Among the four adult attachment styles, avoidance is an insecure attachment style.
Avoidant people use an attachment avoidance strategy. They are less comfortable being close to others than those with secure attachment styles or anxious attachment styles. Avoidants also feel less obligated to support their friends or romantic partners1.
Within avoidant attachment, researchers have identified two distinct types: fearful avoidance and dismissive avoidance.
While both avoidance types avoid emotional closeness with partners in romantic relationships, their reasons for doing so differ.
Fearful avoidant vs dismissive avoidant
The main difference between the fearful-avoidant attachment style and the dismissive-avoidant attachment style is that fearful avoidants tend to shy away from closeness because of fear, while dismissive avoidants do so because they disregard the importance of connections with others.
Fearful avoidant individuals have low self-esteem and high levels of anxiety. They believe that they are not lovable.
Dismissive avoidant individuals have high self-esteem and low levels of anxiety. They have a good self-image.
Fearful avoidant attachment style
A disorganized infant fears the attachment figure who shows frightening behavior2.
These babies may show disorganized strategies for coping with stressful situations. In times of stress, they may approach and avoid their attachment figures simultaneously with incoherent, contradictory actions. When approaching, they may suddenly stop advancing, appear paralyzed, or withdraw.
The disoriented attachment approach is usually the result of abuse in childhood.
Adults with the fearful-avoidant style of attachment are characterized by their lack of assertiveness3. They tend to be more troubled emotionally than those with other types of attachment insecurity4.
Those with the fearful-avoidant type of attachment style often show more depressive symptoms5 and dissociative symptoms that are not found in other attachment orientations6. Stress can cause a fearful-avoidant individual to behave in ways that seem aimless, confused, dazed, self-contradictory, dissociative, and withdrawn7.
Dismissive avoidant attachment style
Dismissive avoidant attachment in adults is associated with avoidant attachment in infants identified in Strange Situations.
Babies’ avoidant attachment is caused by the rejection of their attachment behaviors due to caregiver absent or lack of caregiver responses. As a result, they learn that even under stress they cannot seek comfort from caregivers and instead avoid them.
Adults with the dismissive-avoidant style are distinctively cold. They have a negative view of others and avoid closeness with relationship partners.
Acceptance from others is not very important to dismissive avoiders. Instead, a dismissive-avoidant individual downplays the value of others, rejects the necessity of relationships, and strives to remain independent and unaffected by others.
Dismissive style adults see friends who ask for social support as dependent, weak, emotionally unstable, and immature.
Researchers have found that violent and aggressive offenders are more likely to have dismissive-avoidant attachment than other types of insecure styles 8.
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