What Is Your Attachment Dance?

Attachment is a lot like a dance. Some are good at it. Others…not so much. Raising a son that comes from a hard place is teaching me a lot about attachment…not only in regards to him, but about me also.


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A powerful thing I am learning from our Parenting Kids from Hard Places class is how attachment styles affect our relationships.

Even if you are not a parent or “past” the parenting age, you need to read this. See if you can identify your style.

Here are the 4 basic attachment styles defined:


Children who are securely attached generally become visibly upset when their caregivers leave, and are happy when their parents return. When frightened, these children will seek comfort from the parent or caregiver. Contact initiated by a parent is readily accepted by securely attached children and they greet the return of a parent with positive behavior. While these children can be comforted to some extent by other people in the absence of a parent or caregiver, they clearly prefer parents to strangers.

As adults, those who are securely attached tend to have trusting, long-term relationships. Other key characteristics of securely attached individuals include having high self-esteem, enjoying intimate relationships, seeking out social support, and an ability to share feelings with other people.


Children who are ambivalently attached tend to be extremely suspicious of strangers. These children display considerable distress when separated from a parent or caregiver, but do not seem reassured or comforted by the return of the parent. In some cases, the child might passively reject the parent by refusing comfort, or may openly display direct aggression toward the parent.

As adults, those with an ambivalent attachment style often feel reluctant about becoming close to others and worry that their partner does not reciprocate their feelings. This leads to frequent breakups, often because the relationship feels cold and distant. These individuals feel especially distraught after the end of a relationship.


Children with avoidant attachment styles tend to avoid parents and caregivers. This avoidance often becomes especially pronounced after a period of absence. These children might not reject attention from a parent, but neither do they seek our comfort or contact. Children with an avoidant attachment show no preference between a parent and a complete stranger.

As adults, those with an avoidant attachment tend to have difficulty with intimacy and close relationships. These individuals do not invest much emotion in relationships and experience little distress when a relationship ends.


Children with a disorganized-insecure attachment style show a lack of clear attachment behavior. Their actions and responses to caregivers are often a mix of behaviors, including avoidance or resistance. These children are described as displaying dazed behavior, sometimes seeming either confused or apprehensive in the presence of a caregiver.

In normal environments, 60% have secure attachments, 20% Ambivalent, and 20% Avoidant. Only 2-3% are disorganized. However according to many studies as much as 80% in the high-risk child population are disorganized.

Like someone was reading me my mail, I recognized that my attachment style well into my adult years was Avoidant. Even though I knew that this is true, it is still disheartening.

I have developed an Earned Secure attachment style, which means that you can learn how to change from one of the insecure attachment styles to Secure attachment.

A child’s attachment style is usually set by age 5-6 and remains on into adulthood unless some intentional effort is made to change it.

We learned that our son is probably just now attaching to us even though he has been with us for two years. Come to find out that is about normal. It takes 2-3 years for a child to attach fully.

If you notice traits in either yourself or your child that concerns you, please find out more about the attachment styles and make sense of how your or your child’s past affects their present and future.

Here is a link to Empowered to Connect information about attachment.

What attachment dance is happening in your family?


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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

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5 thoughts on “What Is Your Attachment Dance?

  1. One of our foster children was severely abused in utero and in the first year of their life, to the point where one of their childhood counselors doubted that the child would ever be able to develop friendships or even live on their own. Diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder, raising and trying to teach was vastly different from even other foster children. In this case, growing from Avoidant to Ambivalent was real progress. Trust and honesty was always an issue. Constancy in parental love & standards – even when they have left your home – has finally produced a growing trust in our relationship. “Train up a child in the way he should go…” continues into adulthood…

  2. “Disorganized” is a new term for me. Ainsworth (1970) only identified the first three. It makes complete sense to me though that foster and adoption would have high rates of this classification. I wonder if this is similar to the step-parent situation too. Interesting new info for me; thanks for sharing!