Understanding Attachment Theory

Authors: Brigid Daniel & Sally Wassell

Patterns of attachment behaviour

Mary Ainsworth’s (Ainsworth et all, 1978) studies conducted with mothers and their toddlers have shown that attachment behaviours can be described as falling into one of several distinctive patterns.

The most important distinction is between secure and insecure attachment. Young children who are classified as showing secure attachment play happily when their care-giver is present, protest when they leave and go to them for comfort on their return.

They will show some wariness of strangers and choose their care-giver for comfort when upset or fearful. What they have is a base that not only is stable, but also acts as a springboard to the wider social world. Long-term resilience is associated with the opportunity to develop a secure attachment to at least one person.