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Attachment- Definition, Stages & Styles

What is Attachment?

Attachment is an emotional connection that forms between the child and the caregiver, and it is the mechanism by which the helpless child meets the basic needs. It then becomes an engine for the social, emotional and cognitive development that follows. Attachment provides the primary coping mechanism for the child; it sets up a mental image of the caregiver in the memory of the infant, one that can be summoned as a soothing mental presence in stressful times. Attachment also helps the child to be independent and to discover the world around them without caregiver.

What is the Attachment Theory?

The theory of attachment in psychology originates from the pioneering work of John Bowlby (1958). In the 1930s, John Bowlby practiced as a psychiatrist at the Child Guidance Clinic in London, where he treated many mentally troubled children. The experience at the clinic prompted Bowlby to understand the significance of the children’s connection with their mother in relation to the physical, emotional and cognitive development. Specifically, it formed his faith between early child separation with the mother and later maladjustment, and led Bowlby to articulate his theory of attachment.

According to Bowlby, attachment is a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.” Bowlby (1958) suggested that attachment could be interpreted in an evolutionary way in that the caregiver ensures protection and comfort for the child. Attachment is adaptive since it increases the probability of survival of the infant.

Some theories suggested that caregivers feed the child and that leads to the formation of attachments but Bowlby discovered that when they were separated from their primary caregivers, feeding did not alleviate the discomfort encountered by children. Instead, he noted that the attachment with the caregivers was marked by consistent patterns of action and motivation. In order to gain both comfort and nourishment, children tend to seek closeness from their caregivers mainly when frightened.

What are the Stages of Attachment?

Rudolph Schaffer and Peggy Emerson (1964) studied whether attachment evolves through a sequence of steps, by observing 60 infants at periodic intervals of one month for the first 18 months of life. They found that a baby’s attachment develops in the following sequence-

Asocial (0-6 weeks):

young babies are asocial and that all kinds of stimuli, both social and non-social, cause favorable reactions, such as a smile. Infants do not have any special connection to a single caregiver. The signs of the infant, such as crying and yelling, instinctively draw the attention of the caregiver, and the positive reactions of the child allow the caregiver to stay close to them.

Indiscriminate Attachments (6 weeks- 7 months):

Infants enjoy being surrounded by human company, and most of them react to any caregiver in a similar manner. They get upset when any person avoids communicating with them. By 3 months of age, babies smile more at familiar faces and can be quickly comforted by a frequent caregiver. They begin to demonstrate their preferences for primary and secondary caregivers. Children have the trust that the caregiver will respond to their needs. Babies get taken care of by various people and yet they tend to differentiate between known and unknown individuals, and react more positively to the primary caregiver.

Specific attachment (7-9 months):

A special preference for a single caregiver develops. The child looks to specific people for comfort, warmth and protection. They are fearful of strangers (stranger anxiety) and are uncomfortable when removed away from a particular caregiver. (separation anxiety). By one year of age, some babies exhibit anxieties of stranger fear and separation far more often and strongly than others, but they are taken as proof that the infant has developed a bond.

Multiple Attachment (10 months and above):

By ten months of age, babies begin to develop multiple attachments including attachments to parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, and neighbors. The infant becomes more autonomous and forms a variety of attachments.  The numerous attachments developed by most babies differ in intensity and value to the child. Attachments are also arranged in a hierarchy where the child may have developed three attachments, but one may be greater than the other two, and one may be of the least importance.

What are the Styles of Attachment?

Ainsworth and colleagues observed how relaxed each infant felt physically further away from its mother in an unknown situation, how each child communicated with the outsider, and how each child welcomed the mother when she returned. They gave three styles of attachment-

Secure Attachment-

When children can rely on their caregivers, exhibit sadness when they are apart and joy when they are reunited, they are said to have formed secure attachments. While the child might be frustrated, they are reassured that the caregiver is coming back. When afraid children with secure attachment are comfortable in seeking comfort from caregivers. These children are capable to interact well and safely form connections with others, while at the same time being able to function freely as required. Secure attachment is marked by trust, an adaptive reaction to abandonment, and the conviction that one is deserving of affection.

