Secure attachment: what it is, characteristics, types and how to promote it

  • Jul 26, 2021
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Secure attachment: what is it, characteristics, types and how to promote it

The child, from birth, establishes an emotionally significant relationship with the person who cares for him, whose characteristics will play a determining role for the rest of his development. This ability of human beings has been one of the main subjects of study in psychology, however, it is only with Bowlby and attachment theory that its principles have been described: an innate predisposition of the child to seek the protective proximity of his reference figure (caregiver) when he is in conditions of danger, vulnerability and pain.

in this Psychology-Online article we will discover what is secure attachment, with examples its types and how to encourage it.

You may also like: Ambivalent attachment: what it is, types and consequences


  1. What is secure attachment
  2. Characteristics of secure attachment
  3. Types of attachment
  4. Why it is important to foster a secure attachment
  5. How to promote secure attachment

What is secure attachment.

They belong to the category of secure attachment to children who have had the opportunity to experience a

warm and welcoming relationship with your caregiver. The result of this type of interaction is the construction, by the child, of a representation of himself as an individual worthy of care loving caregivers, who will be able to approach their caregivers in times of difficulty, considering them as a secure base to turn to for a "supply emotional". The significant other, in this case, will be represented in the child's mind as an emotionally person available in times of difficulty and willing to recognize you as unique, special to whom you offer care and comfort. These representations, built in the first interactions, will later generalize outwards, allowing the child to create an expectation of the world around him as a place where people can be willing to help him in difficult moments throughout your life.

Therefore, we can define the secure attachment like a behavioral and relational organization in which there is an appropriate balance between exploration of the environment and attachment to parents, that is, between independence / autonomy and dependence.

Characteristics of secure attachment.

Children with a secure attachment, in the Strange Situation Procedure, experience the typical distress of the separation phase and they will signal the activation of the attachment system through recognizable behaviors such as crying. The affectively close presence of the caregiver (the so-called safe base) during the meeting phase will serve to deactivate the attachment system and promote exploration.

Children who have a secure attachment consider the mother a secure base for her explorations, having gained confidence in her availability and accessibility in case of need. Therefore, these children have a representation of themselves as worthy of love and of the other as worthy of trustas they are available and willing to respond to your requests for help and comfort. The caregiver is, in fact, sensitive to the requests of the child, available and willing to provide protection at the time the child requests it. Future interpersonal relationships will be based, in general, on respect for themselves and for the other.

Types of attachment.

The attachment system can be activated by external and internal signals, and it is precisely by taking into account the interaction between these characteristics that can be identified and recognized the different styles with which children react to moments of stress and danger. Mary Ainsworth makes a fundamental contribution: thanks to the conception of the Strange Situation Procedure (1978), the The researcher was able to make measurable the individual differences found in the attachment behaviors of children. Ainsworth and his associates observed three main behavioral strategies put into practice by the children during the episodes of separation and meeting with the caregiver. In this article, we explain the Types of attachment and their consequences.

Based on the assumption of stability over time of Bowlby's internal operating models, research on attachment was extended to couple relationships, where Bartolomew and Horowitz they defined four attachment styles in the adult, based on the image that the individual has of himself and the other. In this case, by confident style is meant a positive role model of self and positive other, and adults securely attached tend to have positive views of themselves, their partners, and their relations; they are comfortable with intimacy and independence, balancing the two. The 4 types of attachment are:

  • Secure attachment
  • Ambivalent attachment
  • Avoidant attachment
  • Disorganized attachment
Secure attachment: what is it, characteristics, types and how to promote it - Types of attachment

Why it is important to foster a secure attachment.

The literature on this topic has emphasized that a secure attachment to the caregiver can be considered a factor of protection for the future emotional, cognitive and social development of the child. Thanks to these "safe" experiences, the child can learn the basics of trust and reciprocity, feel safe exploring the environment and towards the novelties, develop the capacities of emotional self-regulation and management of the arousal in case of stress.

In secure attachment, the child can also develop in a healthy way the ability to self-regulation of one's own emotions and impulses, as well as the foundations of one's own identity: sense of competence, self-esteem and balance between autonomy and dependence, to learn empathic behaviors but above all to develop a positive internal knowledge of oneself, the other and the relationship (as well as the world). These aspects will protect him in the future in stressful situations, allowing him a better social adaptation and the construction of balanced and rewarding adult relationships. In this article we talk about What is personal identity and how is it built?.

Secure attachment, as is easy to understand, is the main protective factor against the formation of violent and antisocial behaviors: in effect, thanks to a caregiver capable of tune into the child's needs and provide presence and balanced rules, the child develops the necessary skills to regulate and modulate impulses and emotions, and in order to better manage stress and psychological trauma, develops prosocial and empathetic behaviors and is respectful of the rules.

How to promote secure attachment.

After seeing the importance of secure attachment, it is normal for you to want to know how secure attachment is achieved. For a secure attachment to be established, it is important that the caregiver possesses some qualities:

  • Understand the emotional state and implicit needs of the boy or the girl is one of the main guidelines to promote secure attachment in the children.
  • Be sensitive to their needs and their messages, reading their needs, it is essential to work secure attachment in children.
  • Know how to comfort him without being judgmental or contemptuous and without oppressing To the child of excessive attention is another of the tips for a secure attachment.
  • Knowing how to be discreetly present when necessary, but also leaving him free to explore and play is the basis for creating a secure attachment with children.

These capacities are made explicit in an attentive perception of the child's implicit signals and communications, in the precise interpretation of these signals, in affective attunement (empathic exchange) and in the promptness, suitability and completeness of the response given to the child which is constant in different situations (predictability) and allows the child to build a stable and reassuring image of the figure of reference.

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to Secure attachment: what is it, characteristics, types and how to promote it, we recommend that you enter our category of Personality.


  • Barbier, A. (2019). Stili di attaccamento e relazioni sentimentali. Recovered from:
  • Bertanza, G. (2021). Attaccamento mother-bambino. Recovered from:
  • Zaccagnino, M. (2019). Dalla depressione postpartum all’attaccamento sicuro. Guided line for the treatment with EMDR. Milan: Franco Angeli.

Secure attachment: what is it, characteristics, types and how to promote it

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