Characteristics of Secure Attachment
Children who are securely attached generally become visibly upset when their caregivers leave, and are happy when their parents return. When frightened, these children will seek comfort from the parent or caregiver. Contact initiated by a parent is readily accepted by securely attached children and they greet the return of a parent with positive behavior. While these children can be comforted to some extent by other people in the absence of a parent or caregiver, they clearly prefer parents to strangers.
Parents of securely attached children tend to play more with their children. Additionally, these parents react more quickly to their children's needs and are generally more responsive to their children than the parents of insecurely attached children. Studies have shown that securely attached children are more empathetic during later stages of childhood. These children are also described as less disruptive, less aggressive, and more mature than children with ambivalent or avoidant attachment styles.
While forming a secure attachment with caregivers is normal and expected, as Hazen and Shaver have noted, it doesn't always happen. Researchers have found a number of different factors that contribute to the development (or lack thereof) of secure attachment, particularly a mother's responsiveness to her infant's needs during the first year of a child's life. Mothers who respond inconsistently or who interfere with child's activities tend to produce infants who explore less, cry more, and are more anxious. Mothers who consistently reject or ignore their infant's needs tend to produce children who try to avoid contact.
As adults, those who are securely attached tend to have trusting, long-term relationships. Other key characteristics of securely attached individuals include having high self-esteem, enjoying intimate relationships, seeking out social support, and an ability to share feelings with other people.
In one study, researchers found that women with a secure attachment style had more positive feelings about their adult romantic relationships than other women with insecure attachment styles.
How many people classify themselves as securely attached? In a classic study by Hazen and Shaver (1987), 56 percent of respondent identified themselves as secure, while 25 percent identified as avoidant and 19 percent as ambivalent/anxious.
Next: Ambivalent Attachment