characteristics in their self-concepts.FAMILY AND SELFWhen we’re born, we have no self-awareness, self-concept, or self-esteem. As we mature, we become aware of ourselves as unique and separate from our environments and begin developing self-concepts. Our caregivers play a crucial role in this process, providing us with ready-made sets of beliefs, attitudes, and values from which we construct our fledgling selves. We also forge emotional bonds with our caregivers, and our communication and interactions with them powerfully shape our beliefs regarding the functions, rewards, and dependability of interpersonalrelationships (Bowlby, 1969; Domingue & Mollen, 2009).Page 45
Immediately after birth, we begin a lifelong process of gender socialization.These beliefs, in turn, help shape two dimensions of our thoughts, feelings, and behavior: attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance (Collins & Feeney, 2004). Attachment anxietyis the degree to which a person fears rejection by relationship partners. If you experience high attachment anxiety, you perceive yourself as unlovable and unworthy—thoughts that may result from being ignored or even abused during childhood. Consequently, you experience chronic fear of abandonment in your close relationships. If you have low attachment anxiety, you feel lovableand worthy of attention—reflections of a supportive and affectionate upbringing. As a result, youfeel comfortable and confident in your intimate involvements.Attachment avoidanceis the degree to which someone desires close interpersonal ties. If you have high attachment avoidance, you’ll likely experience little interest in intimacy, preferring solitude instead. Such feelings may stem from childhood neglect or an upbringing that encouraged autonomy. If you experience low attachment avoidance, you seek intimacy and interdependence with others, having learned in childhood that such connections are essential for happiness and well-being.Page 46Four attachment styles derive from these two dimensions (Collins & Feeney, 2004; Domingue & Mollen, 2009). Secure attachmentindividuals are low on both anxiety and avoidance: they’re comfortable with intimacy and seek close ties with others. Secure individuals report warm and supportive relationships, high self-esteem, and confidence in their ability to communicate. When relationship problems arise, they move to resolve them and are willing to solicit support from others. In addition, they are comfortable with sexual intimacy and are unlikely to engage in risky sexual behavior.Preoccupied attachmentadults are high in anxiety and low in avoidance: they desire closeness but are plagued with fear of rejection. They may use sexual contact to satisfy their compulsive need to feel loved. When faced with relationship challenges, preoccupied individuals react with extreme negative emotion and a lack of trust (“I know you don’t love me!”). These individuals often have difficulty maintaining long-term involvements.