Ambivalent Attachment-

This type of attachment is characterized by parents or caregivers who are not responsive to the primary needs of their child. They experience discomfort when the parent leaves and are unable to depend on the caregivers for satisfying their needs. As the child grows, they are worried while developing attachments that others will not reciprocate appropriate their desire for intimacy.

Avoidant Attachment-

Children with this form of attachment tend to avoid their parents or caregivers. They do not show any signs of distress when the caregiver leaves. These children are equally comfortable with a caregiver and a stranger. The avoidant attachment may be a result of neglect or abuse from the caregivers which may lead to the child being avoidant or independent from forming attachments.

One more style of attachment discovered by Main and Solomon (1986)-

 Disorganized Attachment-

These children exhibit a confounding combination of behavior, including clearly inconsistent actions. It seems disoriented and confusing and they exhibit various behavior that lack clearly recognizable motives or intentions. They could be ignoring or rejecting the parent. There is an absence of a particular attachment which is possibly related to erratic caregiver behavior. In such situations, parents can serve as a source of security as well as discomfort, contributing to disorganized actions of the child.


The attachments that are formed during the early stages are crucial. They have an impact on how individuals form bonds in future with their peers, partners and society. Parents need to provide sufficient amount of nourishment and security to let children know the importance of their presence as well as not make the children too dependable. The child needs to have an attachment with the caregivers which is filled with trust and warmth.

“Your children need your presence more than your presents.”

– Jesse Jackson


Attachment | Psychology Today

Attachment Theory – Psychologist World

Bowlby & Ainsworth: What Is Attachment Theory? (

Frontiers | Attachment Styles and Communication of Displeasing Truths | Psychology (

McLeod, S. A. (2017, February 05). Attachment theory. Simply Psychology.

What do you think?

521 Points

Written by Aastha Kothari

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Manvi Verma

Attachment is a very important part of our life but as you focused it on relationship between children and caregiver or parent only but is it only restricted to them. In my view, attachment is their on all aspects and all age groups and throughout our life.

P Abigail Sadhana Rao

A well-written and researched article!!! Keep it up

Shraddha S. Kambli

Well written, informative article. Keep it up and all the best

Jigyasa vashistha

amazing article ..kudos buddy 🙂

Pranathi Harihar

Really well-written by including all aspects of the topic. You can maybe concise the article on the whole as it is pretty elaborate.

Aashna Parekh

Really great and informative article! You could have talked maybe more about the different attachment styles and how they impact the individual in the future. Keep on writing!

Harini Soudarmane

Nice article… But it seems more theoretical and the types…need better explanation too for easy understanding…
Otherwise…the topic is too good and informative too… Thank you

Taru Dixit

Very well researched article, however it would have been more interesting if some examples(real life)were added other than the Ainsworth’s theory of attachment.

Last edited 2 years ago by Taru Dixit
Iarisa Nongbet

Very beautifully written an researched article.

Prarna koul

a very well versed article. Educating parents to be good parents is far more crucial than educating the children.

Aakriti Lajpal

Nice Info

Megha Sarma

you could have also added the role of gender in attachment

Anmol Sidhu

this is wonderfully written article. just a small sugesstion, i think you could have also added the Ainsworth , strange situation experiment here.
job well done though

Sreejita Sarkar

The stages that you have mentioned are very detailed and well-researched. I would like to read more of Piaget’s models. But I really enjoyed your content very much.


Really enjoyed reading this. You have written this article in a precise manner. Loved how you have written the stages of attachment in such detail and depth. And you’ve explained the theory of attachment itself in such a detailed and precise way , and in simple language. Keep e the good work !


Really enjoyed reading this. You have written this article in a precise manner. Loved how you have written the stages of attachment in such detail and depth. And you’ve explained the theory of attachment itself in such a detailed and precise way , and in simple language. Keep up the good work


This is really an insightful piece of writing that sheds light on the importance of attachment of the child with their caregivers. In this era of technology and the absence of real attachment, it is extremely relevant. It also provides the scientific or technical aspects of attachment including its stages and styles, which makes it even more informative. Looking forward to reading more of your works!

Shivani More

The article is written very well, includes a lot of information. But the knowledge seems to be more theoretical and lacks practical information. The article would have been more effective if examples about stages and types of attachment were added.

Thryaksha Ashok Garla

Amazingly written. Every part was given importance.

