In the following blog post, Parent Therapist Peter Girz, LCSW, continues his series on attachment and parenting. If you haven’t had a chance to read part one yet, please click here: Attachment and Parenting Styles: Part 1.
Even if you are familiar with the child/parent attachment that I touched on in the previous post, it can be difficult to understand how attachment styles translate into adulthood. There are no absolutes, yet the following trends have been observed:
- Children that are “securely attached” frequently become autonomous in adulthood, meaning they are comfortable with a warm/loving environment, see relationships as interdependent, are more trusting and empathic as well as communicate emotions and needs honestly and openly.
- For children who develop an avoidant attachment style in childhood, it is likely they will develop traits of a dismissive relational style in adulthood. With a dismissive style, a person remains distant and guarded within relationships, often seeing independence as preferential to intimacy or closeness. These individuals may also find themselves in their “left brain” quite a bit, which communicates on intellectual levels and finds connection in cognitive processes. They may be better equipped to handle difficult or chaotic situations and not get flooded with emotion. However, on the flip side, they aren’t equipped to respond to the emotional needs of a partner or child can prove to be very difficult.
- Growing with an anxious attachment style often leads to a preoccupied adult attachment style. This can manifest itself in “hyper awareness” and frequent exploration of behaviors or statements that are perceived to indicate rejection or abandonment. This style often puts a significant strain on relationships as partners or friends may see repeated bids for reassurance, high emotional reactivity and difficulty looking at self or taking personal responsibility.
- Lastly, those people that have a disorganized upbringing can find themselves with an unresolved attachment style. Many of these people have unresolved trauma that creates emotional volatility, limited emotional closeness and concurrent mental health challenges.
Attachment styles are not static. It is common for people to experience a different attachment with different caregivers. For example, a securely attached relationship with a father can help to buffer an avoidant style with a mother. Further, research surrounding resilience in children has found that the development of a healthy relationship with an adult is key, even if that person was not a primary caregiver, ie. extended family, teachers, coaches, community members, etc. The adult provides elements of secure attachment for that child and helps to combat some of the missing pieces in the parent/child relationship. As Dr. Siegel describes in his book Interpersonal Neurobiology; “attachment categories can change over time, we can resolve trauma and loss, and we can move from insecurity to security. Attachment is not fixed.”
When reflecting on your parenting style, the first step is to be aware of the experiences you had during development and gather an accurate picture of non-integrative communication within the brain. Many of these experiences and styles play a central role in how individuals parent their children. Recognition and reflection allows for a better understanding of what needs to be addressed both individually and in relationships within the family system. In our next post we will talk about the connection between adult attachment, parenting style and the patterns that are frequently observed.