What are Insecure Attachment Disorders?
A theory of attachment mother to child is not a
mere matter of food and learning, it has been observed to be motivated by
proximity, with the purpose of survival. Infants who attain and
retain attachment to their primary caregivers are more likely to survive threats
There is now an understanding of 4 patterns of
attachment between child and care giver. These four patterns have been continued
to be studied and described as:
- Secure – the individual sees
themselves as worthy of love and can effectively get what is needed. The view
of others is that they are available and willing to give comfort and
protection. I’M O.K., YOU’RE O.K.
- Ambivalent – the individual is not
worthy of love and unable to effectively get attention. Others are available
and willing to give comfort and protection. YOU’RE OPINION OF ME IS MORE
VALUABLE THAN MY OWN OPINION OF ME.
- Avoidant – the individual is worthy
of comfort and protection and able to get what is needed through self effort.
Others are not to be trusted, are not willing or available to give comfort and
protection. Emotions are suppressed. I DON’T NEED YOU.
- Disorganized – the individual is not
worthy of comfort and protection and not able to get what is needed. Others
are not trusted, not willing or available to give comfort and protection.
COME HERE, GO AWAY. I HATE YOU, DON’T LEAVE ME.
As you can see, attachment answers 2
questions all children ultimately seek to answer based on how they were given
care by their caregivers: Am I worthy of being loved? Are other people reliable
How do insecure attachment patterns occur?
|Pre and Peri-birth
What kinds of challenges do insecurely
attached persons have?
Impaired Emotional Self-Regulation
When children are severely stressed, their survival (Fight or Flight Response)
mechanisms become chronically activated, dedicating all their energy to being
“alert” and “on guard” for “survival mode.” They operate from a paradigm of
fear in an attempt to ensure safety and security.
The lower limbic system in your brain, which has been called our reptilian
brain, is what takes the sensory and motor data coming up the spine and in
through the head’s senses (vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touches to face)
and interprets this environmental data and determines fright, flight or flee
response. It is not your rational, higher thinking brain, the pre-frontal
cortex. Children of chronic trauma or one significant single event of trauma
have hyper-alert limbic systems and are trained to look for the threat from the
raw environmental data it receives or perceives.
Attachment security promotes affect regulation (emotional regulation). When
secure attachment takes place the caregiver expands the infant’s opportunities
for positive affect and minimizes negative affect. The presence of visual and
auditory signals of loving interplay between infant and parent is mutually
satisfying promoting pleasure and excitement. We now know that the mother’s
emotion-regulating right cortex has profound effects on the infant’s fast
maturing right frontal, especially the right orbital, pre-frontal cortex.
Infants cannot hold the maturity or reasoning to cope through these traumas.
Infants use gaze aversion when stimulation is too intense but returns to fazing
when they feel reorganized. A loving parent is able to respond to this nonverbal
cue by their infant and reduce the stimulation immediately.
In homes or settings where a decrease in the painful overstimulation does not
occur, the infant uses gaze aversion constantly so there is no redirect to the
situation so desensitization does not occur. This creates the avoidant
organization in insecure attachment.
Impaired Cognitive Development
The prefrontal cortex is involved with executive functions such as planning,
working memory, set shifting, error deletion and correction and inhibiting our
more primitive responses. Common sense also tells us that children cannot easily
learn when their energies are required for survival: emotional, physical, or
social. The brains of insecurely attached or “unloved” children are shaped
differently that does not support long-term survival (Louis Cozolino, 2006).
Impaired Social Development
The family of the infant is the infant’s first experience of relationships. When
the caregiver is not trustworthy, safe or loving and may be quite the opposite –
abusing, the child’s brain does not develop appropriately. From birth until
death, our brains are being formed and adjusted by our relationships.
When insecurely attached individuals are threatened or have unmet needs there is
an appraisal system that activates the attachment system. This increases the
hypervigilance to the attachment figures and pushes the person to seek proximity
and the aid of an attachment figure. These regulatory efforts are supported by
the beliefs regarding the availability and responsiveness of the attachment
figure. Such efforts may seem counter-productive, such as lying, avoiding
difficulty conversations, jealousy, poor impulse control of anger, bullying,
ignoring pouting or punishing the attachment figure. These efforts are
unconsciously trying to get the attachment figure to understand their sense of
threat, control the threat or attempt to prevent abandonment by the attachment