plays a vital role in our future development.