Essay on Attachment Theory: Jealousy and Possessiveness

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Sewanee University of the South
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Attachment theory alludes that people develop attachment for items, objects or people that they love, acquainted to or have a penchant for. The attachment theory was developed by John Bowlby and James Robertson in 1952 when the two worked on children and discovered that children experience distress and anxiety when separated from their primary caregivers; in this case, their mothers. As a result, Bowlby and James Robertson concluded that the children were profoundly attached to their mothers and that emotions that the children had for their mothers could not be replaced by secondary caregivers such as that provided in daycares or by nannies. Bowlby found out that the interaction that exists between a primary caregiver and the child determines the attachment that the child develops for the primary caregiver in the childs subsequent life stages. Bowly elaborates on the attachment that children have for their primary caregivers by stating that it is developed when mothers give appropriate and prompt responses to their childrens request. Failure for mothers to respond appropriately to their childrens needs and request in their children makes the children to develop a form of attachment that is insecure and characterized by anxiety and ambivalent behavior. Attachment styles in children emanate from a need of children to be protected by their mothers (primary caregivers). Attachment in adults can be categorized into four types. The four types of attachment are secure, ambivalent, dismissing avoidant and fearful avoidant. The attachment styles are pegged on whether an adult is willing to have a close interpersonal relationship. The attachment theory can aptly be used to investigate traits of jealousy and possessiveness in human beings. The paper critically examines traits of jealousy and possessiveness as they relate to attachment theory.

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Secure individuals are less likely to exhibit jealousy and possessiveness when in an interpersonal relationship. This is because secure individuals perceive themselves positively and they also perceive other individuals in a positive manner. Secure individuals are less likely to be jealous of their colleagues success and are therefore likely to have close working relationships. Secure individuals are interested and do enjoy close interpersonal relationships. Individuals who are secure perceive themselves as lovable, and they are positive about being accepted by other individuals. Secure individuals are not anxious about being disappointed in relationships and therefore, do not avoid getting into relationships. Secure individuals are comfortable with trusting other people, and they are comfortable that they will be trusted by other people. By proving to be worthy of trust and worthy of being trusted, secure individuals are more likely to get involved in secure and healthy relationships. Studies have revealed that secure individuals are more likely to get involved in healthy and long lasting relationships. Secure individuals are more involved in romantic relationships than people associated with other forms of attachment. Secure individuals are believed to display pro-social behaviors that play a major role in ensuring that they build close relationships with other individuals. Secure individuals are more likely to communicate openly and honestly with their partners thus increasing chances of the relationship lasting long (Levine & Heller, 2011).

Ambivalent individuals are likely to exhibit jealousy and possessiveness when in an interpersonal relationship. Ambivalent individuals are individuals who perceive themselves as not being worthy of love. Ambivalent individuals have low self-esteem. However, ambivalent individuals view other people positively. For ambivalent individuals to feel secure, they must be in an interpersonal relationship. As a result, most ambivalent individuals are preoccupied with being in relationships. Based on the fact that ambivalent individuals have a low perception of themselves, they are more likely to seek approval from colleagues, relatives, and friends. Ambivalent individuals exhibit high levels of anxiety and low avoidance (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991). Ambivalent individuals also perceive themselves as not being worthy of support from authoritative figures. The anxiety that is manifested in adults is rooted in childhood experiences that leave children unsure of the availability of protection from protection figures in times of trouble. Criticism, rejection, abandonment and unavailability of protection figures in childhood can contribute to anxiety in adolescence and adulthood. Ambivalent individuals are likely to worry if people will reciprocate their feelings. Ambivalent behavior can stem from a lack of primary care in childhood. Parental emotional neglect has been affirmed as a contributor to anxiety disorder. Emotional neglect in parenting can be described as a parent neglecting signs that a child is in need of attention or comfort. Emotional neglect in childhood could also involve criticism, negative interaction and rejection from primary attachment figures. Emotional neglect is likely to contribute to internal working models within a person based on fear of separation and rejection in childhood and as a result, reducing chances of the person getting into healthy future relationships. Anxiety disorders in adolescents and adults likely stems from childhood making adolescents and adults to fear separation and be afraid of rejection. Therefore, parents should ensure that they do not emotionally neglect their children so that the children do not become ambivalent individuals. Parents should ensure that their children do not develop anxiety disorders based on emotional neglect. There are some parental behaviors that could make individuals develop ambivalent behavior. The parental behaviors could be rejecting the child, withholding love from the child, belittling the child on a constant basis, denying the child opportunities to interact, failure to provide necessary psychological care for the child and failure to express positive feelings to the child. Anxious-ambivalent individuals display high levels of worry than individuals who exhibit a secure type of attachment (Schimmenti & Bifulco, 2015).

