Attachment Injury in Adults

I have found these simple but provocative examples of Bowlby and Ainsworth’s attachment theory useful in helping clients identify how early caregiver experiences in childhood predict romantic relationship styles in adulthood (adapted from Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_in_adults).

What I often do is print this out ( attachment quotes handout) and have the client read over it, then tell me what jumped out at them. They usually resonate with one style strongly.

Anxious–preoccupied attachment
People who are anxious or preoccupied with attachment tend to agree with the following statements: “I want to be completely emotionally intimate with others, but I often find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I am uncomfortable being without close relationships, but I sometimes worry that others don’t value me as much as I value them.”

Dismissive–avoidant attachment
People with a dismissive style of avoidant attachment tend to agree with these statements: “I am comfortable without close emotional relationships. It is very important to me to feel independent and self-sufficient, and I prefer not to depend on others or have others depend on me.”

Fearful–avoidant attachment
People with a fearful style of avoidant attachment tend to agree with the following statements: “I am somewhat uncomfortable getting close to others. I want emotionally close relationships, but I find it difficult to trust others completely, or to depend on them. I sometimes worry that I will be hurt if I allow myself to become too close to others.”

Secure attachment
Securely attached people tend to agree with the following statements: “It is relatively easy for me to become emotionally close to others. I am comfortable depending on others and having others depend on me. I don’t worry about being alone or having others not accept me.”

Self Esteem
The secure and dismissive attachment styles are associated with higher self-esteem compared to the anxious and fearful attachment styles.
The secure and anxious attachment styles are associated with higher sociability than the dismissive or fearful attachment styles.

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2 comments
  1. Lavelda Naylor said:

    I am glad they were useful. I passed this to one of the therapists in my cohort at school and it seemed to help. Sometimes seeing a concept on paper is easier to handle.

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