There Are 4 Types Of Attachments We Form With Our Parents Growing Up — How The One You Had Impacts Your Adult Life

Photo: Nadezhda1906 from Getty Images
father hugging son

Our relationships with our parents lay the foundation for our future connections with others, shaping the way we navigate emotional bonds well into adulthood.

Attachment expert, author, and therapist Eli Hardwood recently delved into the significance of these types of connections in an Instagram post where he sheds light on four types of parent-child attachment styles and their influence on future relationships.

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4 Types of Parent-Child Bonds and How They Affect You as an Adult

1. Secure attachments

secure attachmentsCredit: Eli Harwood

Harwood’s insights reveal that individuals who have secure attachments often went to their parents in times of distress, and their parents were able to comfort and reassure them. By doing so, these parents helped foster emotional security early on.

This style of parenting is similar to gentle parenting. Both encourage children to express their emotions freely, without the fear of negative repercussions, knowing they have a safe relationship with their parental figure no matter what.

These experiences allow children to not only build trust with their parents but also help cultivate healthier relationships with others in the long run.

How a secure attachment style affects your relationships as an adult:

Harwood explains in a separate Reel that secure attachment patterns learned growing up create people who feel safe reaching out to others for care and co-regulation because they learned relationships are a place for soothing and support.

2. Insecure Avoidant

Eli Harwood on Insecure Avoidant attachmentCredit: Eli Harwood

This attachment style as a child may have approached their caregivers for help, only to be met with the phrase, “You are overreacting."

In the case of insecure-avoidant attachment, Harwood says these individuals avoided seeking comfort from their parents because their emotional needs were often dismissed and disregarded as unimportant when they were children.

In this attachment style, parents prioritized teaching their children “self-reliance” over emotional intelligence.

How an insecure avoidant attachment style affects your relationships as an adult:

"Those with Avoidant/Dismissive patterns" says Harwood, "learned that no one could or would meet their emotional needs, so the strategy for coping became taking shelter internally and keeping emotions in, and others emotions out."

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3. Insecure Resistant

Eli Harwood on Insecure Resistant attachmentCredit: Eli Harwood

For those who grew up with inconsistent caregivers, the insecure resistant attachment style may resonate with you, says Harwood. This attachment style may appear as your parent displaying love and support one day, followed by complete emotional withdrawal the next.

Children who go through this attachment dynamic have a heightened sensitivity to unpredictability, which can affect their ability to trust and connect with others.

How an insecure resistant attachment style affects your relationships as an adult:

Grown-ups with this attachment style learned that people are unpredictable, "so the strategy for coping became hypervigilant scanning and emotional clinging. Protesting any care in order to keep a caregiver close and eyes on as much as possible," Harwood said.

4. Insecure Disorganized

Credit: Eli Harwood

If you had a guardian who was a source of pain and terror, you may have an insecure disorganized attachment. This type of attachment often stems from intense physical or emotional abuse.

Children who experience this dynamic are commonly stuck in fight-or-flight mode, says Harwood, and tend to dissociate from their surroundings.

The consequences of this attachment can bleed into adulthood, impacting one’s ability to successfully handle their emotions and have healthy relationships.

How an insecure disorganized attachment style affects your relationships as an adult:

Insecure disorganized attachment patterns can make people feel that other people are scary, "so the strategy for coping was to develop scales to stay safe, and when triggered to breathe fire in order to self-protect," says Harwood, comparing this type to a dragon.

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Harwood post received an influx of positive comments, with many sharing their personal experiences.

One user wrote, “I wish this was taught in school or something instead of just in therapy. Would help out so many teens I feel.”

Another expressed experiencing multiple attachment styles, writing, “I know this sounds weird but, I feel like I experienced a combination of all attachment styles with my primary caregiver.”

According to Harwood, this is not abnormal and simply means that your caregiver was “disorganized and so there wasn't a clear pattern to identify.”

By identifying our attachment styles, we are able to form more stable relationships. And by acknowledging our past, we can implement healthier coping mechanisms for our future.

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Marielisa Reyes is a writer with a Bachelor's in Psychology who covers self-help, relationships, career and family topics.