The Attachment Imperative: The Kiss of the Hedgehog

33 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2013

See all articles by Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

INSEAD - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise

Date Written: April 18, 2013


We are all products of attachment behavior. Each attachment with our primary caregiver forms the blueprint that determines the way we see ourselves and how we regulate our behavior toward others. Furthermore, the same behavioral system that underlies the dynamics of the infant-caregiver relationship appears to be applicable to adult relationship behavior, influencing the encounter between people in both personal and work environments. Attachment is a common thread that influences our interactions with others throughout our lifetime. These working models of relationships can be positive (i.e. people can be trusted, confided in, helpful in distress) or negative (i.e. no one can be trusted, people are not really caring, one is all alone in the world), contributing to relational distress and interpersonal difficulties.

The objective of this article is to explore the evolution and function of attachment in the context of adult relationships. I explore childhood and adult attachment scenarios, two basic models of which are moving toward people or moving away from them (apart from the scenario of secure attachment). The first (which has been termed anxious-ambivalent) manifests itself through intense protest or energetic efforts to regain proximity; the second (avoidant) is characterized by the suppression or denial of attachment needs and the maintenance of distance in relationships. (Avoidant types are further differentiated into fearful and dismissive avoidant.) A questionnaire offers a quick assessment of individual attachment style. I end with suggestions on how to engage in interventions for change.

Keywords: Secure, Anxious-ambivalent, Fearful Avoidant, Dismissive Avoidant, Coaching, Psychotherapy, Psychodynamic

Suggested Citation

Kets de Vries, Manfred F.R., The Attachment Imperative: The Kiss of the Hedgehog (April 18, 2013). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2013/51/EFE, Available at SSRN: or

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries (Contact Author)

INSEAD - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise ( email )

Fontainebleau Cedex, F-77305

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