The Disorganized Attachment Theory was Discovered in Adult Therapy

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.

Disorganized-insecure theory–

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.

From Shedding Light On the Disorganized Attachment Style:

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).

One comment

  1. Great information. Attachment wounds are so difficult to address and overcome. Thank you for sharing.


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