Infants and Children depend on adults to care form them, to provide them, and to give them love and attention. In fact, children entirely depend on adults to provider their needs. Whether and how these needs were met as a child, begin to shape a person’s attachment style.

Anxious/ambivalent attachment style: The attachment style defined by a child who displays extreme caution in the presence of a stranger. The child’s ability to explore the environment is greatly diminished when the primary caregiver is absent. When the caregiver does return the child remains close, but becomes noticeably angry and hard to soothe or comfort (Newman & Newman, 1999).

Avoidant attachment style: The attachment style defined by a child who avoids interaction with his/her primary caregiver after separation. A child displaying this style of attachment is also likely to ignore the caregiver. Children of this attachment style typically show less distress in the caregiver’s absence (Newman & Newman, 1999).

Anxious-avoidant attachment is characterized by infants who, after the mother has returned from separation, shun their mother’s efforts to interact and escape contact. They ultimately are more comfortable being alone than infants with other attachment styles. These infants are more likely to cry at home and have a harder time being consoled when their mother does return. Extreme caution is exhibited by infants of an anxious-resistant attachment style when a stranger is present. Their exploration of the environment is remarkably disturbed when the mother leaves the room. When she returns however, the infant seems to struggle with ambivalent feeling of anger toward the mother and the eagerness to be comforted by her.

Secure attachment style: The attachment style defined by a child who is not fearful of exploring his/her environment when the primary caregiver is absent. When the primary caregiver returns, the child will actively return and seek communication. If the child was distressed in the absence, the caregiver’s return decreases the stress of the child and permits the child to actively explore the environment once again (Newman & Newman, 1999).

Infants who develop a secure attachment are also less likely to cry than others their same age. They are more likely to obey and respond more positively to their mother’s request and they also welcome their mothers more assertively after normal separations. It is evident that securely attached infants expect their caregiver to not only be approachable, but to also acknowledge them. Infants who develop a secure attachment are able to both interact with strangers while their mother is present and enthusiastically investigate their surroundings. When the mother returns after the separation, the infants are quick to seek their attention and comfort.


Research provided by:

Joshua Straub, Ph.D. is a speaker, author, counselor and professor. He specializes in attachment and relationship research, the Millennial generation, crisis and trauma, marriage and family, and spiritual formation.

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Anthony Centore

Anthony Centore Ph.D. is Founder and CEO at Thriveworks--a counseling practice, focused on premium client care, with 240+ locations across the USA. He is Private Practice Consultant for the American Counseling Association, columnist for Counseling Today magazine, and Author of How to Thrive in Counseling Private Practice. Anthony is a multistate Licensed Professional Counselor and has been quoted in national media sources including The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and CBS Sunday Morning.

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