Understanding Secure Attachment

I previously wrote a generalized blog about what an attachment style is. In the next few blogs I will break down the attachment style types in more detail to help you understand about each of them and how they develop. There are four basic attachment styles: secure attachment, anxious resistant or anxious ambivalent insecure attachment, anxious-avoidant insecure attachment, and disorganized or disoriented insecure attachment. Today I will discuss secure attachment.

Secure attachment is when an individual feels a sense of safety about the world and feels that their needs will be met consistently, enabling them to feel comfortable exploring freely. Many studies have been done with toddlers to understand attachment styles. It was determined from these studies that children who felt a secure attachment to their caregivers were comfortable engaging with strangers. They were often visibly upset when the caregiver departed from the room and were generally happy to see the caregiver when they returned, seeking to be comforted by their caregiver. In these situations, the caregiver was responsive and able to soothe the child.

Many factors influence the attachment style that an individual develops. Some of those factors include, their temperament of the child, the parent’s attachment style, the ability of the caregiver to interpret and meet the needs of the child, and whether they experienced medical trauma or another form of trauma.

Developmentally, the brain of a child is not fully developed until late adolescence or early adulthood. Babies and toddlers, in particular, do not have a fully formed ego or sense of self. Their sense of self develops based on their temperament and the way in which others interact with them. They make sense of the world based on the reactions of others. In general, if there are no traumas present and the child’s temperament is optimistic in nature, the child will develop a secure attachment style when their caregivers consistently, or most often, respond effectively to their needs.

In my previous blog I noted that research indicates that caregivers only need to get it right 50% of the time. It is more important that caregivers are intuitive enough to notice when they are not meeting the child’s need and then they adjust to meet the need. This is called rupture and repair and is necessary for the child to learn resilience. Generally in these cases, children learn that their caregivers will be responsive to their needs and communication most of the time, which creates a sense of security and educates the child in how to manage or cope with similar situations in the future. They learn to regulate their emotions as well as how to communicate their needs effectively. These children generally grow up feeling safe exploring their surroundings and believing that they have the resources internally and externally to navigate difficult situations. They tend to develop belief systems that are adaptive in nature. This attachment style is considered to be the most adaptive. Individuals with this attachment style tend to grow up and have healthy, functioning relationships with others.

It should be noted that even individuals with secure attachments often have some coping skills that are reflective of other attachments styles. It should also be noted, that an individual who does not have a secure attachment style can develop a secure attachment style if they have one relationship that is secure. Therapy can be an effective way to understand your coping skills as well as your attachment style. It can assist you in gaining insight into the experiences of your childhood and early adulthood and how they affected your sense of self and coping skills. With insight and understanding, individuals often are able to heal the past and develop more adaptive coping skills to find more satisfaction in relationships and a more secure sense of self.

If this way of working interests you, please feel free to contact me to schedule a free phone consultation. I can be reached at allison@blossomingheartcounseling.com or 503-880-7190.