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How Childhood Attachment Styles Can Impact Adulthood

Attachment styles are more than just a way to describe the dynamic between an infant and their caregiver; they are a serious Mental Health concept that influences your life experience. Your attachment style is a defining factor throughout adulthood. 

Children with a secure attachment style grow into adults with healthy emotional regulation, communication skills, and self-image. But what about children with insecure attachment styles? They face challenges in their relationships, careers, and other aspects of adult life. 

Understanding how childhood attachment styles can impact adulthood means exploring the intersection of childhood experiences and adulthood Mental Health Conditions. The more you know about the effects of insecure attachment, the easier it is to identify the influence of attachment throughout your life. This, in turn, makes it easier to seek professional intervention from a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and pursue effective Mental Health treatment. Learn more about attachment styles and adult relationships with this guide. 

What Causes Insecure Attachment? 

Attachment style is the direct result of your relationship with your parents or guardian figures during infancy.  

An insecure relationship is one where you, as an infant, experience inconsistency in the protection, comfort, attention, and affection you receive from caregivers. This often happens in situations of intentional abuse or neglect. However, it can also stem from parents who are busy, struggling with Addiction Disorders or other Mental Health Disorders, or simply not mentally and emotionally prepared to build a secure relationship with their infant. 

Insecure attachment styles stem from these unstable relationships. Through these adverse experiences, the infant learns they cannot rely on their guardian figures. This experience has a lasting impact on how that child perceives themselves, the people they meet, and their relationships throughout life. 

Effects of Insecure Attachment 

There are different insecure attachment styles that have different effects on personalities, thought patterns, and relationships in adulthood. If you experienced neglect or felt ignored by your guardian figures during infancy, you might develop an avoidant attachment style. Individuals with avoidant attachment maintain strict independence in their adult lives. They are extremely reluctant to rely on others and fear emotional closeness because of their inability to rely on caregivers during early childhood. 

Ambivalent attachment stems from an inconsistent relationship with caregivers. If you developed an ambivalent attachment style in infancy, you experience a deep fear of abandonment and rejection in adulthood. This fear leads to clingy, needy, and codependent behaviors.  

Individuals with disorganized attachment styles mimic the instability of their relationships with caregivers during infancy. Disorganized attachment causes you to switch between an intense desire for and an intense fear of emotional intimacy. 

Regardless of which insecure attachment style you have, it results in significant challenges that influence your ability to communicate with, relate to, and open up to others.  

Insecure Attachment and Emotional Dysregulation 

The ability to regulate your own emotional state is a key part of emotional maturity. An adult in a mentally healthy headspace is able to acknowledge negative thoughts and feelings—such as stress, anger, or embarrassment—without letting those feelings become overwhelming. This regulation also allows them to experience emotions without allowing them to influence their words and actions. 

Children with insecure attachment styles struggle to develop this skill as they grow throughout adolescence and into adulthood. This leads to emotional dysregulation and presents challenges in processing intense and negative feelings. 

In adulthood, anger management or stress management may remain challenging. Emotional dysregulation can also cause adults with insecure attachment styles to rely on others for emotional regulation. Clinginess, poor communication, and other factors can put strains on their relationships, job performance, and other key aspects of adult life. 

Attachment Style and Adult Relationships 

Your attachment style also influences your ability to build relationships with others. It directly affects how you trust or relate to others as an infant, which translates to how you interact with the people around you throughout adulthood.  

Your relationship with your caregivers is your earliest example of what other relationships should be like. In the case of insecure attachment styles, this relationship creates a negative relationship model. Without strong examples of a healthy relationship, children with insecure attachment grow into adults who are more susceptible to problems such as manipulation, codependency, and abuse in their relationships. 

Romantic Relationships 

An insecure attachment style makes it difficult to trust others, communicate openly, show affection, and relate to others. These factors play a significant role in romantic relationships. Insecure attachment puts strain on romantic partners, making it hard for you to understand each other and work through conflict in a productive, healthy manner. 

Ambivalent attachment styles lead to clingy behaviors, fear of rejection, and difficulty existing on your own. In turn, these traits lead to behaviors such as putting others before yourself and consistently sacrificing your own needs, making you vulnerable to manipulation and abuse in your adult relationships. 

Avoidant attachment styles create an intense fear of vulnerability. You are not comfortable with intimacy or expressing emotions. This attachment style often leads to self-isolation and can prevent you from expressing interest or affection toward others, even if you feel attracted to them. 

Disorganized attachment makes it difficult to relate to others and create consistent bonds. The simultaneous fear of intimacy and loneliness leads to significant challenges in communication and trust, making it hard to build strong relationships. 

Professional Relationships 

Childhood attachment styles impact adulthood even beyond your personal relationships. The challenges that stem from an insecure attachment can also affect you in the workplace. For example, if you struggle to open up to others, that can create challenges in trying to network and build advantageous connections throughout your career. If you have a strong fear of rejection and feel the need to always lean on others, you will struggle with feeling confident in yourself and the value you provide.  

Additionally, issues with anger management or stress management that stem from insecure attachment and emotional regulation can lead to behavioral challenges. Emotional dysregulation affects your performance in your role and creates problems with behavior and misconduct in the workplace, which could create serious obstacles in your career. 

Attachment Can Change in Adulthood 

Though attachment styles form in infancy, they are not static. Just as your attachment style affects your life, your life experiences also affect your attachment style. Through professional intervention from a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, you can build a secure relationship and improve emotional regulation, stress management, communication skills, and other key emotional and cognitive habits. This, in turn, benefits your life—including your romantic relationships, professional performance, and more.  

The team at Blair Wellness Group understands the widespread influence your attachment style has on your adult life. When you choose Dr. Blair as your relationship psychologist in Los Angeles, you experience compassionate, expert treatment that will help you develop a secure attachment style and improve your overall Mental Health.  

Find effective Mental Health treatment from a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Irvine, Beverly Hills, Newport Beach, Bel Air, Century City, Brentwood, Westwood, Huntington Beach, Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, and the surrounding areas when you contact Blair Wellness Group to see how our evidence-based treatment plans can help you. 

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