12 julio, 2024

Avoidant attachment: what it is, characteristics, development, examples in children

What is avoidant attachment?

He avoidant attachment It is one where the emotional needs of the child are not met by their caregivers, who avoid an emotional relationship because they do not know how to manage it. This generates great insecurity in the child, which translates into the inability to relate properly.

It is one of the four types of attachment described by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. It is a pattern of relationships that is formed during early childhood, and is generally maintained into adulthood.

Avoidant attachment is characterized by the inability to express one’s own feelings, as well as the lack of understanding of them in many cases. People with this relational pattern have great difficulty forming meaningful relationships with others, and they value their independence above all else.

But this search for independence responds to a lack of self-esteem on the part of the individual. He feels that he is not worthy of love or affection, and therefore avoids depending on other people. He believes that only in this way can he avoid suffering when others abandon or disappoint him.

Characteristics of avoidant attachment

They are unable to trust others. Because of their early experiences, they believe that others will try to take advantage of them, and they feel that opening up to others will bring them suffering and emotional distress.
They tend to value their independence above all else. However, he hides a significant lack of self-esteem. This problem leads them to think that they are not worthy of affection or care.
They have learned that showing their needs or feelings doesn’t work. They close themselves off from connecting with others, and look for alternative ways to get what they need. This often leads them to develop problems and addictions of all kinds.

Avoidant attachment in children

The consequences of avoidant attachment can be seen in very young children. Before the age of two, the little ones who develop this way of relating behave like «little adults». Their main strategy is not to show their emotions or needs when they are with other people.

They may be indifferent when their parents leave them, or not express any joy when they return. They are often just as sociable with strangers as they are with their own keepers.

In more extreme cases, they may avoid contact with their parents, although without showing anger or any other negative emotion. However, in experiments carried out, by making objective measurements of the internal state of children, it has been seen that the little ones feel uncomfortable.

For example, their heart rate and skin conductivity are much higher than normal, both when they are away from their caregivers and when they are close.

Both factors indicate the tendency to hide their emotions to avoid negative consequences from their parents.

Avoidant attachment in adults

Avoidant attachment is usually maintained throughout adult life. Because they learned as children to disconnect from their own needs and minimize the importance of their emotions, they avoid creating overly intimate relationships with anyone.


The avoidant style is formed when a child’s needs have not been met by their primary caregivers. ANDThe little one acquires the belief that his own feelings are not important. As a consequence, he tends to suppress them and find ways to get what he wants without depending on anyone else.

During adulthood, these beliefs are maintained. The most common effect is the tendency to see themselves as superior to others, and to have negative and cynical attitudes.

However, it is usual that this apparently high self-esteem hides feelings of inferiority and vulnerability. Are People react badly to criticism, rejection, and the like. They develop a slightly narcissistic personality pattern, which they use to hide low self-esteem.

Intimate relations

Intimate relationships are often a source of problems for people with avoidant attachment. On the one hand, you need to connect with other individuals and form close relationships. But at the same time, they believe that doing so will only cause them suffering in the long run.

Therefore, these individuals tend not to fully show themselves when they are in a romantic relationship. On the contrary, they will act trying to stay in control of the situation, always trying to have more power than their partner in the relationship.

Often, they prefer to have a purely sexual relationship, since it does not force them to be emotionally vulnerable.

When they finally form a romantic bond, they get overwhelmed very easily and blame their partner for asking too much of them or trying to control them too much.

Due to their own problems, these individuals have great difficulty empathizing. As a result, they often act in ways that can appear cruel or unsympathetic, focusing primarily on meeting their own needs.


One of the biggest fears of these people is being rejected by someone they care about. For this reason, the breakup of a romantic relationship is one of the most painful scenarios, and one of the most effortful to avoid.

To achieve this, people with this relational style move away from their partner when they detect that he or she has lost some interest. But since they are always looking for signs of rejection, it is common for them to self-sabotage their romantic relationships.

Thus, they will act indifferently towards their partner at the slightest sign of problems, while idealizing past relationships.

It is also common for them to decide to break up with the other person, but regret it once they are alone and resume the relationship, which leads to toxic relationships.

When their relationships really end, these people do not look to others for support, but hide their emotions, even from themselves. This is why they are not able to process grief properly, and they experience all kinds of long-term problems.

development of avoidant attachment

Parents of avoidantly attached children tend to be emotionally unavailable to care for them. They do not respond to your attempts to get their attention, and are unable to attend to their needs properly. In many cases, they may reject them when they show any signs of weakness (for example, if they cry).

In response, the child learns from an early age to suppress his natural desires to go to his parents when he is scared, sad or upset. Soon, he associates his attempts to open up to others with rejection, pain, or punishment.

In addition, he discovers that by hiding his emotions, he can at least satisfy one of his basic needs: to remain physically close to his parents.

As a result, they generally avoid expressing their feelings, and often develop defense mechanisms that prevent them from being aware of them.

On the other hand, many of these children learn to fend for themselves very early. They often develop the belief that they can do anything without depending on anyone else, and as a result, the idea of ​​connecting with other people seems unappealing to them.

Examples of Avoidant Attachment in Children

A small child, if left alone in the classroom, does not cry when he does not see his parents, and focuses on his toys. An excessively independent child, who does not show trust in anyone. A child with this attachment is easily upset and does not seek out her mother when she needs her. When the primary caregiver returns, the child is indifferent. These children do not like to be touched or physically approached.


Avoidant Attachment: Understanding Insecure Avoidant Attachment. Retrieved from psychalive.org.
5 Signs your child has an avoidant attachment style (and how to fix it!). Recovered from mariefranceasia.com.

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