From verywellmind: What is Attachment Theory?:
British psychologist John Bowlby was the first attachment theorist, describing attachment as a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.” Bowlby viewed attachment as a product of evolutionary processes.
While the behavioral theories of attachment suggested that attachment was a learned process, Bowlby and others proposed that children are born with an innate drive to form attachments with caregivers.
In her 1970s research, psychologist Mary Ainsworth expanded greatly upon Bowlby’s original work. Her groundbreaking “Strange Situation” study revealed the profound effects of attachment on behavior. In the study, researchers observed children between the ages of 12 and 18 months as they responded to a situation in which they were briefly left alone and then reunited with their mothers.
Based on the responses the researchers observed, Ainsworth described three major styles of attachment: secure attachment, ambivalent-insecure attachment, and avoidant-insecure attachment.
Later, researchers Main and Solomon (1986) added a fourth attachment style called disorganized-insecure attachment based on their own research.
The disorganized attachment style is a combination of both the avoidant style and the anxious style. This is commonly referred to as push-pull behavior.
I want to give due respect to explaining the Disorganized attachment, as it’s often the least discussed of the four main attachment styles. A Disorganized attachment is also known as Anxious-Avoidant or Fearful-Avoidant, and is said to fall along the far ends of the spectrum as a combination of both Anxious and Avoidant attachment styles.
Disorganized attachment is perhaps the most in need of supportive resources and understanding because of its impact on those battling it. Not only do they display both anxious and avoidant behaviors in their relationships, they also struggle with a cruel inner critic, toxic shame, and feelings of worthlessness.
Educating them and those in their life is important for helping unpack how they view their world and themselves. Support should include building awareness, and most of all, acceptance. Those with a Disorganized attachment style never asked for this hand they were dealt, and this burden was never theirs to own or carry.
Because of simultaneously straddling opposite sides of the spectrum, one end wants and craves love and intimacy but is scared that they’ll be left behind (abandoned) while the other end is easily emotionally overwhelmed and flees relationships by sabotaging them (engulfment).
The disorganized attachment style is the most complicated and difficult to understand of the human attachment styles. Only 7% of the population fall into this group, whereas 20% of the population tend to be anxious and another 20% avoidant. It might be relatively rare, but 7% of the population means chances are we will connect with people who have this attachment adaptation at some point in our lives.
Those with a disorganized attachment adaptation most likely (though not always) experienced trauma early in their lives. This pattern can develop when someone grows up afraid of their parent or caregiver. There was a marked lack of safety early in life and a confusing level of chaos. Caregivers often set up double binds, with the message being something like this: “come here, go away.”
This mixed message leads to the crossing of wires and two very intrinsic human needs: the need to connect and the need to survive. As adults, this means as we move closer to our loved ones our bodies and hearts remember how dangerous connection can be. This sets off alarm bells that remind us of the message to “go away.”