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Blog Posts.... continued

Early Attachment and Adult Relationships....


Healthy adult relationships develop more easily after experiencing warmth, love and feeling wanted as children or in other words, when early emotional and physical needs are met, nurtured and protected.

Secure attachments help children absorb a sense of belonging and help regulate mood and behaviours, along with developing an awareness of how others might feel in response to things they say or do, appropriate and inappropriate behaviours, personal boundaries and so on - all of which help them develop healthy relationships later on, based upon mutual understanding and trust. Children who grow up within solid foundations tend to expect their adult relationships to be no different and are secure enough to question things if or when they start to become uncomfortable.

When healthy attachment bonds are not formed during childhood however, it can lead to growing up feeling insignificant, of being unwanted, abandoned, unimportant and/or, neglected and this can cause those learnt behaviour patterns to be repeated or, draw individuals towards the same familiar and abusive behaviour patterns in adult relationships, based upon what "normal" felt like while growing up.

Unhealthy attachent styles tend to develop from prolonged Physical, Emotional, Mental and/or Sexual abuse and neglect and may include:

  • Physical needs being ignored on a regular basis, such as hunger, thirst and and/or, hygiene;

  • Emotional needs being ignored on a regular basis; parents or caregivers being emotionally unavailable and/or unable to cope due to physical illness, emotional (mental) health problems, addictive behaviour or something else;

  • Being treated as an inconvenence, receiving little or no attention and feeling alone;

  • Being constantly "put down" and called stupid;

  • Being used as a pawn between warring parents;

  • Prolonged separation from parents, such as hospitalisation, parent imprisonment or repeatedly moved within the care system.

  • Being groomed, manipulated and objectified for sexual abuse.

In an ideal world, we would all experience secure attachment and although some circumstances may be unavoidable, such as financial pressures within the home, parental work commitments, parental depression, separation and divorce and/or bereavement - children absorb as reality nonetheless that people and situations cannot always be trusted or depended upon for love, care, support, consistency and/or, commitment. This can result in ongoing difficulties forming lasting adult social relationships, giving or receiving love and affection - and developing trust.

Children and adults alike are often labelled with “disorders”; a term implying something is wrong with a person for not being able to cope, rather than the environment within which they were raised; pathologising symptoms into a subjective diagnosis only, without addressing a root cause. Examples include General Anxiety Disorder (GAD); Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD or PTSD minus the Complex part); Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Bipolar and/or, Borderline Personality Disorder - all of which can usually be sourced in attachment trauma of some kind.

Unhealthy attachments have a massive impact upon emotional and social development and over time, can develop into serious behavioural difficulties, particularly when situations are ongoing. In my experience however, labelling individuals as "disordered" often does very little to help people come to terms with what they might have experienced during their lifetime and the different ways they developed in response to it.

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BSc. (Hons)
APAPAL Accred; CCC Reg.


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