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Dismissive Avoidant Attachment: 5 Signs, Causes & Characteristics

What is dismissive avoidant attachment

A dismissive avoidant attachment style in adulthood is one of the insecure attachment styles characterized by the lack of desire for emotional connection with others. While they distrust others, they have high self-esteem and see themselves in a positive light.

Attachment theory & attachment styles

Attachment theory, proposed by psychiatrist John Bowlby, suggests that infants are predisposed to form strong emotional bonds with their primary caregiver because close proximity improves their chances of survival. Attachment behavior forms a pattern, called the attachment style.

The four child attachment styles are:

These types of attachment represent the baby’s internal working models of themselves, others, and the relationships with them​1​.

These models are developed early in childhood and carried forward in life influencing one’s future relationships and social interactions​2​.

man is happy about work dismissing about partner dismisive avoidant

Avoidant Attachment in childhood 

In early childhood, avoidant attachment occurs when an attachment figure habitually rejects a baby’s connection-seeking behaviors during times of distress. Often, these parents are emotionally rigid and irritable towards their infants. As a result, children avoid seeking comfort from caregivers when they are in distress​3​

Insecure avoidant infants generally perceive others as cold, rejecting, or manipulative. They have a negative model of others and view relationships as insecure and unstable.

To protect themselves, they avoid close relationships and maintain an emotional distance. When coping with anxiety-producing situations, they deactivate or inhibit their attachment system instead of seeking comfort from others​4​.

girl looks out at the sea alone dismissive avoidant style traits

What causes avoidant attachment in adults

Hazan and Shaver suggested that infants’ main attachment styles, identified in Mary Ainsworth’s Strange Situation, often persist into adult life​5​.

Twenty years of research data show that 72% of adults have the same adult attachment styles as when they were infants. If attachment classifications change, they are often associated with traumatic events​6​.

Growing up with an avoidant attachment tends to result in a dismissive-avoidant attachment style in adulthood and 25% of the adult population displays this pattern of behavior.

Signs of dismissive avoidant attachment in adults

Many studies have found that an adult’s attachment style shapes the quality of their interpersonal relationships​7,8​. This type of attachment style is negatively correlated with various aspects of adults’ closest relationships​9,10​.

There are two key dimensions – anxiety and avoidance – underpinning the different attachment styles leading to different patterns of behavior throughout life.

A dismissive avoidant woman or man tends to score high on the avoidance scale and low on the anxiety scale. 

Fear of intimacy

Attachment issues in the early years left dismissive individuals with a fear of intimacy. They avoid feelings of closeness in relationships.

Lack of trust

They tend to distrust others. As a result, they avoid interactions with other people and deactivate their response system to cope with stress. It is likely that they will decrease any kind of interaction or feeling in the romantic relationship, positive or negative​11​.

Do not provide or receive social support

A dismissive-avoidant person cannot form supportive relationships. They are not comfortable providing support to friends or romantic partners and they feel less obligated to do so. Their view of those who seek support is that they are dependent, weak, emotionally unstable, and immature.

High self-esteem

While avoidant individuals distrust other people, they tend to have higher self-esteem. They generally have a positive perception of themselves.

Highly accomplished

Due to the lack of confidence in the availability of others for emotional support, they invest disproportionately in their own abilities or accomplishments​12​. These people are often workaholics​13​ who lack satisfaction in their intimate relationships​14​.

woman and man ignore each other avoidant-dismissive attachment style

Dismissive avoidant attachment in parents

Avoidant individuals’ aversion to caregiving is the main obstacle to becoming parents.

For example, avoidant fathers may provide less care to their female partners during the labor and delivery period. These fathers are more distant from their infants​15​

In addition to experiencing greater stress after the birth of a child, parents with an avoidant attachment experience less satisfaction from parenting​16​.

Also See: Fearful Avoidant vs Dismissive Avoidant Attachment Styles

Final thoughts on Avoidant dismissive attachment style

A decline in relationship satisfaction can negatively impact everyone in the family. Those who are less satisfied in relationships tend to suffer from more depression​17​ and higher rates of other psychiatric disorders.

If this is affecting your current relationships, seek help from experienced health care professionals. They can help you with unresolved issues with caretakers in childhood and heal attachment wounds so that you can form a healthy relationship and experience true intimacy. You can also consider seeing a couples therapist with your current partner to improve your emotional closeness. 

Acknowledging your feelings of insecurity can help you deal with difficulties in relationships. By working on it, fulfilling relationships are within your reach.


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Updated on May 19th, 2023 by Pamela Li

Pamela Li is an author, Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Parenting For Brain. Her educational background is in Electrical Engineering (MS, Stanford University) and Business Management (MBA, Harvard University). Learn more


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