Disorganized Attachment: Everything you need to know

Disorganized Attachment: Everything you need to know

Children are dependent on their caregivers for survival. So much so that caregivers shape the future of their children.

The way primary caregiver responds to the needs of a child determines whether their bond with others would be healthy or unhealthy.

Remember that person who keeps getting into abusive relationships? Or the one that is super clingy and overly emotional?

Well, unfortunately they developed an unhealthy way of attaching with people. This has less to do with them being weird or mad and more to do with the way they were brought up.

What is Attachment Style?

A child looking up

Attachment style refers to the way a person bonds with people around them.

A psychologist and psychoanalyst named John Bowlby developed a theory around these bonding styles. He named it – The Attachment Theory.

And as you continue reading, you’ll find that the theory does make a lot of sense.

Anyways, based on his observation, Mr. bowlby developed 4 types of attachment styles. Namely,

Out of these 4 bonding styles, secure attachment is the stablest one.

Rest of the 3 types are insecure ones that are developed as a coping mechanism during childhood.

Today’s blog post features a talk on one of such insecure attachment styles –

Fearful-Avoidant Attachment Style or commonly known as the Disorganized Attachment Style.

Wondering what’s your Attachment Style?

Find it out here!

Definition – What is Disorganized Attachment?

Picture of a family - What is disorganized attachment?

As you must have guessed by the name, people with disorganized attachment style are usually confused and apprehensive.

Common Characteristics of this Attachment Style are –

  • Internal Conflict
  • Dramatic
  • Unpredictable
  • Ambivalent

Remember John from high-school, who was unpredictable? Sometimes too clingy and sometimes too cold?

Well, he might have had a Disorganized Attachment.

People with this kind of bonding style don’t have the ability to regulate their emotions.

Thus, swinging from coldness to clinginess.

Development of Disorganized Attachment Style

Parent holding a child - development of disorganized attachment

Parents or Primary Caregivers are responsible for providing safe and secure space to the children.

However, things can take wrong turn when they fail to do so.

A child develops disorganized attachment when they have mixed emotions for their caregiver.

These mixed emotions leave them wondering how their caregiver would respond to their needs.

Who is at risk of developing Disorganized Attachment?

Girl sitting on a cliff

Caregivers who laugh, mock, or ignore the distress of a child are toxic.

When parents intimidate their children from stopping their cries. They are influencing development of this bonding style.

This is also true for parents who reassure their kids verbally but avoid any physical contact. For Instance,

A child came home after a fight, instead of asking them what, why and how the incident happened, some caregivers might intimidate the child to never get involved in a fight.

You get the pattern, right?

Signs of Disorganized Attachment

A boy with a dog

Normally, when parents leave their baby alone, the baby cries.

Unlike securely attached children, disorganized children can’t be easily soothed when their parents leave the room.

They keep crying even when their caregiver returns.

In fact, their reaction is a little perplexing. As they run to and fro from their primary caregivers.

This behaviour roots from their need for validation and deeply instilled fear.

Needless to say, such children have toxic caregivers with unhealthy parenting habits, like –

  • Laughing/ Mocking child’s distress
  • Losing temper quickly with the child
  • Sometimes being overly responsive to their child’s need and other times ignoring them.

Disorganized individuals in relationships

Child holding hand

You can imagine what it would be like for these kids when they confront the real world.

Adults with disorganized attachment have unclear way of engaging with people around them.

Usually their actions are consistent and clear but when they feel unsafe of triggered, they start pulling away.

The bad news is….they feel triggered quite easily. So, people with disorganized attachment are mostly on the edge.

Healing Disorganized Attachment Style

Boy sitting alone near lake

If you identify any signs of disorganized attachment in your close ones, don’t leave the problem unaddressed.

Find a good therapist who can help identify patterns and provide you with exercises to handle your triggers healthily.

Developing insecure type of attachment style comes with lots of unhealthy coping mechanism.

A smart therapist would assist you to analyze the origin of your unhealthy coping mechanisms and help you conquer them.

Prevention of Disorganized Attachment Style

A woman showing gestures with hand

Insecure attachment styles are difficult to heal. So, it is wise to choose prevention over cure.

Parents who identify with disorganized signs should seek a therapist or professional counsellor before starting their parenting Journey.

This way, they would realize the importance of healthy parenting and avoid using the same parenting techniques that left them with disorganized attachment.

The golden rule for fostering healthy attachment style in kids is to address the distress of children in loving and kind way.

Kids are like cement, whatever impression you imprint in them, it becomes permanent.

And something insignificant to you can be something impactful in their life.


A family enjoying

Disorganized Attachment is one of the 4 attachment styles introduced to us by John Bowlby.

It is an unhealthy bonding style which is the result of parenting the child with love, care and most importantly – intimidation.

As an adult, the person is always on the edge and confused about their emotions. Their actions are inconsistent. Sometimes overtly clingy and sometimes overly distant.

Prevention is better than cure.

So, it is wise to get help now, rather than making your kids join expensive therapies.

Start with the baby steps like addressing the distress of your child and behaving cautiously in front of them because we are their role models.

Made it this far? Discover more on Julie-Writes!

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