What Causes Insecure Attachment?

Children who consistently do not have their needs met will often go on to develop what is known as an insecure or anxious attachment. When the environment in which a child grows up is one of fear, the child’s development can suffer, and they may exhibit various behaviors. These can include:

  • struggling to calm themselves
  • finding it difficult to ask for help
  • struggling to form positive relationships with adults and other children
  • becoming upset or angry for no obvious reason
  • being demanding
  • feeling vulnerable or scared
  • having explosive outbursts
  • appearing withdrawn
  • showing little emotion
  • being hyperactive
  • constantly fidgeting
  • day dreaming.

The good folk at Psych Blossom say that anxious or insecure attachment can continue into adult life and affect how a person interacts with others. For example, an adult with insecure attachment might:

  • require constant reassurance
  • have low self-esteem
  • find it difficult to trust other people
  • crave intimacy and closeness
  • constantly worry that a partner will leave them
  • be highly sensitive to the actions or moods of their partner
  • be very dependent in their relationships
  • be unpredictable, impulsive, moody, and emotional.

There are three different styles of insecure attachment – disorganized, ambivalent, and avoidant. People who have a disorganized attachment will usually have experienced severe inconsistency or trauma when they were growing up. These individuals will be unable to deal with real life and will not have any strategies in place to cope with it.

Those with an ambivalent attachment style will usually seem very preoccupied and anxious. They might appear to be needy or clingy because of their constant need for reassurance or validation.

A person with avoidant attachment will avoid intimacy with others and will appear dismissive. They will find it difficult to seek help from others, even when this help is needed.

Why Does Insecure Attachment Develop?

There are many causes of insecure attachment. It usually develops in early childhood and is typically caused by an inconsistent parenting style. For example, a parent might be slow to meet the needs of her child because she doesn’t want to spoil her. Or a parent with mental health problems could be attentive and nurturing sometimes, but then cold or unavailable at other times.

Some parents may leave their child at a very young age to go back to work, possibly leaving said child or children with different caregivers. For example, the child might be placed in a nursery where the staff turnover is very high.

Children who have been mistreated, neglected, or abused can also develop insecure attachment.

How to Help Someone with Insecure Attachment

Parents or caregivers should learn to respond to their child in a consistent and loving manner. According to Healthline, children as young as six months of age can anticipate how a caregiver will respond to their distress. Therapies such as mindfulness, meditation, and cognitive behavioral therapy can help caregivers to manage their own emotions and therefore provide a more consistent parenting style.

Being in a relationship with someone who has insecure attachment can be challenging. But you can help by providing emotional support and being patient. Learn how to communicate with your partner and express how you feel. The more open and honest the relationship is, the more secure the person with the insecure attachment will become over time.


Insecure attachment forms in children from a very young age and is caused by things like neglect, abuse, and an inconsistent parenting style. Children with insecure attachment can display challenging behaviors and these can continue into adult life, making it a struggle for the individual to form positive relationships with others.