Secure attachment is critical for a healthy emotional development in children. However, parents who have unresolved emotional issues may unintentionally pass on their challenges to their children.

While most people understand the critical importance of the parent-child relationship in the human psyche development, they may underestimate the effects of a negative parent-child relationship and how it can manifest even in adulthood. Some are fortunate enough to grow up in happy, stable households, while others have less picture-perfect childhoods.

As adults, or by the time we've formed our capacity of critical thinking, we start questioning the parenting methods that our own parents used on us, blaming them for past mishaps, and harboring negative feelings from childhood. These discussions often lead to misunderstandings, fruitless exchanges, slamming doors, blame-shifting, leaving us without a Eureka moment at the end of the day.

Truth is that as humans, we're hardwired to connect and form attachments, and the earliest attachment we form is to our care-takers, our parents. The moment we're born and at our most vulnerable, we depend on someone to take care of us. Now, if we're lucky enough to have parents that are responsive to us, make us feel safe and allow us to form a meaningful emotional connection, our nervous system feels "at ease" and hence, creates a safe base for the development of our self.

Incoming - human psychological frailty. Because the moment this attachment is threatened and we feel like we cannot count on our care-giver, it can be inherently traumatizing and have lasting effects on our future relationships. Of course, over time our personal experiences add to this development, but we can never underestimate the base on which our first-ever relationship was formed - the one to our parents, and the only relationship you cannot actually dump (or let's say get rid of from a biological point of view).

Some time ago I came across something called attachment theory and I was surprised to learn that it was already conceived more than 50 years ago, yet I hadn't heard of it before. How about making psychological self-analysis mandatory at school instead of forcing kids to learn Mendeleev's table? I'd take someone who knows how to differentiate their ego from their superego over someone who knows their H2O from their H2O2 any day, but maybe that's just a personal preference...

Anyways, the concept was developed by British psychoanalyst John Bowlby and American psychologist, Mary S. Ainsworth. In short, attachment theory suggests that infants form attachments with a primary caregiver through consistent and responsive care-giving. The quality of this attachment during childhood can influence one's social and emotional development in the long run. In cases where caregivers are not attentive to an infant's needs, the individual may develop behaviors such as hypervigilance, neediness, or avoidance. They categorized attachment patterns as either secure, anxious, avoidant and disorganized.

People with a secure attachment exhibit empathy and have the ability to establish healthy boundaries in their relationships. They are happy in their close relationships and feel safe and stable. These individuals likely had caregivers who responded well to their needs and were able to manage their own stress in a positive manner.

People with anxious attachment tend to display neediness, experience anxiety, and have low self-esteem. They desire closeness with others, but fear rejection or abandonment. In childhood, their caregivers may have been inconsistent in their responses, sometimes attentive but other times absent or preoccupied. This inconsistency may have resulted in the child feeling uncertain and anxious, perceiving their parents as unreliable or unpredictable.

People with avoidant attachment differ from those with an anxious attachment style in that they tend to avoid emotional closeness and connection with others. They may prefer to rely on themselves, value independence, and find emotions challenging to handle. Typically, their parents were emotionally unavailable or may have rejected their child's needs or emotions. As a result, the child learned to withdraw and avoid emotional closeness. These individuals may continue to avoid intimacy in their adult relationships, having learned to either avoid it altogether or never experienced it.

People with this disorganised attachment exhibit traits of both anxious and avoidant styles, and often experience intense fear and insecurity, often stemming from past childhood trauma. They may have had a caregiver who neglected their needs or exhibited chaotic and frightening behavior, or may have had their own emotional issues. It's usually also the most rare and difficult attachment style to heal.

Just to give you an idea, estimates say that roughly 50 percent of the American population is secure, while the other half is rather evenly split between anxious and avoidant, with the smallest percentage being disorganized. Well, do you recognize yourself in one of these?

I think that in general, parents who struggle with unresolved emotional issues or unresolved trauma can inadvertently pass those issues onto their children.The psychological scars that children bear from their parents can manifest in a number of ways, from anxiety and depression to difficulty forming healthy relationships, as is shown in attachment theory. Sometimes, parents transmit their own attachment style to their children, which is also known as intergenerational continuity.

The importance lies in understanding where underlying psychological tendencies come from and how to address them. Which is why I think it's also important for people to truly work on themselves before making the decision to have children.

Otherwise, they risk passing on whatever unresolved issues they have on to their children. This carries the risk of the "parentification" of children, which occurs when parents look to their children for emotional and/or practical support, rather than providing it. The child becomes the caregiver and is forced to assume adult responsibilities and behaviors before they are ready to do so.

On the other hand, emotionally stable parents who have addressed their own issues are better equipped to provide a nurturing and supportive environment for their children. Such parents are more likely to respond appropriately and consistently to their children's emotional needs, which eventually leads to the development of secure attachment styles.

In the end, the key is to always work on ourselves first. But parents in particular need to address their own emotional baggage before packing it into their kids' luggage. The journey of life comes with more than enough baggage at every stop and parents are there to make the load lighter. After all, we know how expensive some additional kilos can get at the luggage counter...

Want to know what attachment style you have? Go and find out here! Happy self-working!