According to Lam, attachment styles are influenced by genetics, early attachment experiences, cumulative relational experiences, and traumatic stress.
Evolutionarily speaking, humans brains are born premature, and many areas of the brain are not fully wired just yet. “Early attachment experiences between the young child and the caregivers therefore have a significant impact on the ‘relational software’ in the brain,” Lam explains. “There is a certain threshold for the brain to internalize a secure attachment template, [which develops through] about 30% attunement and the rest [through] natural rupture and repair.” Without proper attunement, the child internalizes an insecure attachment template.
In the case of the anxious preoccupied attachment style, a child who grew up with inconsistent caregiving feels confused about their caregiver’s ability to be there for them. Sometimes they were there, and sometimes they were not. Because they never experienced the complete safety and security they needed to establish a strong self-worth, this manifests into an attachment style full of doubt about their caregiver’s behaviors and love. Without that security, they grow up fearful of someone’s ability to truly be there for them and love them back the way they want.
This causes the anxious-preoccupied person to feel deeply insecure, yet dependent, in their romantic relationships. Later on, they may repeat the same drama of uncertainty as an adult because it secretly reaffirms their negative beliefs about themselves and love.