Attachment Styles and Early Dating, not Early Childhood

The summary text of the Lifehacker article was intriguing:

If you suspect that the way you were raised has had an effect on your ability to maintain healthy relationships, you’re probably right.

But I’m not entirely sure.  Especially after actually taken the “attachment type” test that lay at the center of the article.

I will admit that this quiz seems to be somewhat accurate – at least as far as I’m concerned. I don’t see any of the techniques fakes (or your newspaper horoscope column) use with cold reads. Those shady generalizations are called the Forer Effect:

Because we’re wired to believe Astrology, or perhaps more accurately,  Astrology is wired for us to believe it. Humans suffer from the Forer Effect, a cognitive bias where individuals will see high accuracy in personality descriptions supposedly tailored specifically for them, but which are in fact so vague and general they apply to virtually anyone.

This effect persists with personality tests as well, though that’s not what I’d look at to test here. The attachment style matrix and the whole realm of attachment styles proports that very early childhood parental interactions form our adult life.

I’m not so sure.

Because I am having difficulty tying these outcomes to my early childhood.

I am having a very, very easy time tying them to my teenage, young adult, and adult life.  Contrast me with a woman I know.  She’s had a run of bad luck, but up until this last year, she’d almost never been dumped or rejected.  She may have told herself she was going to be rejected, but in real life, she almost never was.

Me? The norm for me is rejection. Always. She might fear rejection, but it’s rare that she will approach a guy and not get at some kind of positive response.  Maybe a superficial one, maybe not a healthy positive response, but she’ll get a positive response.  On the quiz, she scored low on the “anxiety” portion, showing that she was largely confident and secure in her relationships.

This is not my experience at all.

Up until the last two years or so, I’d been the breakup-er only twice across dozens of years and relationships.  It is, given past data, a completely reasonable expectation that the person/people I’m dating will want to break up with me, and well before I want to break up with them.

So it wasn’t surprising to me that I scored high on the “anxiety” axis.

So I’m not sure that these traits are ones that are hardcoded during our infant years. But I do think they’re traits that we learn in our formative dating years.

Regardless of the source (and as a sociologist, I am super interested in uncovering the source) of this behavior, I think this framework – along with the 5 love languages – is very useful as a descriptive tool to help you understand where you are at and how you work. They aren’t prescriptive – they don’t dictate your role in
life and how you live – but their descriptive power can help you really grok what matters to you… and how you and your partner(s) can try to avoid possible pitfalls down the road.

Featured image by Allan Filipe Santos Dias on Unsplash

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One Comment

  1. Cherrie Lovejoy
    August 20, 2018

    Anxiety can be chemical or environmental. It is a mental illness in many cases and needs a doctor’s treatment. However, not everyone who is anxious has clinical level anxiety. In studies on attachment, it is a good idea to look at research that is based on Erik Erikson social-emotional development theory. And most of the research I have read over the years (I am in early childhood) is that the level of attachment a child has with a caregiver (does not require to be a parent) highly effects his/her ability to attach in adulthood.

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