Attachment categories in adults affect adult responses to traumatized kids. How adults respond is crucial for kids to process & recover from trauma.

Today’s post about attachment categories in adults is part of Different Dream’s ongoing Inside Out Parenting series. The earliest posts in the series offered information about how the brain works including basic functions of the parts of the brain, high road and low road parenting, the difference between implicit and explicit memory, and the brain’s 7 instinctual responses to perceived danger. The series then moved on to an examination how those brain responses affect behavior with a discussion of attachment categories in children.

Attachment Categories in Adults

Today’s post continues the discussion with a look at how these childhood attachment categories can affect our attachment categories in adults, which in turn affects how we parent. The previous post in this series summarized four basic attachment categories in children. (As you may recall “attachment” is the word psychologists use for “love.”) The categories are secure, avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized.

Dr. Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell described each category in their book Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive. They also explain how those categories shake down into the following adult attachment categories:

  • Securely attached children become securely attached adults. Children raised by a caregiver who provided a secure and loving environment become adults who value relationships. They can be both flexible and objective when talking about their childhood and upbringing. They are able to make sense of even the hard bits that happened as they grew up.
  • Avoidantly attached children become dismissive adults. If kids grow up with a caregiver who is emotionally unavailable or rejecting, they may become parents who aren’t sensitive to the needs of their children, of others, or of their own needs. They tend to be isolated and minimize dependence on others. They often don’t understand the importance of relationships, memories, emotions in connecting the past to the present and the future.
  • Ambivalently attached children become preoccupied adults. When a caregiver’s attention to a child is inconsistent–sometimes perceptive and responsive, but sometimes not–the child may become a preoccupied adult. A preoccupied parent is anxious and uncertain. This preoccupation, often with the past, impairs a caregiver’s ability to recognize or meet the needs of the child.
  • Disorganizedly attached children become disorganized adults burdened with unresolved trauma. They exhibit abrupt alarming shifts in their behavior. Their behavior is disorienting to the children in their care. Their unresolved trauma disrupts the flow of information to the brain and impairs their ability to remain emotionally balanced or connect with others.

Why Understanding Adult Attachment Categories Is Crucial

One of the most profound findings during the research and writing of Does My Child Have PTSD? What To Do When Your Child Is Hurting from the Inside Out was this: parents and primary caregivers play crucial role in helping children recover from traumatic events. When traumatized children have secure caregivers who respond calmly after the event, who recognize and meet their children’s needs by providing a secure, stable, and loving environment, the children are likely to process and recover from the trauma. Children whose parents or caregivers dismiss the trauma, are too preoccupied or anxious to meet their children’s needs, or whose behavior is so disorganized as to be the source of the trauma or to cause further trauma are much less likely to process and recover from a traumatic event.

Why Adult Attachment Categories Are Not a Death Sentence

If the above paragraph was the last word in adult attachment categories, it would sound like a death sentence. Thankfully, it is not either the last word or a death sentence. Because by working through and resolving past attachment issues, adults can become securely attached adults who raise securely attached children. The next post in this series will delve into the details of how to make that happen.

Your Thoughts about Attachment Categories in Adults?

Did this article result in insights or questions about any of the attachment categories in adults? Feel free to share them in the comment box.

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Attachment categories in adults affect adult responses to traumatized kids. How adults respond is crucial for kids to process & recover from trauma.


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