Secure vs. Insecure Attachment


What is Secure Attachment?
Through repeated positive experiences with a caregiver, infants develop a secure attachment to that person. Infants who are securely attached have learned to trust that other people will take care of them.
Children who are securely attached tend to:

  • have less extreme reactions to stress
  • be more willing to try new things and to explore independently
  • be better problem solvers
  • form better relationships with others

What is Insecure Attachment?

Infants whose experiences with a caregiver are negative or unpredictable are more likely to develop an insecure attachment. Children who are insecurely attached have learned that adults are not reliable, and do not trust easily.

Children who are insecurely attached may:

  • refuse to interact with others
  • avoid other people
  • exaggerate distress
  • show anger, anxiety, or fear

Multiple Influences on Attachment

It is important to remember that attachment security is not the only factor that affects children’s relationships with other people. A variety of other influences, including individual personality differences and cultural norms, also affect a child’s process for relating to others, responding to stress, solving problems, and managing emotions.

Infants’ individual characteristics contribute to their developing attachments with caregivers. Children are not just passive recipients of their parents’ caregiving. A child’s natural temperament plays a significant role in determining how that child approaches and responds to situations and people. If a child does not easily interact with others because she is reserved or extremely active, caregivers may have more difficulty engaging with that child. Children with chronic health conditions or other special needs may require more attention and care but may not respond positively to a caregiver’s nurturing. Children’s developmental level may also contribute to their developing attachment. Some stages of development are more challenging for adults than others. Caregivers may find it difficult to have positive interactions with a two-year-old who is demonstrating a desire for more independence.