The avoidant attachment style is developed during early childhood. When a child doesn’t receive sensitive responses to his or her needs, the behavior tends to develop. Avoidant attachment styles can make children very independent, both emotionally and physically.
Attachment styles characterize the manner in which a person responds to relationships and bonds. John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth developed attachment theory, which includes attachment styles.
Avoidant attachment styles as children can make it difficult for an adult to form close relationships.
The article explains the causes and treatment options for avoidant attachment.
What is avoidant attachment style?
Children and babies who are emotionally unavailable to their parents or caregivers are likely to form avoidant attachments.
It’s a deep need that newborns and children have to be close to their caregivers. But they are capable of learning to control their emotional displays. Children who learn that expressing themselves will result in rejection from their parents or caregivers adapt to this.
Children with avoidant attachment stop expressing emotion or seeking closeness when their inner needs are not met.
What causes avoidant attachment?
It is not uncommon for parents to close themselves off emotionally when they are confronted with a child’s emotional needs.
Parents sometimes don’t respond to their child’s emotional demands. When a child seeks affection or comfort, the parent distances themselves from them.
It is common for these parents to be particularly harsh or neglectful in times of greater need, such as when their child is sick, scared or injured.
The parents of children who cultivate an avoidant attachment may openly discourage their children from showing their emotions, such as crying during times of sadness and joyfully cheering during times of celebration.
Additionally, they think that even very young children can be emotionally and practically independent.
An avoidant attachment might be induced in babies and children by parents or caregivers who:
- Don’t acknowledge their children’s cries or other signs of fear or distress
- Attempts to suppress their child’s emotional expression by telling them to stop crying, grow up, or become tough
- Shows signs of fear or distress by becoming angry or physically separating from the child
- Makes a child feel ashamed for expressing emotions
- Expects their child to be independent emotionally and practically
Related: Anxious Attachment Style
Avoidant attachment style traits
Children with an avoidant attachment style may be unable to display any outward signs of love or affection. Even though the child has a secure attachment, he or she will feel stress and anxiety in stressful situations.
Moreover, these children may not want to interact with their primary caregiver even though they are nearby. Physical contact may also be avoided by these children.
The attachment styles of such children might persist into adulthood. When one has an avoidant attachment style as an adult, they may experience the following:
- Avoidance of emotional intimacy
- When they want to get closer to their partners, they think their partners are being clingy
- Refraining from communicating with their partners and coping alone with difficult situations
- Suppressing their emotions
- Sulking or hinting at what is wrong rather than complaining
- Trying to forget negative experiences
- Ignoring unpleasant memories
- Being afraid of rejection
- Being independent
- Being highly self-esteemed while holding a negative view of others
- Preoccupied with their own comforts and needs
Older adults may also suffer from avoidant attachment. Hong Kong researchers measured the effects of male partners with avoidant attachment styles on their well-being in older marriages compared with female partners.
Related: Preoccupied Attachment Style
Is it possible to prevent avoidant attachment?
It’s important to understand how you’re meeting your child’s needs to ensure you develop a secure attachment. Take note of the messages you send around how they should express themselves.
The first thing you can do to help is to ensure they have access to all their basic needs, such as shelter, food, and closeness, with warmth and love.
Let them sleep in your arms while you sing to them. Gently change their diaper while talking to them.
Hold them while they cry. If they spill or break something, don’t shame them for it.
What is the treatment avoidant attachment?
Developing positive parenting patterns is possible with the assistance of a therapist if you’re worried about how to foster this type of secure attachment.
In most cases, experts agree that the avoidant attachment that parents pass to their children comes from the one they had with their own parents or caretakers while they were children.
While it can be challenging to break intergenerational patterns, it is possible with the right support and hard work.
Parents with attachment issues often work with attachment-focused therapists one-on-one. These therapists can help:
- Understand their own childhood
- Communicate their emotional needs
- Develop stronger connections with others
Parent and child will often be treated together by attachment therapists.
Therapy can help you create a plan that meets your child’s needs in a warm manner. Therapy can help you navigate the complexities and joys of parenting. It can help you embrace a new parenting style.
Read: Secure Attachment Style
Preventing avoidant attachment
Parents can help their children develop secure attachments instead of avoidant attachments by:
- Your emotions are in check and presenting them in a positive way to your children. Be honest about your emotions, as long as you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else.
- It is important to get enough sleep. Being a parent has its challenges, but lacking sleep can put you at risk of becoming irritable and less able to handle your emotions. Spend time with your spouse, friends, and family so that you can rest.
- What your baby does in different situations, including the sounds and facial expressions he/she makes. Changing your baby’s crying behavior based on hunger or tiredness will make a difference in their crying.
- Get to know your baby better by spending time with him or her. Show them that you care and want to spend time with them by talking to them, playing peek-a-boo, smiling at them, and touching them.
Trying to be the perfect parent will not make you happy. The attachment style of your child will not be determined by a single interaction. You will begin building healthy attachment patterns if you strive to connect with your child and are available when they need you.
Parents can give their children the gift of secure attachment by providing it to them.
A child’s secure attachment can be developed through diligence, hard work and warmth.
Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that no one interaction can determine a child’s attachment style entirely.
Usually, you will meet your child’s needs with warmth and love, but if you have to take a breather, attend to another child, or take care of yourself in some other way, you are free to let them cry in their crib for a few minutes.
The solid foundation you’re building every day won’t be undermined by a few moments here or there.