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Kendra Cherry

A Closer Look at Attachment Theory

By November 19, 2012

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Attachments play an important role in our lives, from our earliest bonds with caregivers to our enduring ties to friends and family members. John Bowlby, one of the pioneering researchers on the topic, defined attachment as a "lasting psychological connectedness between human beings." Not only do the first attachments we form in childhood provide comfort, security, and safety, they also set the stage for later relationships in our lives.

During early childhood, it is important for attachment figures to be accessible, dependable, and attentive to the needs of the child. When these criteria are met, the child develops a sense of security and feels safe, loved, and confident to explore and interact with his or her environment.

Later researchers, including Hazen and Shaver, began looking at attachment styles between adult romantic partners. They found a number of different beliefs about relationships among adults with differing attachment styles.

Securely attached adults tend to believe that romantic love is enduring. Ambivalently attached adults report falling in love often, while those with avoidant attachment styles describe love as rare and temporary. While we cannot say that infant attachment styles are identical to adult romantic-attachment styles, research has shown that early attachment styles can help predict patterns of behavior in adulthood.

Learn more about the various attachment styles and some potential problems with attachment in this overview of attachment theory.

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