Psychologists and psychiatrists generally believe that each individual has a particular attachment style, which influences all aspects of how he or she relates to others. One's attachment style develops first in early childhood, when the emotional availability of the mother or other primary caregiver tells a child whether he or she can depend on others for support. Children with emotionally available and responsive caregivers tend to develop secure bonds, which allow the child to view the caregiver as a secure base from which he or she can explore the world. The child typically retains this bonding style into adulthood, when they can feel safe and connected to a partner while remaining functionally independent.
Children who do not develop secure bonds often go on to become insecurely attached adults. Some such adults fall into an anxious-preoccupied attachment style, which causes them to seek constant proximity to their partner for reassurance. Such patterns often cause the anxious-preoccupied adult to behave in a particularly clingy or needy manner, which can in turn drive the partner away and realize the fears that initially drove the distressed behavior.
Those with dismissive avoidant attachment styles, however, tend to turn away from emotional closeness. They believe that they must appear fully independent and often detach themselves from those that they love. The fearful avoidant person, by contrast, may detach out of fear of being hurt but also desperately needs the closeness of others. These individuals may attempt to separate from the attachment figure but may also display clinging behaviors. Like all insecure attachment styles, these patterns often lead to unstable relationships but can heal themselves through committed therapeutic work.