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Attachment Styles

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Ambivalent Attachment
Ambivalent attachment

Ambivalent Attachment

Image: Kendra Cherry

Characteristics of Ambivalent Attachment

Children who are ambivalently attached tend to be extremely suspicious of strangers. These children display considerable distress when separated from a parent or caregiver, but do not seem reassured or comforted by the return of the parent. In some cases, the child might passively reject the parent by refusing comfort, or may openly display direct aggression toward the parent.

According to Cassidy and Berlin (1994), ambivalent attachment is relatively uncommon, with only 7% to 15% of infants in the United States displaying this attachment style. In a review of ambivalent attachment literature, Cassidy and Berlin also found that observational research consistently links ambivalent-insecure attachment to low maternal availability. As these children grow older, teachers often describe them as clingy and over-dependent.

As adults, those with an ambivalent attachment style often feel reluctant about becoming close to others and worry that their partner does not reciprocate their feelings. This leads to frequent breakups, often because the relationship feels cold and distant. These individuals feel especially distraught after the end of a relationship. Cassidy and Berlin described another pathological pattern where ambivalently attached adults cling to young children as a source of security (1994).

Next: Avoidant Attachment

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