Secure Attachment Style: What It Means & How It Manifests

Trying to figure out what attachment style you have should be obvious, but that’s not always the case. Human psychology is complex, and that can make it tricky to know where you fall and how your attachment style affects your relationships. Here’s a rundown on the secure attachment style, which is arguably the one we all wish we had.

What is it?

  1. What is attachment theory? Attachment theory was first proposed by a psychoanalyst called John Bowlby dating way back to the 1950s. The attachment study looked into the various expected and unexpected ways in which our primary caregivers influence our adult relationships. The theory has recently grown in popularity as people increasingly look to the past to uncover issues in the present, both on a cultural and a personal level.
  2. What does secure attachment style mean? Secure attachment, as opposed to avoidant attachment or anxious attachment, paints a picture of why we behave the way we do in relationships. The theory places particular importance on the influence of the parent or primary caregiver during one’s upbringing. The theory asserts that if you had a caregiver who gave you consistently attentive support during your childhood, it instilled in you the ability to contribute with equal positivity to your own relationships going forward.
  3. Is secure attachment style a good thing? Of the other attachment types, secure attachment is viewed by the academic community as being the healthiest. It judges that children who have positive, nurturing environments can be more emotionally attuned and responsive when they grow up. These bonds are secure and stable and well-communicated. There are still people who are exceptions and have the capacity to buck the trend either way, but this is the rule as understood by Bowlby.
  4. Bad childhood = bad adult relationships? This is an oversimplification, but in principle, yes. A more nurturing, secure childhood is statistically the most likely condition and environment to encourage and pass on that behavior to children. Experts suggest that the bonds and emotional connections made during childhood are extremely formative, and are difficult to fundamentally alter in adult life. By the same virtue, childhoods that were abusive or traumatic will produce children, with that role model, who are more likely to fail to meet their partner’s needs on account of their own problems.
  5. How can I raise a child with secure attachment? There are several steps to ensuring that your child is part of the 2/3 of children who grow up with secure attachment styles, according to experts. Firstly, make sure your child feels safe and close to you. If you haven’t said the words “I love you, you’re safe with me” recently, do so now. Make sure that your child is known, valued, and that you understand them and listen to them. This is where Bowlby asserts that lots of relationships go downhill in childhood: the absence of comfort.

How a secure attachment style manifests in your life

  1. You trust people. Trust is a key component of secure attachment styles. Where the insecure attachment styles have big trust issues stemming from parents who didn’t meet their needs, were inconstant, or ignored calls for help, by contrast, a secure childhood has no reason to question that.
  2. You’re emotionally available. Other qualities include an openness with crying and showing emotion, as these children learned that that behavior would get a response and the issue would be addressed. Meanwhile, insecure attachment styles are often repressed because they learned that, despite trying to get their parents’ attention, they were ignored. As a result, they had no reason to show emotion when they were suffering.
  3. You’re not afraid of communicating the hard things. Children who grew up with secure relationships with their caregivers have grown up knowing that reciprocal, vulnerable communication is effective in building intimacy. They have these skills as second nature now, whereas people with insecure attachment styles are having to learn them for the first time, by themselves. Dating people who had difficult childhoods is hard because they’re still learning now.
  4. You’re really good at relationships. Good long-term relationships are also a hallmark of a secure attachment style. Your friends might know you are the serial monogamist or the friend who had a childhood sweetheart when everyone else was still figuring out what was up and what was down. By having emotional maturity early on, you were able to figure out how to define, maintain, and support your relationships from a young age.
  5. You value predictability as well as exploration. You can appreciate the importance of consistency in the people you pursue. Unlike your friends, you never really saw the value of the “bad boy” because you had higher self-esteem and knew that you deserved more than that. At the same time, you were always made to feel safe and heard, and you were encouraged to be ambitious by your caregivers. This means that you’re not afraid of change or trying new things. You were always given a safe space to explore, fail, and try again, and that’s a gift.
  6. You’re goal-oriented. You’re not one to waste your own time; you understand how important it was that you had quality time in your childhood with your parent, and you’re the same in adulthood. Relationship milestones are important for you, as is commitment. You aren’t a fan of casual flings.
  7. You still seek emotional support from your partner. As you had such a great core relationship as a young child, you seek this in your relationships. You’re rarely single because you have been so accustomed to emotional support from an external source, but it’s important to make sure you have a strong sense of self. You still have some skills to work on, such as maintaining your independence.
  8. You might be a little narrow-minded sometimes.  You have the luxury of having always been able to trust your core relationships and having a good historical support system, so be careful that you can still adapt and think outside of your partners. For all that secure attachment styles are healthier than insecure attachment styles, the latter is much more independent and dynamic.
Hannah has a Masters degree in Romantic and Victorian literature in Scotland and spends her spare time writing anything from essays to short fiction about the life and times of the frogs in her local pond! She loves musical theatre, football, anything with potatoes, and remains a firm believer that most of the problems in this world can be solved by dancing around the kitchen to ABBA. You can find her on Instagram at @_hannahvic.