Psychologists distinguish four attachment patterns: secure, insecure-avoidant, insecure-resistant or anxious-ambivalent, and insecure-disorganized. From infancy, children carry these models into the future, which help them seek lifelong approaches to relationships with other people (Fearon & Roisman,2017). A secure pattern implies a relationship with a parent who consistently satisfies the need for observation, security, and comfort. It means safety and predictability of the immediate social environment. It allows the child to control emotions, understand other people, and establish mutually beneficial communication in the future (Fraley & Roisman, 2019). This style of attachment develops in children who are confident that a significant adult will always be there when needed and will help. This confidence allows children to feel safe and explore the world around them with interest. In the future, they enjoy intimacy and are not addicted.
An insecure-avoidant style occurs when the child’s calls are unanswered and needs are not met. Such children conclude that their desires are indifferent to the adults and try to adapt to this situation, suppressing their need for love and care. They may appear indifferent and disinterested, but behind this lies the fear of rejection and grief (Fearon & Roisman,2017). Such a pattern of attachment can be seen in the movie Joe the King, especially in the relation between the boy and his father. Joe avoids close relationships, tends to mistrust, and finds it difficult to express his feelings (Whaley). Unfortunately, this style is common in families where parents are alcohol or drug addicts and feel indifferent to their children. In this case, children usually see their partners as disinterested and detached. They do not want to be rejected, so they pretend that they do not need any attachment.
The third type of attachment is formed when a child is faced with inconsistency or obsession. This style is a consequence of the unpredictable behavior of parents, for example, a mother can be sometimes rude or indifferent, sometimes gentle, or may suddenly leave. The child does not understand what to expect and how to behave (Fraley & Roisman, 2019). Such children are afraid of strangers, they are upset when the parents leave, but they are not happy when they return. Sometimes they even get angry because they do not feel safe. In adulthood, they often feel anxiety, jealousy, and cannot control their emotions. They are afraid of becoming addicted, lonely, anxious, or seem intrusive.
A disorganized pattern can form in the presence of three other styles. Such children demonstrate contradictory behavior, they are either drawn to adults, then they are afraid, then they rebel. As a rule, this style of behavior is associated with serious psychological trauma (Fraley & Roisman, 2019). Under conditions of constant stress, it is difficult to cope with feelings, have normal relationships with people, and even think clearly. Moreover, a disorganized attachment pattern increases the likelihood of fragmentation of conscious perception, which is called dissociation.
These early types of attachment influence the formation of peer relationships in the future. If nothing happens to the child that breaks the established pattern, these behaviors become fixed. As it can be seen in the movie Joe the King, the boy is insecurely attached to his parents (Whaley). He shows the elements of an avoidant as well as a disorganized pattern. He is unconsciously afraid of vulnerability and rejection, so he tries to keep the distance. With this type of attachment, he seems strong and independent, but his ability to take risks is combined with the fear to be abandoned.
As a social worker for Joe’s family, I may note that Joe Henry is not an ordinary teenager. He grows up in a family where moral values are not respected since his father pays attention only to whether his bottle of alcohol is full, and his mother sometimes forgets that she has children. Joe is not the only child in the family, however, he is the only one who deals with family problems. It is clear that nobody takes care of the boy, he is left to himself (Whaley). It would seem that against this background, the boy could become an alcoholic or a thief, but Joe tries to avoid this fate. Moreover, he tries to get his parents out of numerous family problems.
Joe lives in a dysfunctional family with low social status, unable to cope with the functions assigned to them. Their adaptive abilities of Joe’s family are significantly reduced and the process of the family upbringing of a child proceeds with great difficulties, slowly, and ineffectively (Alink et al., 2019). Family dysfunction is caused not by one, but by several criteria at once. One of the most powerful societal factors that destroy the family and mental balance of its members is the father’s alcoholism. The life of children in such a family atmosphere becomes unbearable, turns them into social orphans with living parents.
The family’s poverty, low economical status, and lack of educational resources also negatively influence family dynamics. In Joe’s family, the structure is broken, internal boundaries are blurred, and the main family functions are devalued and ignored (Alink et al., 2019). There are obvious defects in upbringing, as a result of which the psychological climate in it is disturbed. These factors significantly affect Joe’s psychological system.
Alink, L. R., Cyr, C., & Madigan, S. (2019). The effect of maltreatment experiences on maltreating and dysfunctional parenting: A search for mechanisms. Development and Psychopathology, 31(1), 1-7.
Fearon, R. P., & Roisman, G. I. (2017). Attachment theory: Progress and future directions. Current Opinion in Psychology, 15, 131-136.
Fraley, R. C., & Roisman, G. I. (2019). The development of adult attachment styles: Four lessons. Current Opinion in Psychology, 25, 26-30.
Whaley, F. (Director). (1999). Joe the King [Film]. Trimark Pictures.