What Is Fearful Avoidant Attachment?

Afraid avoidant attachment are among the four styles of adult attachment. People who have this vulnerable type of attachment have a strong need to be close with their loved ones but do not trust other people and fear intimacy. People who are afraid to avoid the friendships they want.

This article reviews the background of attachment theory. Outlines four attachment types, and explains how the fearful-avoidant type of attachment develops.

It also outlines the effects an attachment that is fearful and avoidable can have on an individual and describes the ways people can deal with this kind of attachment.

The History of Theory on Attachment

Psychologist John Bowlby John Bowlby developed attachment theories in 1969 to understand babies’ bonds with their parents. Bowlby believed that attentive and available parents can instill a feeling of security in their infants. Which allows the child to leave and explore the world with confidence.

In the 70s, his friend Mary Ainsworth expanded his ideas by identifying three distinct attachment patterns that infants exhibit responsible for secure and secure connection styles.

models of adult attachment styles

One of the first scientists to establish connections between adult and child attachment types was Hazan and Shaver back in 1987.

Bowlby claimed that children develop the working model of their attachment during childhood, which they use through their entire lives. These models affect how people behave and engage in adult relationships.

Based on this notion, Hazan and Shaver developed an adult-specific model that included three categories of romantic relationships. But, the model did not contain the fearful-avoidant attachment model. 1

the Bartholomew-Horowitz Four Categorized Model for Adult Attachment

In the year 90, Bartholomew and Horowitz proposed an adult model with four categories of attachment patterns that suggested the idea that attachment is fearful and avoidant.

Bartholomew and Horowitz’s categories were founded in the second of these different models: on one other hand. Whether one is worth the love and support and, on the other hand. Whether you feel that other people are trustworthy and readily available.

This resulted in four styles of attachment for adults, one of which is secure and three insecure styles.

Adult Attachment Styles

The styles of attachments outlined in the work of Bartholomew as well as Horowitz are:


People with secure attachment styles believe they deserve to be loved and believe that their loved ones are reliable and open. In turn, they feel comfortable in intimate relationships. However, they are confident enough to be on their own.


People obsessed with their attachments believe they don’t deserve the love of others and generally believe that people are accepting and supportive. Therefore, they seek validation and acceptance through their relationships with other people.


People prone to dismissive avoidance are aware of their worthiness but don’t believe in others. They are skeptical of the importance of intimacy, which leads them to avoid intimate relations.


People who have fearful-avoidant attachment are a mixture of dismissive and preoccupied types of attachment that are insecure. They think they are not loved and cannot believe that other people will support or accept their views. Since they believe that others will reject them, they resign themselves from relationships.

However, they also want intimacy as the acceptance of other people makes them feel better about themselves.

In the end, their behavior could confuse couples and friends. They could encourage intimacy initially but later withdraw physically or emotionally as they begin to feel insecure in the relationship.

The Impact of Attachment Fearful-Avoidant

People afraid of avoidant attachments want to build strong relationships with others but are also looking to defend themselves against rejection. They look for relationships but avoid any commitment or leave whenever the relationship becomes too intimate.

In addition, several studies have revealed a connection with fearful-avoidant attachment and depression.

Studies conducted by Van Buren, Cooley4 and Murphy. Bates discovered that the self-defeating view of self-worth and self-criticism associated with fearful-avoidant attachment makes those with this type of attachment vulnerable to social anxiety depression, and negative emotions generally.

A different study has discovered that in contrast to other types of attachment. The fearful-avoidant type of attachment is associated with having more sexual partners throughout one’s life and a higher likelihood to be willing to have sex even when it’s not desired.

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