The four different attachment types and what this means for relationships.

Attachment theory says that for their social and emotional development, children need to form a relationship with at least one primary caregiver.  This attachment normally develops through four stages from about 6 months up until the age of about 3.

Dependent on the child’s experience with their parents, they will fall into one of four attachment styles:

Secure; where there is a positive view of themselves and others. This will come from a caregiver who is emotionally available and responsive.

Anxious; a negative view of self and a positive view of others. This will come from a caregiver who is unpredictable and critical.

Avoidant; a positive view of self and a negative view of others. This will come from a caregiver who has not met their emotional needs

Anxious – Avoidant; An unstable view of self and others. The caregiver is unpredictable or frightening.


These patterns are likely to continue into adulthood unless there is a significant self-exploration to help people understand their patterns and want to change.

If you want to check your attachment style click here.

How it Affects our Relationships

We all have baggage from our childhood. We cannot change what happened, but we can change how we allow it to affect us in the future.

A relationship is built on 3 main characters, You, Me and Us.   For it to be a strong relationship, each needs to be built on strong foundations and to exist independently rather than co-dependently.

People with secure attachment normally have more satisfying and longer-lasting relationships than those with other attachment styles. They have a positive view of themselves, their attachments and their relationships.

Anxious styles seek intimacy and approval and may become clinging and over-dependent on their partner.

Avoidant types will be independent and avoid closeness and attachment. They are likely to hide their feelings.

Someone who is Anxious-Avoidant is likely to be unhappy expressing affection and will be uncomfortable with emotional closeness. Their emotions may be unpredictable.

Another impact is that if we had a difficult childhood and are fearful or anxious, we may feel a victim from our childhood and might seek a rescuer who can give us the love and security that we didn’t get in childhood. This may become an unbalanced and unsustainable relationship unless we are able to move out of victimhood.


Understanding our Partner

We are the product of our experiences; it is what we do with those that decide who we are going to be and how healthy our relationships will be.  Do we want to be the prisoners of the past or to drive our own destiny?

To have a great relationship we need to truly understand ourselves as well as to understand our partner and their map of the world.

Everyone is unique. To have some ways of understanding them better is important but to pigeonhole people can be limiting.  There are many different dimensions that can be measured, such as Jungian personality types, IQ, EQ, birth signs, favourite football team, music, films and colours.  How many of these are helpful and how many might be distractions?

Understanding our upbringing and that of our partner, or prospective partner, is really important as that may have a big impact on who we are.  If our parents were loving and supportive, that gives us a great foundation for a secure relationship.   If our parents did not give that, it is possible that we might still be anxious or avoidant. If we are, that will place a burden on us or our relationship.  It is interesting to know that, but this is only helpful if we do something with that knowledge to improve our relationships in the future.

If we know each other’s stories and understand their maps of the world then we will be much better equipped. We will be able to understand why they respond to situations in the way they do as well as our impact on them.

Read more about Neil Wilkie and his other articles HERE


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