Secure Attachment Style: From Childhood to Adult Life

The secure attachment style is the only healthy one out of the four types of attachment patterns.

How to tell if a person has a secure attachment style or an insecure one? First of all, individuals with secure tendencies are very easy to connect with. They are aware of their feelings and have no issues when it comes to expressing their emotions. They tend to build long-lasting and meaningful friendships and romantic relationships.

Parents who want their children to develop this healthy attachment style might want to do some research on the topic. Resolving their own attachment issues if they have them is also essential for adults who are devoted to raising healthily attached children.

In this article, we will answer the most asked questions about secure attachment:

  • How does an attachment style usually form in an individual’s childhood?
  • What are the most common causes of unhealthy attachment patterns in children?
  • What do children need to develop a healthy attachment style?
  • What are some signs of secure attachment in an adult relationship?
  • What are the three characteristics secure adults usually have?
  • Is it possible to develop a secure attachment style as an adult?

So, how does an attachment style form in a person’s early childhood?

According to John Bowlby's attachment theory, the relationship with the first caretaker is very important for the infant. Usually, it is the child’s mother, but it can also be the father or a guardian.

Unfortunately, poor and inconsistent parenting/caregiving and/or child abuse can cause unhealthy attachment patterns. These childhood traumas could influence the person’s social behavior and ability to build long-lasting, deep, and stable romantic relationships in a negative way. It could even lead to mental health issues in adulthood.

Remember that there are no perfect parents - only "good enough parent" exist. We are all humans, and we all make mistakes. So it’s natural that our parents and guardians made mistakes when they were raising us, and for sure there are things we do wrong when raising our children too. However, if fatal mistakes such as constant emotional neglect and/or abuse have not been made, a child may not develop attachment issues.

What are the primary conditions that are needed for the child to develop a secure attachment style?

Here are the main things to consider if you are a parent or guardian and you want to raise a securely attached person:

  • The infant has to feel safe: for babies and toddlers, safety usually means closeness to the mother, as a source of food and warmth, while the separation from the mom is perceived by them as danger;
  • The little one needs to feel seen: if parents and/or guardians are attuned, they respond to their infant’s needs promptly and accurately, and this makes the child feel protected;
  • The child needs to feel reassured and comforted: if the infant’s parent(s) and/or guardian(s) soothe them whenever they feel stressed, this will help them develop their own self-soothing system over time;
  • The little one needs to feel valued: if the child feels loved unconditionally and valued for what they are, not what they do, it is a solid foundation for their high self-esteem in their adult life;
  • The child needs to feel supported to explore their world: parents and guardians trust the little one while providing them with a "safety net" (giving them space to explore the world that surrounds them).

What are some signs of an individual with secure patterns in an adult relationship?

If you think most of the things from the list below are about someone you know, this person is most likely securely attached:

  • Ability to manage emotions;
  • Strong achievement orientation;
  • No issues when it comes to bonding, trusting people, opening up to them, and sharing things with them;
  • Feeling absolutely comfortable being alone and using this alone time to explore oneself;
  • Knowing one’s life purpose and following that path;
  • Being comfortable with a healthy mutual dependency and emotional closeness;
  • Knowing how to communicate one’s needs effectively;
  • Knowing that their role in society is important;
  • Seeking emotional support from a partner and providing it to them whenever needed;
  • Being great at analyzing one’s feelings when in a relationship.

What are the three main traits an adult with a secure attachment has?

Securely attached adults usually have no issues when it comes to healthy bonding and long-lasting, strong, deep intimate relationships. They are well aware of their emotional needs. They can express themselves openly, honestly, and straightforwardly. They also experience and manage their emotions easily and in a positive way.

Here are three characteristics people with secure attachment tendencies have:

A positive view of self

Adults with a secure type of attachment style have high self-esteem. They have a positive view of themselves and know their worth. They do not need anyone’s approval or reassurance to feel valued. Yet, it doesn’t mean that they are not interested in emotional closeness. The thing is that such people are just happy, no matter if they’re on their own or in a romantic relationship.

A positive view of other people

Secure types also have a positive view of their friends and loved ones. They usually trust their romantic partners. They are not jealous because they are sure important people in their lives have good intentions.

They are also okay with accepting displays of affection and showing their affection to their partner. People with secure attachment tendencies are loving and lovable. Their energy is healing and warm.

They are comfortable with emotional closeness. And most importantly, they are capable of building and maintaining deep and meaningful long-term romantic connections. In other words, they don’t run or hide from love.

A positive view of their early years

Adults with a secure type of attachment style also normally have a positive view of their childhood stage. They are able to analyze and draw important conclusions from what they have experienced in their early years. Even if their childhood has not been perfect, they appreciate the good things and do not dwell on the bad ones.

Is it possible to develop a secure type of attachment style as an adult?

If you have one or more traits mentioned above, you should consider yourself very lucky. Thank your parents and guardians for raising you the way they did because their parenting/caregiving style is exactly what helped you develop the healthy attachment style you have.

If you think your attachment style might be unhealthy, you’re probably also asking yourself if it is possible to change it. We have some encouraging news for you - anyone can overcome an unhealthy attachment style and develop a secure one as an adult, whether it be through self-help or a specialist’s help.

You might want to start familiarizing yourself with the three types of unhealthy attachment and go from there. Reading some articles on the topic can give you an idea of what attachment style you have. It is perfectly normal if you do not match a specific pattern completely - remember that you are unique, and your childhood and life story are unique as well. Once you’ve figured out your type of attachment, meditation, introspection, and, in some cases, psychotherapy can help you overcome your unhealthy attachment style and develop a secure one.

Bear in mind that no one is one hundred percent securely attached all the time. Life is full of ups and downs, so it is perfectly normal even for secure types to have some disruptions every now and then. However, it is pretty easy for individuals with a secure attachment style to cope with stressful situations and go back to their usual happy and relaxed state.