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Dismissive Avoidant Attachment – What it is, Causes & Signs

| Attachment theory & attachment styles | Avoidant attachment in childhood | Causes | Signs | Dismissive avoidant attachment in parents |

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

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 traits

What causes dismissive 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.

Avoidant adults score high on the avoidance scale and low on the anxiety scale. 

Attachment issues in the early years left dismissive 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 negative​11​.

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.

While avoidant individuals distrust other people, they tend to have higher self-esteem. They generally 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 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 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 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.

References

  1. 1.
    Shaver P, Hazan C. Being lonely, falling in love: Perspectives from attachment theory. Journal of Social Behavior & Personality. 1987;1(2):105–124.
  2. 2.
    Collins NL, Read SJ. Adult attachment, working models, and relationship quality in dating couples. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Published online 1990:644-663. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.58.4.644
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    Bartholomew K. Avoidance of Intimacy: An Attachment Perspective. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Published online May 1990:147-178. doi:10.1177/0265407590072001
  4. 4.
    Dozier M, Kobak RR. Psychophysiology in Attachment Interviews: Converging Evidence for Deactivating Strategies. Child Development. Published online December 1992:1473. doi:10.2307/1131569
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    Wearden AJ, Lamberton N, Crook N, Walsh V. Adult attachment, alexithymia, and symptom reporting. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. Published online March 2005:279-288. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2004.09.010
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    Waters E, Merrick S, Treboux D, Crowell J, Albersheim L. Attachment Security in Infancy and Early Adulthood: A Twenty‐Year Longitudinal Study. Child Development. Published online May 2000:684-689. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00176
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    Cann A, Norman MA, Welbourne JL, Calhoun LG. Attachment styles, conflict styles and humour styles: interrelationships and associations with relationship satisfaction. Eur J Pers. Published online March 2008:131-146. doi:10.1002/per.666
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    BUTZER B, CAMPBELL L. Adult attachment, sexual satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction: A study of married couples. Personal Relationships. Published online March 2008:141-154. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.2007.00189.x
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    Creasey G, Hesson-McInnis M. Affective responses, cognitive appraisals, and conflict tactics in late adolescent romantic relationships: Associations with attachment orientations. Journal of Counseling Psychology. Published online 2001:85-96. doi:10.1037/0022-0167.48.1.85
  10. 10.
    Tran S, Simpson JA. Prorelationship maintenance behaviors: The joint roles of attachment and commitment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Published online 2009:685-698. doi:10.1037/a0016418
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    Shaver PR, Mikulincer M. Attachment-related psychodynamics. Attachment & Human Development. Published online September 2002:133-161. doi:10.1080/14616730210154171
  12. 12.
    Carvallo M, Gabriel S. No Man Is an Island: The Need to Belong and Dismissing Avoidant Attachment Style. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. Published online May 2006:697-709. doi:10.1177/0146167205285451
  13. 13.
    Tziner A, Tanami M. Examining the links between attachment, perfectionism, and job motivation potential with job engagement and workaholism. Revista de Psicología del Trabajo y de las Organizaciones. Published online August 2013:65-74. doi:10.5093/tr2013a10
  14. 14.
    Li T, Chan DKS. How anxious and avoidant attachment affect romantic relationship quality differently: A meta-analytic review. Eur J Soc Psychol. Published online January 20, 2012:406-419. doi:10.1002/ejsp.1842
  15. 15.
    Wilson CL, Rholes WS, Simpson JA, Tran S. Labor, Delivery, and Early Parenthood. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. Published online March 30, 2007:505-518. doi:10.1177/0146167206296952
  16. 16.
    Kohn JL, Rholes SW, Simpson JA, Martin AM III, Tran S, Wilson CL. Changes in Marital Satisfaction Across the Transition to Parenthood. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. Published online August 9, 2012:1506-1522. doi:10.1177/0146167212454548
  17. 17.
    Beach SRH, Katz J, Kim S, Brody GH. Prospective Effects of Marital Satisfaction on Depressive Symptoms in                Established Marriages: A Dyadic Model. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Published online June 1, 2003:355-371. doi:10.1177/0265407503020003005

About Pamela Li

Pamela Li is a bestselling author. She is the 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).

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