Lakshmi Priya

Insightful! Keep doing


Attachment is an essential thing between a parent and a child. The children who are securely attached with their parents are likely to succeed in their life.


This article is pretty informative and elaborate but because of that having a conclusion would help the readers a bit more.

Shruti Shashidharan

Extremely important topic that you have written about. thoroughly researched and detailed. Well structured, great work!! 🙂

Pravesh Charan Isai

Attachment is one such thing that has its certain pros and cons. Its all about how well you have maintained your relationship with the other individual.


Attachment can be identified in the presence of the attachment person as a deep and lasting emotional relationship between two individuals. Adult attachment activity to the infant requires responsive and adequate responses to the needs of the child. This kind of action is universal among cultures. The connection theory describes the formation and influences of parent-child relationships. Good article. Keep up the good work.


Good work

Aashima Kathpalia

Research done effectively .
Keep going !!!

Mehal Sampat

Loved your article, Aastha. You gave precise timeline of how attachment develops in an individual right from birth and then moved to styles of attachments.

Would have loved if you focused on manifestation of styles in adult relationships and how to make secure attachment in adulthood.

Taniya Singh

Really enjoyed reading the article. This is really an insightful piece of written in a precise manner. The explanation of the stages of attachment, theory of attachment in such detail and depth add more stars to the work. The relationship between the child and its caregivers is well explained in simple language. Keep up the good work!!!

Dharani G Sekaran

nice one…

Hardeep Kaur

Information provided is very detailed but it’s hard to relate to it because it’s very formal. If it had a case study it would have greater affect and will be easier for common people to relate. But overall it an amazing article. Keep it up.

Saloni Sanjay Shinde

You have really given a lot of time in the research of this topic, amazing. I personally think you could have explored the area of relationships. It’s an amazing article!

Apeksha Sharma

Very well written and informative. The research was done very nicely. I suggest writing in points and adding a few case studies to make it more appealing

Nikita Sarma

Well written article. However, I would like to suggest that attachment in various age groups could be added because it’s not only limited to children. Otherwise, the article is very well researched and all the points are clear and easily understandable.

Trisha Baunthiyal

It’s really informative from a psychological perspective. However, I wish you could’ve given your viewpoint as well.

Vaishnavi S

Very good article with great content. Very informative. You have explained everything clearly. Amazing work.
Happy writing.

Aditi Dhoundiyal

The topic of attachment style is very interesting and i must say you have covered the topic very nicely.

Devashree Bhandare

What a relevant topic… it’s just that you could have kept it a bit short.

K Kannaki

This article is really insightful and we’ll conveyed . In this fast running era people forget how to be close to loved ones physically and how much it is important to have proper attachment with the children . The concept was explained in detail and stages was explained well and can be more elaborated and images can be used. The impact of poor attachment can lead to undesirable behaviour and personality in future this can be elaborated more and ways how to understand importance of attachment with child.
Very good work keep it up, would love to read more .
Good luck !!

Rahmath shaikali

Well written article. Great work

Sima Saleem

When we heard the word Attachment its really works deeply and we starting thinking about our special relationships and the who we are really Attached this topic is the need to make as more aware of our relationships.

Parishree Pandya

Loved reading the article. Didn’t know about the attachment theory or the styles. Learnt something new. Keep it up.

It sure is quite an educational and researched article. I feel this can be related to attachments, not just among children but teens and some adults too. It’ll be nice if you cover it in your upcoming article.

Aanaida Rehman

Yup thts a good read gotta learn from this more . Overall amazing

Karishma Borah

Could really derive the significance difference between attachment and dependability. Especially for children, a mere understanding is imp.

Sahana Rajeev

This article was well researched and informative but you could have also added some points about attachment in adulthood…

Riya Arya

attachment is a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.The child needs to have an attachment with the caregivers which is filled with trust and warmth.Attachment is an emotional connection that forms between the child and the caregiver, and it is the mechanism by which the helpless child meets the basic needs.

Very well written and a major issue is discussed…


the relation between a child and the caregiver is one of the most beautiful relations in the world and how it is important to all of us. all theses features are depicted in this article vey beautifully

Mansi Mundhra

That quote of presence and presents is sobtrue. Thanks!!

Ilhaam Shaik

That was a detailed and well researched article.
Keep it up!