There are four basic attachment styles displayed by children: Secure, avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized. Secure attachment is the predominant style that parents seek to foster in their children, but while parental behavior is the primary influence in determining a child’s attachment style, other factors also come into play. This post is designed to help you to identify your child’s attachment style, while the next post in our Attachment Styles Series will discuss ways to help your child develop a secure attachment style.
Fortunately, most children fall into this category. Children who are securely attached are generally happy and trusting. They are attached to their parent or caregiver and enjoy being with them, but are secure enough to explore the world and test the limits of their independence.
Children with an avoidant attachment style may be emotionally distant, often preferring to play and interact with objects rather than people. They may be wary of physical contact like hugs and cuddles. A child with an avoidant attachment style often displays early signs of independence, wanting to do things themselves rather than seek help from their parents or other adults.
An ambivalent style in childhood is characterized by high levels of anxiety and insecurity. Children with this attachment style may seem clingy, and more frequently seek the attention of their parent or caregiver, yet may reject that attention when it is offered. They may also be particularly wary of strangers.
Children with a disorganized attachment style often seem to struggle with managing their emotions. They may display anger and erratic behavior, but are just as likely to seem depressed, withdrawn, and unresponsive.
Children and Attachment Styles
Although all children have a specific attachment style, it’s important to realize that as a child goes through developmental stages, he or she may display behaviors characteristic of other attachment styles, such as hiding behind a parent when strangers are around or asserting his or her independence. These types of behaviors in a child who otherwise seems to have a secure attachment style are a normal part of development.
It’s also important to recognize that a child’s attachment style can be changed and become more secure as their parent consistently helps them to feel safe, loved, and encouraged. We’ll discuss how you can help your child develop a secure attachment style next month in Part Two of our Attachment Style Series.
If you have concerns about your child’s attachment style, it’s a good idea to consult with a therapist experienced in child development. A therapist can help you determine what your child’s attachment style is, and help you develop a personalized plan for fostering your child’s self-esteem and helping them to create healthy relationships.