So you’ve caught wind of the whole attachment style thing, and you’re intrigued. Attachment theory—that is, the idea that the way your earliest caregivers treated you can affect how you approach relationships today—can be eye-opening and allow you to make sense of why you behave the way you do when you’re dating someone. So it’s no wonder this psychological framework has become so popular.
Here’s a simple attachment style quiz to find out what your type is, plus descriptions of the four attachment styles and what to do once you know yours.
A simple attachment style quiz.
This should take about five minutes. It’s totally free, and you’ll get your results immediately (read: you don’t have to give us your email to find out the answer!).
What are the 4 attachment styles?
According to the popular attachment theory developed by psychologists Mary Ainsworth, John Bowlby, and others throughout the latter half of the 20th century, people tend to approach their relationships with one of four attachment styles: secure, anxious, avoidant, or fearful-avoidant. A person’s attachment style is thought to form in infancy and early childhood as a response to the relationship they have with their earliest caregivers.
“Your attachment style is your mind’s template for how safe you are in a relationship,” clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., recently told mbg.
Here’s a quick overview of the four attachment styles:
Secure attachment style
A person with a secure attachment style is able to form stable, healthy, secure relationships with relative ease. They’re comfortable getting close to and trusting their partners, and they can both depend on others and be depended on. Securely attached partners aren’t constantly fretting about being abandoned, nor do they worry too much about losing themselves in their relationships.
Anxious attachment style
People with an anxious attachment style tend to feel very insecure in their relationships, needing constant reassurance from their partners that they’re still loved and wanted. Anxiously attached partners tend to get upset if they sense any distance from their partner and tend to try to overcompensate by wanting to get closer and maintain more control over the relationship—which can often result in pushing their partner further away.
Avoidant attachment style
People with an avoidant attachment style tend to avoid forming close romantic relationships, often exhibiting a fear of intimacy and/or commitment. They tend to be very protective of their independence and can be quick to feel like their autonomy is being infringed on in a relationship, leading them to push people away.
Fearful-avoidant attachment style
A person with a fearful-avoidant attachment style has a blend of the anxious and avoidant attachment styles. They both crave affection but also feel reluctant to be in a relationship, usually because of a fear of commitment, fear of intimacy, or fear of getting hurt. People with this attachment style tend to have a lot of difficulty managing their emotions and may be more likely to respond poorly to negative emotions.
What is the most rare attachment style?
The rarest attachment style is thought to be fearful-avoidant attachment. According to a 2019 study in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, an estimated 10 to 15% of people have a fearful-avoidant attachment style, which is thought to be a result of traumatic early experiences with a caregiver.
Here’s how common each of the other attachment styles is according to foundational attachment research, which actually did not include fearful-avoidant attachment in the study:
- Secure attachment: 56%
- Anxious attachment: 19%
- Avoidant attachment: 25%
What to do once you know your attachment style.
Once you know what your attachment style is, you can use that knowledge to communicate your needs to your romantic partners so they know how to best support you.
For example, if you have an anxious attachment style, you can start by telling the people you’re dating about your tendency to need a lot of reassurance in relationships and why certain actions can trigger your insecurities. Or if you have an avoidant attachment style, you can let your partner know why having space is so important to you to feel comfortable in a relationship.
From there, you can begin to recognize in the moment when you’re exhibiting behaviors related to your attachment wounds and take steps to address them head-on rather than letting them continue to negatively affect your relationships.
“As you explore your wounds, you’ll come to realize that you can become empowered by acknowledging and stating your needs,” Manly explains. “Rather than getting reactive or shutting down, you can state your needs to your partner in clear, healthy ways. By using ‘I’ messages and communicating clearly, your partner will become more aware of your wounds and your needs.”
(Here’s Manly’s full guide to healing attachment issues.)
Over time as you work on understanding the root of your attachment wounds and how they manifest in your relationships, you can work—often in tandem with a supportive romantic partner—to move toward a healthier and more secure way of relating to others.
“A person’s attachment style can change depending on who they are in a relationship with—or in some cases, permanently change,” licensed marriage therapist Kiaundra Jackson, LMFT, recently told mbg, though she emphasizes that it’ll certainly take some work: “It takes acknowledgment, work, rewiring of interactions, resetting boundaries, learning healthier ways of relating, and sorting through your trauma.”
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