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Attachment Types

Research has found that adult attachment styles typically grow out of two dimensions. The first is anxiety which directly relates to fear of abandonment, or rejection. The second dimension is avoidance, in particular, of intimacy, or dependence on others. From these two dimensions there are four types of attachment styles which are secure attachment, preoccupied attachment, fearful avoidant attachment, and dismissive avoidant attachment.

Secure Attachment: The adult has low anxiety and avoidance and therefore feels valued by others and is not afraid to be intimately involved with others.
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Preoccupied Attachment: The adult is highly anxious and has low avoidance which means they crave being intimate with others but do not have the confidence to do so. They typically heavily rely on the approval of others.

Fearful Avoidant Attachment: The adult has both high anxiety and avoidance issues. The adult seeks close relationships but is too afraid of rejection to have one.

Dismissive Avoidant Attachment: The adult does not have high anxiety but does highly avoid relationships. Because they tend to be highly confident within, they distance themselves from others and they view any type of attachment to a partner unreliable.

Adult Relationships and Infant Caregiver Relationships

Professor Chris Fraley indicates that adult relationships may work in the same what that infant-care giver relationships work. There are three parallels which he discusses; partner selection, secure base and safe haven behavior, and defense mechanisms.

“Partner selection
Cross-cultural studies suggest that the secure pattern of attachment in infancy is universally considered the most desirable pattern by mothers (see van IJzendoorn & Sagi, 1999). For obvious reasons there is no similar study asking infants if they would prefer a security-inducing attachment figure. Adults seeking long-term relationships identify responsive caregiving qualities, such as attentiveness, warmth, and sensitivity, as most "attractive" in potential dating partners (Zeifman & Hazan, 1997). Despite the attractiveness of secure qualities, however, not all adults are paired with secure partners. Some evidence suggests that people end up in relationships with partners who confirm their existing beliefs about attachment relationships (Frazier et al., 1997).

"Secure base and safe haven behavior

In infancy, secure infants tend to be the most well adjusted, in the sense that they are relatively resilient, they get along with their peers and are well liked. Similar kinds of patterns have emerged in research on adult attachment. Overall, secure adults tend to be more satisfied in their relationships than insecure ad
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ults. Their relationships are characterized by greater longevity, trust, commitment, and interdependence (e.g., Feeney, Noller, & Callan, 1994), and they are more likely to use romantic partners as a secure base from which to explore the world (e.g., Fraley & Davis, 1997). A large proportion of research on adult attachment has been devoted to uncovering the behavioral and psychological mechanisms that promote security and secure base behavior in adults. There have been two major discoveries thus far. First and in accordance with attachment theory, secure adults are more likely than insecure adults to seek support from their partners when distressed. Furthermore, they are more likely to provide support to their distressed partners (e.g., Simpson et al., 1992). Second, the attributions that insecure individuals make concerning their partner's behavior during and following relational conflicts exacerbate, rather than alleviate, their insecurities (e.g., Simpson et al., 1996).

"Avoidant Attachment and Defense Mechanisms

According to attachment theory, children differ in the kinds of strategies they adopt to regulate attachment-related anxiety. Following a separation and reunion, for example, some insecure children approach their parents, but with ambivalence and resistance, whereas others withdraw from their parents, apparently minimizing attachment-related feelings and behavior. One of the big questions in the study of infant attachment is whether children who withdraw from their parents--avoidant children--are truly less distressed or whether their defensive behavior is a cover-up for their true feelings of vulnerability. Research that has measured the attentional capacity of children, heart rate, or stress hormone levels suggests that avoidant children are distressed by the separation despite the fact that they come across in a cool, defensive manner.” (Fraley, 2001)