Tuesday, July 11, 2017

INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES AND INTERPERSONAL INTERACTIONS: ATTACHMENT STYLES AND INTERACTION PATTERNS

The third of the series - Individual Differences and Interpersonal Interactions ...



The concept of attachment styles extends the notion of Freudian psychoanalytic thought that childhood experiences play a significant role in adult life. Attachment is a strong emotional bond to a significant other person. For an infant, the parents/caretakers become an attachment figure.
To grow up mentally healthy, the infant and the young child should experience a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his/her mother or caretaker, in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment. There are three different types of attachment styles that an infant may develop – secure attachment style, avoidant attachment style, and ambivalent attachment style.
The secure attachment style occurs when the parent is generally available and responsive to the child’s needs. The child with a secure attachment style feels supported and secure. The avoidant attachment style occurs when the parent is generally cool, unresponsive, or even rejecting. The infant due to this becomes detached from the caretaker. The avoidant attachment style makes the child to suppress feelings of vulnerability and neediness. The ambivalent attachment style occurs when the primary caretaker does not respond consistently to the infant’s needs. This makes the child to be vigilant for threats and feel anxious or angry.
The attachment style developed in childhood determines the interaction patterns for future relationships, when the child grows up. Depending on the attachment style, the child may grow up to be sociable and have healthy interpersonal interactions, or may become distrustful of others, be aloof, and end up feeling lonely.
A child with secure attachment style grows up into an individual who seeks closeness with others, and thus becomes friendly and sociable. Such a person will most likely enjoy being with others, develop long lasting friendships, and be trustworthy of others.
In contrast, a child with avoidant attachment style grows up into an individual who becomes fearful in relationships and tends to avoid closeness with others in order to avoid social rejection. This avoidance in closeness may lead to an unfulfilled need for intimacy. The person prefers to stay alone and end up feeling loneliness.
Likewise, a child with ambivalent attachment style grows up to be a person who is emotionally distressed in social interactions and expects the worst from others. The person becomes highly distrustful of others Due to this the emotional needs of the individual are not fulfilled and brings about a feeling of lack of intimacy, and could also lead to loneliness.
It should be noted that an avoidant or ambivalent attachment style does not always necessarily mean that the parents or caretakers have not been good to their child. It could also be that the parents did their best, but somehow the child perceived their interactions to be in that manner.
The attachment theory further suggests that poor attachment or inadequate parental care may lead to psychological disorders in adulthood. Inadequate parental care may lead to the development of the anxious attachment pattern, which involves insecurity and dependency, and makes the individual prone to phobias, hypochondriasis, and eating disorders. Inadequate parenting may also lead to the development of the pattern of emotional detachment in which the individual feels serious deprivation of affection, and makes the person prone to antisocial and hysterical personality disorders.
These attachment styles could further determine four adult interactions patterns. These four interaction patterns are based on two underlying dimensions, which are positive versus negative evaluation of self and positive versus negative evaluation of others.
People who have a positive evaluation of the self tend to assume that others will respond positively, expect to be liked by others, which makes them feel comfortable with others, and thus have satisfying relationships. People with a negative self-evaluation makes them expect that others will be rejecting, which makes them feel anxious with others, and therefore tend to avoid others.
Individuals who have a positive evaluation of others expect that they will be comforting and supporting, and thus will they will seek close relationships. Individuals who have a negative evaluation of others will expect them to be unavailable and non-supportive, which makes them tend to avoid people and be aloof.
People with positive evaluations of self and others have positive and healthy interpersonal interactions; they are comfortable being around others. People with negative evaluations of self and others tend to have maladaptive interpersonal interactions; they may not have long-lasting relationships, they may always be distrustful, and be distant from others.
Therefore, early interactions with caretakers, in terms of the different attachment styles determine the nature of interpersonal interactions that individuals may have in their life. These differing interpersonal interactions are also manifested in the adult interaction patterns, which are often found to be a result of the attachment styles.

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