Dismissing avoidant people are likely to exhibit possessiveness. Dismissing avoidant people are individuals who view themselves in a positive manner but see other individuals in a negative manner. Dismissing avoidant people view other people as not reliant. They exhibit low levels of anxiety, but they are highly avoidant of people. Based on the fact that dismissing avoidant people see other individuals as not reliant, they are likely to be possessive in an attempt to make individuals they are in a relationship with to become reliant. Dismissing avoidant people view other individuals as unavailable and not supportive. Dismissing avoidant people have a high self-esteem but are controlling. Based on the fact that dismissing avoidant people have a positive self-esteem but are controlling, they are less likely to be jealous but more likely to be possessive. Dismissive-avoidant individuals are likely to be of the opinion that relationships are of no good based on the fact that people are not reliable. These individuals are likely to feel independent and see no necessity of being in interpersonal relationships. Dismissing avoidance could stem from childhood experiences. A person who was raised by parents who were controlling and over-protective is likely to grow into a dismissive-avoidant individual. Dismissing avoidant people are less likely to invest in intimacy and close relationships. They are also unwilling or unable to share their emotions and thoughts with other people. In case dismissing avoidant people experience some rejection, they often create a positive self-image in response to the rejection, denying a need for attachment. These individuals exhibit a passive avoidance of romantic relationships and are emphatic on activities such as work to cover up for a time they would have to spend being in romantic relationships. Studies have revealed that most dismissing avoidant people are cold-hearted, competitive and introverted. Dismissing avoidant are people who have past experiences where they were disappointed by close people, and as a result, they resorted not to invest a lot of their times and resources in developing close interpersonal relationships (Harms, 2011).

Fearful-avoidant people are likely to exhibit jealousy and possessiveness. Fearful-avoidant people are individuals who perceive themselves in a negative manner and also perceive other individuals in a negative manner. Fearful-avoidant people view themselves as not deserving love. They also do not expect other people to accord them, love. Fearful-avoidant people rarely get into personal relationships. Fearful-avoidant people have low self-esteem and are mostly pessimistic. However, fearful avoidant people are likely to feel an urge to get into close interpersonal relationships, but they are likely to squash those feelings so that they may protect their emotions. They avoid relationships with the thought that by doing so, they will not experience rejection and that they will not be hurt. Fearful-avoidant people are often afraid that their attachment needs will not be met. These individuals are likely to be depressed when their attachment needs are not met. Fearful-avoidant individuals are likely to blame themselves for relationships failures. These individuals are likely to do whatever it takes to salvage failed relationships. Fearful-avoidant people are also likely to seek revenge on people who wronged them or hurt their feelings when they were in relationships. To avoid going through negative experiences associated with relationship failure, fearful avoidant people try to guard their relationships and are more jealous and possessive (Fraley et al., 2013).


Fraley, R. C., Roisman, G. I., Booth-LaForce, C., Owen, M. T., & Holland, A. S. (2013). Interpersonal and genetic origins of adult attachment styles: A longitudinal study from infancy to early adulthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104, 5, 817-838.

Harms, P. D. (2011). Adult attachment styles in the workplace. Human Resource Management Review, 21, 4, 285-296.

Levine, A., & Heller, R. (2011). Attached: Create your perfect relationship with the help of the three attachment styles. London: Rodale.

Schimmenti, A., & Bifulco, A. (2015). Linking lack of care in childhood to anxiety disorders in emerging adulthood: the role of attachment styles. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 20, 1, 41-48.

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