What is Emotional Attachment?

Basil Manning

The emotional attachment It is a specific type of bond within affective bonds, of a social nature and involves the search for protection, care, safety and well-being within the relationship. It occurs in couples, children, relatives and in general close people.

Throughout our lives we form affective bonds with different people. Some of these links are the relationship of parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, friendship, brotherly bond, romantic love ...

They all show some common features. For example, they are affective relationships, they last over time, they seek proximity and contact with the other person, they produce anxiety when there is an unwanted separation, they are unique towards a specific person or it depends on the interaction between both..

The attachment figure is the reference and support base in the relationships that a person establishes with the physical and social world.

According to attachment theory, the primary relationship that the child establishes with his attachment figure guarantees protection, satisfies his emotional needs and the minor feels loved and accompanied.

When a person is sure of the unconditionality of his attachment figure, he develops feelings of security, stability and self-esteem towards him and facilitates empathy, comfort, love and emotional communication.

Why is the attachment bond important?

Attachment is important because the way it is developed, that is, whether it is an appropriate attachment style or not, will depend on the psychological development of the individual, their security and stability, and relationships with other people..

There are attachment relationships throughout life and not only during childhood, although it is around 12 months when the baby forms its first attachment relationship with a person, usually with the mother, after a long process.

You must bear in mind that many investigations indicate that the initial bond of a baby with his first attachment figure predicts the relationships that the child will establish with other people throughout his life: siblings, friends, future partner ...

As a result of the different attachment experiences, especially with the so-called “central figures” in the earliest stages of a person's life, we end up forming an “attachment style”, that is, a certain way of relating, of feeling and to think about those relationships that require intimacy.

Your child will develop a mental representation, generated in early childhood from attachment to his main caregiver, which will include information about himself, about you as his attachment figure, and the relationship you have.

This means that it will include an idea of ​​who and what your attachment figure is like and what to expect from you. With this model you will face the rest of the relationships and situations that you have to face in life.

In addition, attachment style has been associated as a predictor of human behavior in relation to social behavior.

For example, some research such as that of Waters, Wippman and Sroufe (1979) has shown that children between 3 and 6 years old who presented a higher level of social competence had been babies with a secure attachment.

In addition, an adequate attachment is also associated with a correct emotional development, with more empathy, with greater regulation of one's own emotions and a greater prosocial attitude in both children and adolescents.

And an insecure attachment, on the other hand, is related to more aggressive behavior and hostility as children grow older..

The functions of attachment are diverse and broad. This bond ensures the survival of the young, gives it security, esteem and intimacy, as well as functioning as a base from which the child explores reality and goes to take refuge when he needs it..

For all this, keep in mind that in the family your child learns behavior patterns, relationship styles and social skills that later he will generalize as a child, adolescent and adult in other contexts such as his peer group.

What types of attachment exist?

The different attachment styles, as I have already mentioned, can be observed from the end of the first year of life, when the formation of the first attachment appears, which is generalized to other significant people during childhood and adult life..

It is true that not all authors agree on defining exactly the same typology. However, the one that we present below is the result of consensus between the different authors.

In this sense, all the authors agree that there is a secure attachment style and an insecure one. The biggest differences between the different authors correspond to the different subtypes within insecure attachment, which I will now show you.

After numerous studies, the different classifications coincide in some aspects that include the degree of trust with the attachment figure, security and anxiety, and intimacy or avoidance of it.

We can find, therefore:

a) Secure attachment

A secure attachment style is characterized by fully trusting the other person, knowing that they will never abandon us or fail.

The securely attached person wants to maintain an intimate relationship with his security base, he is sure of the relationship and does not need its approval. She knows that her security base esteems her and loves her above all else..

It assumes a model of functioning and internal mental representation of trust in the main caregiver. The baby shows anxiety in the face of separation and calms down when he reconnects with his mother.

b) Insecure, anxious / avoidant / elusive attachment

The baby shows little anxiety during the separation, they do not show proximity or contact seeking behaviors towards their attachment figure throughout the entire situation. In reunions they usually avoid reestablishing contact.

Lack of interest in their attachment figure and high exploratory behavior characterize their behavioral profile.

It is a representation of mistrust as far as availability is concerned.

c) Insecure, resistant / ambivalent attachment

The baby is constantly anxious and many of them cannot initiate an active exploratory behavior. Apparently they cannot use the attachment figure as a secure base from which to explore.

When separated from his mother he cries, but when he is reunited with his mother, he does not calm down, failing his mother's attempts to calm him.

d) Insecure, disorganized attachment

They are children who present strange behaviors in the presence of their mother (tics, staying immobile, etc.). They can show in the same episode and simultaneously behaviors that contradict each other.

They are children who can show fear towards their mother and who are disoriented in the reunions.

Can the quality of attachment be assessed?

Perhaps the most widely used technique to analyze the quality of attachment between mother and child during the first two years of life is "the strange situation" by Mary Ainsworth..

For this, we start from the attachment theory that indicates that the child with an appropriate affective bond presents security in the presence of his mother and therefore shows greater behaviors of exploration of the environment before her. On the contrary, in the presence of strangers and in the absence of his mother, the child will present contrary reactions.

An eight-episode situation was designed where separations and reunions between the baby, his mother and a strange person are interspersed. From them, babies and their mothers can be classified according to the quality of attachment.

And what are you doing to develop an emotional attachment in your children??


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