What is dismissive avoidant attachment
A dismissive avoidant attachment style in adulthood is an insecure attachment style 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 caregivers because close proximity improves their chances of survival. Attachment behavior forms a pattern, called attachment style.
The four child attachment styles are:
- Secure attachment style
- Avoidant attachment style
- Ambivalent attachment style (or anxious attachment style)
- Disorganized attachment style (or disoriented attachment style)
These types of attachment represent the baby’s internal working models of themselves, others, and the relationships with them. Individuals with different attachment styles maintain different models of themselves and others1.
These models develop early in childhood and are carried forward in life influencing expectations for other interpersonal relationships and social interactions in general2.
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, they avoid seeking comfort from caregivers when they are anxious3.
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 others4.
What causes dismissive avoidant attachment in adults
Hazan and Shaver suggest that infant attachment styles, identified by Mary Ainsworth’s Strange Situation, often persist into adult life5.
In an examination of attachment classifications among young adults over the course of twenty years, 72% had the same classification as when they were infants, and changes in attachment classification were often associated with severe, life-threatening events6.
Growing up with an avoidant attachment tends to result in a dismissive attachment style in adulthood.
In accordance with previous similar studies, 25% of the adult sample displayed dismissive avoidant attachment.
Signs of dismissive avoidant attachment in adults
Many studies have found that an adult’s attachment style shapes the quality of their adult relationships7,8.
Dismissive avoidant attachment is negatively correlated with various aspects of adults’ closest relationships9,10.
Researchers have identified two key dimensions underpinning the different attachment types that lead to different patterns of behavior throughout life – anxiety and avoidance.
An avoidant person scores high on the avoidance scale and low on the anxiety scale.
Attachment issues in the early years left dimissive individuals with a fear of intimacy. They tend to distrust others and avoid feelings of closeness. 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 negative11.
Dismissives cannot form supportive relationships. They are not comfortable providing support to friends or romantic partners support and feel less obligated to do so. Their view of those who seek support is that they are dependent, weak, emotionally unstable, and immature.
While avoidant individuals distrust other people, they have a positive perception of themselves.
Due to the lack of confidence in the availability of others for emotional support, they invest disproportionately in their own abilities or accomplishments12. These people are often workaholics13 who lack satisfaction in their intimate relationships14.
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 infants15.
In addition to experiencing greater stress after the birth of a child, parents with an avoidant attachment experience less satisfaction from parenting16.
Final thoughts on dismissive avoidant attachment
A decline in relationship satisfaction can negatively impact everyone in the family. Those who are less satisfied in relationships tend to suffer from more depression17 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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