What is an attachment style, you might ask. Attachment, according to John Bowlby, is a "lasting psychological connection between human beings" (Bowlby, 1969, p. 194). This is developed from infancy, in direct proportion to how much care and comfort a child receives from their caregiver. Mary Ainsworth developed what is now called the "Strange Situation" and furthered Bowlby's theory of attachment.
Photo courtesy of About.com.How the child responded to the parent when they returned became classified into an attachment style. She identified three, and researchers Main and Solomon (1986) added a fourth. Now, there are four classically accepted styles.
We'll look at the first style, Secure Attachment, today. The children in the Strange Situation would respond without significant distress when their caregiver left the room. When scared, they seek comfort from their parent, and any contact initiated by a parent is readily accepted by them. These children clearly prefer their parent to a stranger. Typically, parents of securely attached infants tend to play more with their children and react quicker to their child's needs. They generally are more responsive, as well.
If you feel the need to pigeon-hole one of the attachment styles as "good," this would be the one (see below for the names of the other attachment styles for why this could also be the case).
Research shows securely attached children tend to have long-term relationships as adults with partners they trust. They also typically have high self-esteem, enjoy deeply intimate relationships with others, seek out social support and relish their ability to share their feelings with other people.
Here's a breakdown, thanks to About.com.
Our core beliefs develop in direct proportion to how we attach. Now, this is not to say that people can't develop securely attached relationships as adults when they grew up with Ambivalent, Avoidant or Disorganized Attachment styles. (Don't those names just sound awful? So of course Secure Attachment sounds like the obvious winner.) But attachment styles of our characters are definitely overcomable (is that a word?). Anyway...
Our core beliefs revolve around two concepts: our thoughts about ourselves (self dimension) and our thoughts about others (other dimension). Each dimension centers around two questions.
For the self dimension, the questions are:
1) Am I worthy of being loved?
2) Am I competent to get the love I need?
For the other dimension, the questions are:
1) Are others reliable and trustworthy?
2) Are others accessible and willing to respond to me when I need them to be?
Based on your answers to these questions, you either have a positive or negative self dimension and a positive or negative other dimension. Remember this, as we will revisit this concept for the following few Thursdays.
Securely attached people have a positive self dimension. That is, they feel worth of love and competnent to get the love they need. In other words, they answer "yes" to both questions. They also have a positive other dimension. They believe others are reliable and trustworthy and accessible and willing to respond to them if they need them. Again, they would answer "yes" to both of the other dimension questions.
Think about how these questions essentially incorporate every expectation you would have about future relationships. It's like putting on a pair of sunglasses that tint everything about how you would look at a potential romantic relationship, how you see yourself, how you see others. VERY CRUCIAL for characterization!
So stay tuned as we take a deeper look into the Ambivalent Attachment style mentioned in Tuesday's post. I'll take you through the Strange Situation with an ambivalently attached infant and walk you through their core beliefs again using the four questions.