I have always thought this chart was more for professionals cramming for an exam than a useful tool we could share with parents. Today I would like to actually explain what this chart means to the people who need to it the most: parents.
Secure attachment occurs when parents or caregivers are in tune with their child’s needs. This starts in infancy.
For example, when a child awakens from his or her nap and starts to make distress noises such as crying, that a caregiver will quickly appear to tend to his or her needs (holding, feeding, changing diaper, etc). Parents are able to read and interpret the infant’s non-verbal attempts at communication, for example: body language, coos, eye contact. The caregiver provides consistent care and affection.
You can tell when children have secure attachment when they freely crawl or walk around exploring their area. Secure children are generally happy children and while they do sometimes fuss when their caregiver leaves them, they are able to be redirected easily and they are happy to see their caregivers when the caregivers return.
Secure attachment is vital because it also impacts the type of relationships children have as they age into adulthood. A securely attached adults are comfortable in their romantic relationships and are able to seek various types of help from their partners. These adults are able to create appropriate boundaries and enjoy meaningful relationships.
Avoidant attachment occurs when caregivers are unavailable or distant with their children.
Maybe these caregivers ignore the baby crying in the crib. Maybe these children and have to make their needs known over and over and a little louder each time just to get some’s attention.
These children become emotionally distant themselves and do not think that they can count on their caregivers to meet their needs. These children do not freely explore new areas, but whatever they are doing or playing with when a caregiver leaves does not change. Avoidant children do not get upset when their caregivers leave and they do not seek the caregivers out when they return.
As adults, they tend to struggle with emotional connection. They become cold, rigid, and somewhat dismissive of others. This could lead to them raising avoidant children themselves.
Ambivalent attachment occurs when caregivers are inconsistent.
Sometimes parents go check on their infant and small children, sometimes they just let them cry. Sometimes they have a regular feeding schedule, sometimes the children go hungry or are sent to bed with no supper.
These children learn quickly that they cannot count on their parent to meet their needs. They become nervous and/or angry that their needs are not being met. These children become very upset when their parent leaves, but they show no interest when they return.
As adults, ambivalent individuals are preoccupied. They show fear at being rejected by their partner and will do anything to stay in a relationship. They show a strong desire to remain close to friends and significant others. Securely attached individuals may see them as clingy or unable to have opinions of their own.
Disorganized attachment occurs when parents either ignore or abuse the child.
These parents (or caregivers) may hit the infant or small child for crying. They may forget to feed the child letting him or her go hungry, or slap them for being hungry.
These children show signs of anger and depression as early as 6 months of age. Children become insensitive, explosive, and sometimes violent while, at the same time, wanting closeness and security. These children, teens, and adults have no idea how to get their needs met in a safe or realistic way.