Formation of Anxious Ambivalent Attachment

Different factors contribute to the anxious ambivalent attachment between the child and the parent.

Once a child develops inconsistent attunement with their primary caregiver in the relationship, then it is the main factor in developing anxious ambivalent attachment.

Studies have confirmed that specific attachment patterns pass from one generation to the next, and the type of relationship between the parents plays a vital role in passing a typical attachment pattern from one generation to the next.

Children imitate their parents’ strategies and if parents have ambivalent/anxious attachment they will copy the same strategies

Research has found that parents’ child-rearing practice reflects the specific pattern of attachment they experienced as children with their own parents.

Parents who have parents with an anxious attachment are inconsistent in how their parents relate to them. These parents’ children form their own anxious attachment patterns.

Because of the poor and inconsistent parenting, many of these parents and caregivers experience extreme feelings of emotional hunger toward their child. Their actions become insensitive and intrusive towards their own children as they confuse emotional hunger with a genuine love for their child.

Robert Firestone describes that in Compassionate Child Rearing, parents get confused about their feelings of longing and the desire to get love from their child for actual love and concern for the child’s wellbeing.

Causes of Anxious Ambivalent Attachment
Since the attachment behaviors are adaptive in nature, a mother who is out of tune with the physical and emotional needs of their infants create children who form anxious attachment styles. The inconsistency of mom’s response to the needs of their babies could be the main cause of this type of attachment.

A laboratory experiment was conducted by psychologist Mary Ainsworth to study the effect of different types of mothering styles’ impact on children’s behavior after separating and reuniting them. She found that almost 20% of children gave confusing responses once their caregiver returned. They wanted to be comforted by their parents but also wanted to punish them for leaving. Children are hardwired to seek protection and comfort from their caregivers. If parents fail to satisfy the child’s need to connect or give mixed signals to the child, there is a high chance that the child will develop anxious ambivalent attachment. For example, a baby gets up from her nap and cries to be picked up or cuddled. The mother picks the child up and calms the child and puts him or her back in the crib. The child wants more time with his mother and cries again; however, this time mother ignores the child’s cry although she is standing nearby.

This child will soon learn that the mother cares to interact sometimes, but she is not a reliable person when it comes to responding to her needs to interact. These children go to extremes in order to win their mother’s attention when they grow older.

Signs and Ways to Overcome Anxious Ambivalent Attachment
There are few signs to gauge if someone has this type of attachment:

A person will need constant reassurance that they are loved.

Feeling of insecurity within any relationship.

Always worrying about getting rejected.

Highly pre-occupied with the relationship.

Thoughts of their partner abandoning them.

Clingy behaviors such as consistent public displays of affection.

Hungry for attention and wants to be treated like a child.

Poor personal boundaries.

Preoccupied thinking about what the other person wants.

Difficulty understanding the partner might need personal space.

Always talks about past family issues of rejection.

Throws tantrums, highly emotional, moody, and hard to deal with.

Gets offended easily and blows things out of proportion.

Blaming others and fail to accept their own mistakes.

The knowledge of the signs can help in finding ways to get the right support and form a healthy attachment. Therapists and theorists earlier believed that attachment style becomes set and unchangeable in infancy, but recent researches have stated otherwise. The brain and the mind are plastic and by learning new skills, any thoughts and behaviors can be changed. Following are some ways people with anxious ambivalent attachment can develop secure attachment in their relationships:

Increasing knowledge about other types of attachments and accepting that our current attachment style is not helping us.

Exploring our critical inner voice and understanding how it colors our perception about ourselves and others can help us in changing our inner voice.

Creating a cohesive narrative which means writing down what we remember of our childhood. This process helps us in figuring out the ways these events shaped our experiences later in life. This also helps in rewiring our brain and cultivates a deeper understanding of our unhealthy attachment style early in our lives.

Practice feelings of self-compassion that will also help in our relationships with others as well.

Entering psychotherapy. This helps to deal with the emotional factors that are waiting for you to discover. The therapist will help to challenge critical inner voice messages and help in replacing them with healthy ones.

These are a few useful tools to recreate a secure attachment style and develop healthy relationships with the self and others. There is no single way to change attachment style and individually, you have to find what works best for you.

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