Applied Psychology

The Psychology of Love and Attachment Theory

Feb 23, 2022
The Psychology of Love and Attachment Theory - SACAP
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Despite many great minds trying to, no one seems to ever really have figured out a formula for lasting love. However, can we perhaps gain some insight by looking at the various types of attachment styles? Research suggests that we can. It puts forward that individual attachment styles may heavily affect the success rate of our future romantic relationships.

“Why do some relationships thrive and others don’t?”

Attachment Theory

British Psychotherapist, John Bowlby, first conceived Attachment. Later Canadian Developmental Psychologist Mary Ainsworth expanded upon it. Attachment theory describes how children bond with the primary caregivers in their lives. The theory outlines that our style of attachment is fostered during childhood. Thereafter, we carry it into our relationships as adults. As such it can have a significant impact on the course of an adult’s romantic relationships too.

“A Child’s style of attachment impacts their adult relationships.”

Early Attachment

The first bond that infants make is essentially an innate evolutionary mechanism. It’s designed to keep the infant close to their mother. Thereby enhancing their chances of survival. The central theme of Bowlby’s attachment theory is that a primary caregiver’s availability and responsiveness impacts an infant’s innate sense of security. Essentially, this means that meeting a child’s needs could help develop a firm sense of security. In contrast, neglecting a child’s needs, or meeting them inconsistently, could lead to the child suffering from separation anxiety. Alternatively, they tend to avoid their caregiver altogether.

Ainsworth expands on this theme, showing how a child’s sense of security impacts them throughout their lives. Generally, those infants who securely attach develop a stronger self-esteem which carries through into adulthood. Additionally, they are more independent, perform better at school and tend towards having successful social relationships. They also experience less depression and anxiety. In contrast, those who learn that they cannot depend on their significant caregivers are more insecure. They often become demanding and needy. When punishing infants for relying on their caregivers it is systematically teaching them that they cannot and should not depend on others. They tend to find it difficult to trust others and avoid turning to someone else for comfort or security.

“The responses of their primary caregiver shapes a child’s sense of security.”

Attachment Styles

There are three different attachment styles. These styles carry through into adult relationships as learned behaviours. The impact of which is significant.

3 Attachment Styles and their Impact

  1. Secure Attachment: As adults this group will have fewer insecurities and be able to easily enjoy expressing and receiving love. They tend to trust more easily, believe in true love and have the most success in romantic relationships.
  2. Anxious Attachment: More often they tend towards being insecure in their adult relationships. As a result, they are often labelled as needy, because they continually demand proof or signs of their partner’s love.
  3. Avoidant Attachment: These adults tend to find it difficult to open up to others. Consequently, they are often unresponsive as partners. Additionally, they are more cynical when it comes to love and gifts. Thus, even generously intended gifts can be received with a lack of emotion or dismissed as meaningless.

Can We Change?

Thus, the attachment style learnt by both you and your partner during childhood could determine the future of your relationship. Never-the-less, all hope is not lost if your childhood was less-than-perfect. Simply being aware of your attachment style and that of your partner, can change the course of things. Knowing your style of attachment, will help you understand how it could cause problems within your relationships. This is helpful because it also allows one to address the underlying causes of challenges within a relationship. As opposed to constantly mitigating problems associated with the symptoms arising from childhood insecurity and neglect. Overall, this is a much more effective strategy of resolving relationship problems and being able to build a healthy romantic relationship.

“A problematic childhood often impacts adult relationships, but can be redressed in adulthood.”

Changing Attachment Styles

Does helping others overcome the impact of their childhood experiences interest you? And thereby improve their sense of security? Would you like to assist someone to change their style of attachment and improve their relationships with others? If so, consider taking a Psychology course at the South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP). SACAP offers a wide range of psychology courses, from a Higher Certificate in Counselling and Communication Skills to a Professional Bachelor of Psychology Degree. For further information contact SACAP directly to set up an appointment.

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