Attachment Theory

Children bond with caregivers/parents who are comfortable (warm and soft when they hold them) and who are familiar to them (by wasting time with them and genuinely taking interest in them).

However, not all parents bond with their children accordingly and for many reasons; many parents are busy in an economy that requires them to work so hard such that they do not have time to play with their children or hold them. They often come home tired.

Attachment to a child is very important though because it helps create a bond that lasts a lifetime. Parents who bond with their kids early, through touch and familiarity, tend to have an easier time when the children turn teenagers because the bond motivates the teenager to listen to their parents as opposed to those who only provided for their physical needs.

To learn about the various kinds of attachment, Mary Ainsworth, a psychologist, designed what is referred to as a strange situation. This experiment showed three basic forms of attachment. Today, many psychologists believe that our early attachment to our primary caregivers serves as a foundation for our adult relationships. Let us explore these attachments:

Secure Attachment

In the experiment, the parent leaves the child and immediately the child is distressed and is really happy to see the parent come back. The child seeks the comfort of the parents when it is sad.

This kind of attachment comes from parents who respond quickly, consistently and positively to the children’s needs.

Adults who had such parents tend to be capable of mature, meaningful, trusting, empathetic and loving relationships later in life.

Insecure Avoidant Attachment

To show this kind of attachment, when the parent would leave, the child does not show distress when the parent leaves nor does he/she show any comfort when the parent comes back. The child does not seek any comfort from the parent when he/she feels sad.

This kind of attachment shows that the parents have often been dismissive of the needs of the child such that the child avoids the parent just as the parent avoids his/her physical and emotional needs.

Adults who grew with such parents avoid emotions and physical connections and they appear dismissive, rigid, emotionless, intolerant and critical of others.

Insecure Anxious Attachment.

When the parent leaves this particular child, the child cries and longs for the parent to come back. When the parent does, the child continues to cry showing that the return of the parent is not comforting as such.

This shows that the parents have been inconsistent in responding to the physical and emotional needs of the child such that the child is always anxious, unsure of how the parents will respond to his/her needs.

In the same way, when such children become adults, they exhibit anxiety in relationships where they know that they desire intimacy but they keep pushing people away. The idea of intimacy frightens them because they do not know how long it will last. They don’t think that the other person will love them for real and forever. They also don’t think that they are very lovable. Such people also tend to blame others and tend to be quite impulsive.

Some other psychologists have added a fourth kind of attachment which is:

Insecure Fearful/Disorganized Attachment.

This is when the parent or primary caregiver is abusive and therefore never met the physical needs of the children. The behaviour of the parents was often frightening if not always. 

Such children are unable to attach to their parents and they often appear nervous, fearful and dazed when their parents or guardians are with them.

When such people become adults, they become abusive, chaotic, prone to anger outbursts, insensitive and with low trust for their partners or friends while craving for security at the same time.


I hope this helps you to understand yourself better and in so doing, I hope you can be more aware of why you approach relationships in certain ways. Moreover, it could help you to be more patient and realistic about the expectations you have from your partner. It could also help you be more patient with yourself.


And as a parent, I hope this helps you to know the important role you play in the life of your child.